By EMMA O'CONNOR | October 18, 2012
Arizona’s Maricopa County is quickly trying to ensure that all its residents know the correct date of Election Day. Officials are concerned some voters could show up two days late — based on information the county sent out. In June, the county’s elections office started distributing Spanish-language voter registration cards that listed the wrong date for the 2012 general election, CNN reports.
The voter ID documents in question listed the correct date of Election Day, November 6, for those reading the English section, but listed it as November 8 in Spanish. In an October 16 press release, the Maricopa Recorder’s Office said elections officials mailed out 2 million new voter registration cards, and only those that had been handed out in the office had the date error. Based on figures from previous years, the office estimates that it gave out 50 or so erroneous cards.
Although the county said in the statement that the mistake had been corrected, CNN notes that many in the local Latino community are still outraged. “It’s a mistake that should not have happened,” Petra Falcon, the executive director of Promise Arizona in Action — a nonprofit that encourages civic participation among Latinos and young people — said to KNXV-TV. “To know that there’s information out there that’s wrong, it’s going to take a lot of work to make sure that people know the correct date.” Maricopa County is Arizona’s largest, containing 3.4 million people within its borders, including Phoenix, the state’s capital and largest city. According to 2011 Census estimates, 30 percent of the county’s residents are of Hispanic origin, and 20 percent speak Spanish at home.
Charlotte Walker, a Sun City resident, told KNXV-TV that she received the flawed document from the county’s Phoenix-based Recorder’s Office. “It could have a significant impact on the election outcome because they’d go to the polls on November 8th and they wouldn’t open,” Walker told the news station. “They wouldn’t be able to cast their vote this year.”
The registration card debacle will likely only compound an already strained relationship between county authorities and Latino residents. Much of the tension stems from issues surrounding the County Sheriff’s Office’s treatment of local Hispanics. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is currently helping represent Latinos in a class-action lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio — who was labeled America’s “most corrupt and abusive sheriff” in an August Rolling Stone story — is facing allegations that he has violated civil and constitutional rights by racially profiling and discriminating against Hispanics. The U.S. Justice Department has filed a separate lawsuit against Arpaio’s office for infringing on the civil rights of Latinos, CNN notes. In December 2011, the Justice Department released a report about the sheriff’s civil rights violations, but the Department’s discussions with the county about reaching a negotiated settlement dissolved in February, according to CNN. Arpaio, who denies the accusations, has been reelected four times since 1992 to his Maricopa County post.
Maricopa’s voter document mistake comes on the tail of several other pre-election controversies nationwide. In August, a federal court struck down a Texas law that would have required voters to present photo ID in order to cast their ballots. A similar requirement was struck down in Pennsylvania earlier this month. In both rulings, those fighting against the requirement argued that the law would serve mainly to block young adults and minority voters, who might not carry the right kind of ID. According to the Associated Press, a study released last month estimated that up to 700,000 minority citizens under age 30 could be prevented from voting this year because of strict voter identification laws across the nation.