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Disabled vet’s lawsuit says city deprived him of right to vote

Military ID wasn’t accepted and no alternative was offered, suit says

A disabled 48-year-old veteran has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Tucson, saying the city unfairly deprived him of his right to vote last year.

Frank Vallejo’s attorney, Paul Gattone, filed the lawsuit Sept. 15 against the city, former City Clerk Kathleen Detrick, City Clerk administrator Veronica Sainz and John D. Decker, an election poll site supervisor.

According to the lawsuit, Vallejo retired from the U.S. Army in 1984 after acquiring a seizure disorder that fully disabled him.

Vallejo and his wife went to a polling place Nov. 6 where he’d gone for the past eight years – Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 2005 S. Houghton Road – to vote in the city general election.

He showed a poll worker his military ID, which didn’t have an address. The worker asked for an Arizona driver’s license, but Vallejo said it didn’t have his current address.

The worker consulted with Decker, who agreed with the poll worker that Vallejo’s military ID was insufficient and that the veteran “would not be allowed to cast his ballot,” according to the suit.

“No alternative was offered,” the lawsuit says, “other than to deny him his right to vote.”

The next day, Vallejo contacted Gov. Janet Napolitano’s office, which advised him that he should have been given a provisional ballot. It also advised him to file a complaint with the City Clerk’s Office over a violation of his civil rights.

Arizona’s voter ID law requires each voter to show government-issued photo identification with the person’s name and address on it before receiving a ballot. In lieu of that, a voter must provide two other forms of ID that include the person’s name and address, such as utility bills, bank statements and voter registration cards.

A voter lacking proper ID must receive a provisional ballot.

Depending on the type of election, the voter has either three or five business days to return with proper identification to have his ballot counted.

Vallejo says Sainz and Decker wrote him letters, reportedly saying he was “wrongfully turned away” from the poll. Sainz’s letter reportedly says that “there were problems with the training that was provided to poll workers.”

Gattone said his client’s 14th Amendment right – to be free from unreasonable and illegal restriction of his right to vote, as protected by the federal Voting Rights Act – was violated, causing Vallejo mental and emotional pain and suffering.

“Detrick, Sainz and the city of Tucson demonstrated deliberate indifference to the rights of the plaintiff by giving poll workers under its direction and supervision unfettered discretion to determine who is eligible to vote and what forms of identification can be presented to gain access to polling places,” Gattone wrote.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue an order declaring the city:

• Violated Vallejo’s right to vote

• Prevent similar denials of qualified electors’ right to vote in future elections

• Pay general and punitive damages to be determined

• Cover costs of the suit and attorneys fees.

The city has not responded to the lawsuit, which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge David C. Bury.

A phone call to the City Attorney’s Office for comment was not returned Monday.

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