Polling Place Postponement

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Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell has asked the Board of Supervisors to postpone approval of polling places for the Primary Election.

Ted Simons: A reminder, make sure to watch Cronkite News each day at 4:30 for the latest convention coverage from Cleveland. Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell has asked the Board of Supervisors to postpone approval of polling places for the 2016 primary election. Here to explain the requests is county recorder Helen Purcell. Good to see you again.

Helen Purcell: Good to see you.

Ted Simons: Thanks for being here. You want them to hold off approving polling places. What is this about?

Helen Purcell: Give them another two weeks, we've scheduled it for the August 3rd. To give some of the groups I've been talking to, calling our office and saying we haven't had enough time to look at it. We put the temporary list out there on our website. The 11th of June. We sent it out to the community network later on in June. But we want to make sure that everybody has a chance to look at it. We've got 724 precincts in Maricopa County. All of those have to have a polling place and just one and we've got a tentative list out there. Somebody else can give us a better location we can deal with in that precinct, then we'll look at that.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, what kind of input are you looking for?

Helen Purcell: We have certain criteria for polling places. We have to go out and analyze each of the polling places and make sure it's handicap accessible and sufficient parking and make sure that the room is large enough to contain a polling place, there's a lot of criteria we have to go through that our people go out and check on. So if they think they have a better idea, then we can certainly look at that.

Ted Simons: Have you heard any better ideas? What kind of input have you been getting so far?

Helen Purcell: We haven't gotten anything and that's why we want to give them a couple more weeks.

Ted Simons: And your office has been soliciting complements.

Helen Purcell: Yes.

Ted Simons: And the community leaders just not coming back and saying -- anything?

Helen Purcell: Not until we schedule the approval by the Board of Supervisors which was supposed to be Wednesday. And then we started hearing comments back, I said ok, let's hold off for two weeks and if somebody has something they'd like to give us, let's look at that.

Ted Simons: Did the democrats push for this postponement? Were they behind this idea?

Helen Purcell: I think it was various groups. We had some Hispanic groups that talked to us about it. It was various groups, I don't know if it was any party relationship there.

Ted Simons: I had read, I think there was a story that was democrats were saying there wasn't enough time to vet these polling places. Is there a point there?

Helen Purcell: Well, we met with the county democratic chair last week and he certainly didn't say anything to me at that time. We know there's been conversation about it, but maybe talking to some of his people, that's the way he felt.

Ted Simons: They're saying there's not enough time for the community input and -- and these are democrats now, acting like it's similar to what happened in March as far as the run-up and the vetting process. Is that a valid argument?

Helen Purcell: Let's look at the difference between those elections and both the primary and the general elections, we had 724 precincts and 724 polling places. Those were two special elections in March and May. That's completely different. Even the number of polling places, you're allowed to have is different. So you're looking at it entirely different and different people can vote. In this election, all of our registered voters can vote. They couldn't in the March election.

Ted Simons: And the idea that you used to have to publicize months in advance under Justice Department guidelines, is that accurate?

Helen Purcell: We had 80 days before the election where you had to send to the Justice Department the approval. Now, let's -- the 724 precincts have already been approved by the justice back in 2012 when we were still under that cap. Not all of the polling places, but a lot of them in the ones we have today were approved by the Justice Department a number of years ago.

Ted Simons: Is it difficult to find polling places? Difficult to get people to agree to have their parking lot to get taken up all day?

Helen Purcell: It's sometimes impossible to find a place large enough and with decent parking. For instance, a school, a lot of people want us to use the schools but on a Tuesday, they have everyone there. Churches or their -- their outbuildings make it a better thing because they don't have church Tuesday.

Ted Simons: And has to be handicap accessible.

Helen Purcell: Absolutely. We use the criteria that the Justice Department gave us for a polling place.

Ted Simons: What has changed now that the D.O.J. is not overseeing this?

Helen Purcell: We don't send a report.

Ted Simons: That's the only thing?

Helen Purcell: Everything else we do exactly like we did. We have to see in the polling place, how many polling place workers we have. Have to speak Spanish and fluent in Spanish because we use the Justice Department criteria on Hispanic surnames to determine how many polling place workers we have to have who are bilingual.

Ted Simons: It was argued by some that if the Justice Department had still been over seeing things, that the situation in March never would have happened.

Helen Purcell: I'm not sure they -- whether they would have objected or not. Maybe they would have said you don't have enough polling places, I don't know that. But all of the other criteria for an election we still use the same criteria that we used when the Justice Department was overseeing.

Ted Simons: So you asked the board to agree to reschedule. And sounds like they have.

Helen Purcell: Agreed to reschedule to the third of August.

Ted Simons: Ok.

Helen Purcell: We have to have it done by law 20 days before the election.

Ted Simons: Again, was that under Justice Department rules it was 80 days?

Helen Purcell: That's what we had to send them so they had time to look at it so we could look at it.

Ted Simons: It was longer than the DOJ ruling as opposed to now.

Helen Purcell: But we've had the precincts out there for some time.

Ted Simons: How do people find their polling place? If they're interested, where do they go?

Helen Purcell: On our website, there's a list of the polling places, proposed, they can look that for their area and look at your precinct and see where it's going to be or look in your area if you want to look at that. See where it's going to be and if you think you can find a place that's better capable of being a polling place, let us know about that.

Ted Simons: And again, if you're in -- you must go to that polling place, or any willy-nilly one?

Helen Purcell: You must go to the polling place assigned to your precinct. If we haven't found one in your precinct, we may co-locate that to the one next to you.

Ted Simons: Okay, biggest lesson learned from the events of March?

Helen Purcell: Um, I know we made some mistakes in the number of polling places we had. We could have looked a little bit differently at those people who weren't eligible for the election who came to the polling places, 20,000 people who were not eligible for the election. Should we have had more polling places? Yes, that's probably the lesson I learned and we certainly want to look at everything we can about this election. We've got a big primary and general election. We don't want anything to happen. And we don't think it will. But we want to make sure everyone has the input they think they need.

Ted Simons: All right, they've got it now. Good to see you again, thanks for joining us.

Helen Purcell: Thank you.

Helen Purcell - Maricopa County Recorder

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