Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Removing dead from Arizona voter rolls to be easier

PHOENIX – Dead people can’t vote, so one legislator wants to take extra precautions to make sure they don’t.

Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, authored a bill to allow legislators and political committees to inform the Secretary of State’s Office via Internet if they find the name of a deceased person on a voter roll.

“Right now it’s done manually,” he said. “I’m looking at some way to modernize the process.”

But after a recent meeting, Harper and Secretary of State Ken Bennett determined that the state could accomplish the bill’s goals without a law. The solution will allow political committees and legislators to report deceased voters while filing campaign finance reports on the secretary of state’s Web site.

“We like the intent and we’re going to work toward just doing it without a bill,” Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake said. “Any time we can clean up the voter rolls because there are factual errors in it, we’re for it.”

Harper said he got the idea while canvassing his district, which includes the retirement communities of Sun City and Sun City West. He’d often knock on a door to ask for a vote only to find that the person had passed away.

“I probably run into his more than most legislators,” he said. “It’s embarrassing.”

Under the proposed Web-based system, the Secretary of State’s Office would pass along a reported death to a county’s elections department, which would then confirm it with the registrant’s family before removing the name.

Under the current system, county voter registration clerks pore over obituaries, death certificates and notices from poll workers or health departments, said Jolene Juarez, a clerk for the Maricopa County Elections Department.

“We get notifications from families saying, ‘Please take them off the voter rolls,’ ” she said.

Juarez said names sometimes fall through the cracks, especially if a voter dies in another state where the health department doesn’t communicate with election officials in Arizona. She recalled finding one name that stayed on the voter rolls for 12 years.

Linda Weedon, deputy elections director for Maricopa County, said the change couldn’t hurt but wouldn’t really modernize anything.

She said anyone can already e-mail elections departments if he or she thinks a name should be removed from the roll, and legislators already do, so the new system would just change the notification format from an e-mail to a Web link.

“To me, it’s just a different way of reporting someone’s dead,” she said. “We get lots of folks telling us people are deceased, so we already do a follow up.”

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