Voter Initiative Short on Valid Signatures – Part 2

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Joe Yuhas, a spokesman for the Open Elections, Open Government campaign, the group backing the “Top Two Primary” initiative, talks about the County’s findings and the possibility of a legal challenge.

Ted Simons: And indeed, joining me now to talk about the high rate of invalid signatures for the top two primary initiatives is Joe Yuhas, a spokesman for the Open Government, Open Election Campaign, the group that is backing the initiative. Good to see you again. We just heard from Karen Osborne, county elections officer. It sounds as though you guys just had a big batch of invalid signatures. What's going on?

Joe Yuhas: What a fine job Karen and all the staff do at the Maricopa county elections department. They have a monumental task to complete, and in a 10-day time period to take that sample and conduct an analysis and determine because we are the largest -- Maricopa county is the largest county in the state, whether this measure moves forward. We take issue. We take issue because first of all, we conducted our own validity check as we gathered petitions over a much more extended period of time, October of last year. That validity check matches all of the other counties in the state, except for Maricopa County. There's some anomaly here and we're not sure what it is although actually and in the last 24 hours, we've discovered what it is, and that sample that Karen talked about, the 4314 voters' signatures, we found an 80-year-old woman who was deemed to be invalid because she didn't put a one in front of the two for 2012. We found indications of voters -- the signatures that were declared invalid because they weren't registered to vote. The fact of the matter, the first 80 we checked, we found 13 of those were actually registered voters. We're deploying our volunteers across the county from Wickenburg to Queen Creek who are getting signed affidavits from voters in which the election officials have said that signature doesn't match their voter registration form. They're signing an additional document saying in fact that I did sign that petition. This we believe is going to earn us back the signatures we need to qualify for the ballot.

Ted Simons: And yet the process according to the elections director, nothing has changed here, the guidelines aren't any more strict than they used to be if you put the one there, if you put the one in the wrong place, those apparently have not been countered in the past. The anomaly she says exists as well with other -- how do you explain Coconino County and Pima County having such disparaging numbers?

Joe Yuhas: My chart here shows that the validation rate, keep in mind that Maricopa county's numbers are 67%. Coconino's rate is 86.9%. Pima County is at 77.9%. In fact, the statewide coverage is nearly 79%, ted, and that's what we don't understand. Why is it that there is a 12% difference, 12 percentage point difference between Maricopa County and the rest of the state. Why is it that a higher number of voters are disenfranchised as a result?

Ted Simons: What's the answer?

Joe Yuhas: Well, we're going to find out. We're conducting an analysis now of the results of that sample that Karen mentioned at 4314 signatures that were deemed to be invalid, we're preparing to take action, that action may be, once again, going to the courts, we're accustomed to that, the history of the of open elections, open government initiative to date has been one illegal impediment after another. The lobbyists and the political bosses don't like this measure so we're ready to tackle the next legal challenge.

Ted Simons: So with 1 of 3 signatures ruled invalid here in Maricopa County, 1 in 4, they can't find the registration records of these folks, and again, nothing seems to have changed according to the elections director. There's nothing unusual here in terms of how the varication process was done. What do you tell the judge?

Joe Yuhas: Well, I can't speak for previous campaigns that may have failed to qualify because of whatever criteria was used. I can only talk about our situation, the issue of unregistered voters. We only had the opportunity to secure the records yesterday morning around 10:00 am. We only had the opportunity to check 80 of the so-called unregistered voters' signatures. We found 13 registered voters in just that group of 80, as Karen pointed out, most of these are allegedly to be unregistered voters but we're finding frankly that the registration is actually there. So we're going to continue -- this process that we've started, which ultimately I believe is going to lead to action in the court.

Ted Simons: Who did collect these petitions?

Joe Yuhas: The campaign did, a collection of paid and volunteers. But frankly, the campaign bears responsibility here. An escape is led by some of our state's most respected business and community leaders who recognize that hyper partisanship is bringing our governmental institutions really sometimes to a grinding halt. So we can't take our eye off the ball here. Our goal is to not only put this measure on the ballot but also change the way our elections are conducted so that we don't continue down this road of hyper partisanship.

Ted Simons: I asked who collected the signatures because while you were looking at the county elections department, what they did, how they did it, those particular formulas and processes, I'm wondering if you were asking the folks who did the petition gathering, did you do this right? Did you just walk up and take, zre you investigating that angle as well?

Joe Yuhas: Not only now but frankly, over the course of our petition drive. I mentioned earlier we conducted our own internal validation process. We didn't just check 5%, Ted. We checked almost 35%. Again,statewide. And we're finding that our internal validation rate is matching the 14 other counties in the state. The only exception is Maricopa County. We need to find out why.

Ted Simons: And you are going to court?

Joe Yuhas: As we continue to gather the information, as we review. We had an opportunity yesterday to secure the report for Maricopa County but I think we're -- I think we're reasonably confident that's the direction we're going.
Ted Simons: That's happening pretty quickly doesn't it?
Joe Yuhas: It does, because next week Karen and all the election officials across the state their process of preparing for the November election, the printing of ballots, the publicity pamphlet. That's why we're working as hard as we are.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Joe Yuhas: Thanks, Ted.

Joe Yuhas:Spokesman, Open Elections, Open Government Campaign;

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