Citizen Staff Writer
By B. POOLE
An election official took matters into his own hands Tuesday morning when a key wouldn’t open an East Side polling place.
“Basically, I had to get a tire iron and smash out a plate-glass window. We’ve got to get these people in to vote, and we can always buy a new window,” said Brad Nelson, Pima County elections director.
The polls at Kirk-Bear Canyon Branch Library, 8959 E. Tanque Verde Road, opened 15 minutes late, but no voters were turned away.
Nelson spent much of Election Day at polling places on the East and South sides. He saw some evidence of confusion over a state law requiring voters to present identification.
Votes cast without required ID or that raised other questions of legitimacy are provisional. In the case of ID problems, voters must produce the required ID at the election office within five business days of the election to have their votes count.
About half of 2,238 provisional ballots turned in to the county elections office by 10 p.m. appeared to be because of ID issues, though that number accounts for just 69 of Pima County’s 404 precincts, Nelson said.
Most of the others were from people who have moved and had not updated voter registrations, he said.
As of 10 p.m., 2,832 early ballots had been dropped off at polls, though that also reflects just 69 precincts, Nelson said.
About 172,000 mail-in ballots were requested countywide, and Nelson predicted the total number dropped off Tuesday would be “historically high.”
Voter Becky Howard complained that she was forced to use a provisional ballot at St. Francis de Sales church, 1375 S. Camino Seco, which won’t be counted for days. She had requested a mail-in ballot, but had not sent it in. Even though she had it with her, she had to vote provisionally.
“I found that whole part of the process unsatisfying because I wanted my vote to count today,” she said.
Volunteer election monitors say three men with a video camera and a gun were intimidating voters at various polling stations throughout Tucson.
From about 9:45 a.m. to noon Tuesday, the men approached Hispanic voters as they attempted to enter Iglesia Bautista Kairos, 4502 S. 12th Ave. in Precinct 25, said Diego Bernal, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.
Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos, who was also acting as an election observer at Iglesia Bautista, identified two of the three men as Roy Warden and Russ Dove, two anti-illegal immigration activists.
Warden could not be reached for comment, but in a mass e-mail he acknowledged being at the polling site to “monitor illegal Mexicans voting in the Midterm elections.”
Bernal said he reported the incident to the FBI.
Both the FBI and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment about the reports.
“If intimidation or coercion was going on out there, even though it might have been outside the 75-foot limit, it’s something we take very seriously, and we’ll be looking into it,” Nelson said.
He said he plans to work with the Pima County Attorney’s Office to determine whether laws were broken.
Citizen Staff Writer Claudine LoMonaco contributed to this article.