Arizona's voter ID requirements have resulted in tens of thousands of likely legitimate votes being tossed into the trash.
According to records CBS 5 Investigates obtained from the Maricopa County Elections Department, more than 40,000 votes went uncounted in the past two election cycles. The main reasons were voters showing up at the wrong polling places, voters not having the required identification or identification with an old address and signatures that don't match the ones on file.
"Imagine your vote not counting," said Sam Wercinski of the Arizona Advocacy Network. Wercinski said the requirements go far beyond simply ensuring voters are who they say they are.
"Citizens who live in the rural communities or in more dense urban centers often don't have the ID that the Arizona politicians have selected," said Wercinski. He says first-time voters, including high school seniors and college students, are also unfairly affected by the requirements, because many of them don't drive or have utility bills in their own names. Those are two of the documents that may be used for identification at the polls.
"Citizenship involves some burdens, and I believe this is a reasonable one," said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who supports tough voter ID requirements.
Horne is set to argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the spring that Arizona's voter ID law should be even tougher, requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote.
"We've got a trial record that shows that in fact, there is voter fraud," said Horne.
He cited 159 cases of people who registered to vote in 2005, but were ineligible. He said those cases were forwarded from the Maricopa County recorder to the county attorney.
But a nationwide organization of journalism students and professors, based at Arizona State University, conducted a painstaking study of voter fraud. They found just six cases of in-person voter fraud that were prosecuted in Arizona in the past 10 years.
The perception and the reality appear to be different. An exclusive poll conducted for CBS 5 News by Rasmussen found roughly half of Arizona voters believe voter fraud will play a role in the coming election.
That means the current ID requirements are not likely to change any time soon. In fact, because voters approved the requirements in 2004, it would take another vote to change them.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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