Arizona Commission for Election Accountability

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The Arizona Commission for Election Accountability was formed after the Presidential Preference election in March. Samantha Pstross, president for the Arizona Commission for Election Accountability talks about the resources available for voters to make sure their vote is counted on election day.

JOSE: THE ARIZONA COMMISSION FOR ELECTION ACCOUNTABILITY WAS FORMED AFTER THE PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE ELECTION IN MARCH. YOU MAY REMEMBER THE LONG LINES AND VOTERS WHO WAITED FOR HOURS TO CAST THEIR BALLOTS AFTER MARICOPA COUNTY REDUCED THE AMOUNT OF POLLING SITES. NOW THE COMMISSION SAYS THEY WANT TO MAKE SURE VOTERS HAVE THE RESOURCES THEY NEED TO MAKE SURE THEIR VOTE IS COUNTED ON ELECTION DAY. JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT THIS IS SAMANTHA PSTROSS, PRESIDENT FOR THE ARIZONA COMMISSION FOR ELECTION ACCOUNTABILITY. SAMANTHA, WELCOME TO HORIZONTE. HOW ARE YOU ARE HELPING DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE?

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: AFTER THE PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE, A GROUP OF LEADERS CAME TOGETHER AND DECIDED WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING BECAUSE WE COULD NOT LET WHAT HAPPENED ON MARCH 22ND HAPPEN AGAIN. COUNTLESS PEOPLE WERE NOT ABLE TO VOTE AND VOTING IS THE SOUL OF THE DEMOCRACY AND WE WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERY ELIGIBLE VOTER HAS ACCESS TO VOTING. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT YEAR AND WE FORMED THE COMMISSION FOR ELECTION ACCOUNTABILITY IN APRIL AND HAVE BEEN MEETING WITH ELECTED OFFICIALS TRYING TO HAVE OVERSIGHT TO MAKE SURE THERE ARE ADEQUATE NUMBER OF POLLING PLACES, PEOPLE ARE GETTING REGISTERED, AND OUR ELECTION PROCESS WORKS THE WAY IT IS SUPPOSED TO.

JOSE: THE BIG EFFORT WAS IN MARICOPA COUNTY BUT YOUR EFFORTS ARE NOT LIMITED TO MARICOPA COUNTY; RIGHT?

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: NO, WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT ALL COUNTIES. IN 2013, THERE WAS A SUPREME COURT CASE THAT TORE AWAY THE VOTING RIGHT'S ACT. PRIOR TO 2013, ARIZONA HAD TO SUBMIT ELECTION PLANS TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. THIS IS THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN WHICH THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE WILL NOT HAVE OVERSIGHT OF OUR ELECTIONS.

JOSE: WHAT DIFFERENCE WOULD THAT MAKE?

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: I THINK IT WILL MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE. IN ARIZONA, EVERY SINGLE COUNTY HAS CUT POLLING LOCATIONS FROM THE LAST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND THAT IS PARTICULARLY FRIGHTENING SINCE WE HAVE MORE VOTERS THAN WE HAD BEFORE.

JOSE: SO YOU ARE SUGGESTING THIS COULD BE TAKEN TO THE GOVERNMENT AND THEY COULD ORDER THERE BE MORE POLLS PLACES.

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: YES. I DON'T THINK THEY WOULD HAVE CUT AS MANY AS THEY HAVE. IN PIMA COUNTY THEY CUT MORE THAN ANY OTHER COUNTY THAT WAS PART OF PRECLEARANCE FOR THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT.

JOSE: HOW DO THEY JUSTIFY THAT?

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET A CLEAR ANSWER. THEY THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE MAILING BALLOTS IN EARLY. I AM NOT SURE WHY THEY THINK THIS. THIS IS THE SAME THING SURROUNDING THE PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE ELECTION. WE ARE ENCOURAGING EVERYONE TO VOTE EARLY. YOU CAN STILL REQUEST THE BALLOT BE SENT TO YOUR HOUSE UNTIL OCTOBER 27TH. AND YOU CAN VOTE IN PERSON EARLY BEFORE NOVEMBER 8TH.

JOSE: THERE IS THE UNDECIDED VOTERS AND PROBLEMS ON ELECTION DAY.

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: ARIZONA IS OFFICIALLY A SWING STATE AND POLLS SHOW THERE IS A LARGE OF NUMBER UNDECIDED VOTERS STILL. I AM CONCERNED THAT ARIZONA COULD BE THE FLORIDA OF 2000. WE WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYBODY VOTES AND THEIR VOTES ARE COUNTED. SO WE ARE ORGANIZING ELECTION PROTECTION AND WE WILL HAVE TRAINED VOLUNTEERS AT THE MOST TROUBLESOME POLLING LOCATIONS TO TALK TO VOTERS, MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THEIR RIGHTS. WE WILL HAVE A COMMAND CENTER WITH ATTORNIES THAT ARE VOLUNTEERS SO PEOPLE CAN CALL IN. IF THERE ARE PROBLEMS WE CAN DOCUMENT THEM AND IF THERE NEEDS TO BE FUTURE LITIGATION WE WILL HAVE THE CONTACT INFORMATION AND RESOURCES WE NEED.

JOSE: THIS IS IN ADDITION TO WHAT THE PARTIES WILL HAVE BECAUSE TRADITIONALLY THEY HAVE LAWYERS.

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: OUR ORGANIZATION IS NON PARTISAN. I AM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ARIZONA ADVOCACY NETWORK. WE ARE THE ONES WHO FORMED THE COMISSION FOR ELECTION ACCOUNTABILITY WITH ORGANIZATIONS LIKE MI FAMILIA VOTA, ARIZONA CENTER FOR EMPOWERMENT AND OTHER NON PARTISAN ORGANIZATIONS. IF ANYONE WANTS TO BE PART OF A NON PARTISAN EFFORT TO ENSURE OUR ELECTION HAS INTEGRITY THEY ARE WELCOME TO APPLY TO VOLUNTEER WITH US ON ELECTION DAY.

JOSE: WE HAVE THE ELECTION HOTLINE NUMBER ON THE SCREEN. IS THERE SOME OTHER WAY TO GET IN CONTACT WITH YOU?

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: IF YOU TO WWW.AZADVOCACY.ORG YOU CAN GO THERE AND BECOME A VOLUNTEER. WE ALSO NEED DONATIONS OF WATER, FOOD, CHAIRS ON ELECTION DAY. THE HOTLINE YOU HAVE IS FOR VOTERS WHO HAVE PROBLEMS. IF SOMEONE DIDN'T RECEIVE A BALLOT LIKE THEY SHOULD HAVE IN THE MAIL OR ARE HAVING ANY VOTER PROBLEM AND ARE NOT REGISTERED AND THINK THEY SHOULD BE THEN THEY SAY CALL 1-866-OUR-VOTE IS ENGLISH AND WE HAVE THE SPANISH HOTLINE AS WELL.

JOSE: TELL US ABOUT THE SOLUTIONS YOUR GROUP SUGGESTED AND WHICH ONES HAVE BEEN ADOPTED AND DENIED.

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: SURE. WE WORKED WITH A TEAM OF ATTORNEYS TO SEE WHAT OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS COULD DO TO MAKE VOTING EASIER, MORE ACCESSIBLE, AND MORE SECURE. WE HAVE A MESS HERE IN ARIZONA OUR ELECTIONS ARE STUCK IN THE 20TH CENTURY. WE DESPERATELY NEED TO MODERNIZE OUR ELECTION AND IN ARIZONA WE ESSENTIALLY HAVE 15 DIFFERENT ELECTIONS BECAUSE EACH COUNTY RUNS THEIR ELECTIONS DIFFERENTLY. THAT IS WHY IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR VOTERS TO FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE GOING TO VOTE FOR AND HOW YOU WILL VOTE. IF YOU MOVED FOR EXAMPLE FROM FLAGSTAFF TO PHOENIX THE WAY YOU VOTE IS DIFFERENT. IN MARICOPA COUNTY YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE POLLING LOCATION THAT IS IN YOUR VOTING PRECINCT HOWEVER UP IN YAVAPAI COUNTY THEY HAVE VOTE CENTERS. IT'S BEEN INTERESTING LEARNING ABOUT ELECTIONS. WE REQUESTED THEY PUT A POLLING LOCATION ON CAMPUS AT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY. OUR COMMISSION MET WITH MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER HELEN PERSELL AND DENNY BARNY, THE COUNTY SUPERVISOR, AND WE WORKED TO FIND A LOCATION ON CAMPUS. SO FOR THE FIRST TIME IN WHAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO FIND THERE'S GOING TO BE A PLACE ON CAMPUS.

JOSE: WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF TIME. LOCATIONS FOR DROP OFF AND SO FORTH

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: SOME COUNTRIES HAVE DRIVE THRU VOTING WHERE YOU CAN DRIVE AND VOTE WITHOUT GETTING OUT OF THE CAR. SOME COUNTRIES HAVE SECURED BALLOT BOXES WHERE YOU CAN VOTE AHEAD OF THE ELECTION BECAUSE NOT EVERYONE FEELS COMFORTABLE MAILING IN A BALLOT. BUT THEY REJECTED THOSE.

JOSE: IT IS GOING TO BE AN INTERESTING ELECTION NO MATTER WHAT. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON HORIZONTE TO TALK ABOUT IT.

SAMANTHA PSTROSS: THANK YOU.

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