Tenacious voter overcomes clerical errors
It wasn't easy, but Nicole Minton voted Tuesday.
Lots of people did. But it wasn't the long lines and assorted technical difficulties at polling sites that tested Minton's patience. Because of some misunderstanding with the agency that processed her registration form more than a year ago, the longtime voter reached the front of a 45-minute line to find that she wasn't on the official voter rolls Tuesday.
A call to the county recorder's office showed that she was ineligible because her citizenship had not been verified — all the more curious to her since she had presented her passport card to poll staff.
“I said, ‘Wait, what?'”
In short: Minton filled out an Arizona voter registration form at a local Department of Economic Security office in July 2011, a few months after moving to Yuma. Recorder Robyn Stallworth Pouquette determined that the confusion happened because Minton used her California driver's license number — she's maintained her out-of-state license because she still owns a business in Los Angeles and she regularly visits. But she wasn't told that her license wouldn't be recognized on an Arizona form of ID.
Because the number did not match an Arizona driver's license number, Minton could not be confirmed as a citizen eligible to vote. She was given a conditional ballot, with the instruction that she had three days to prove her citizenship for her votes to count.
Even though she did not know of that state variation, it so happens that Minton has a long history of political participation. She started voting within weeks of turning 18 in 1994. She campaigned for President Bill Clinton when she was in high school and has done voter outreach.
People can register to vote at many state government offices, so while Minton was at DES last summer, she took advantage of the convenience. First, she checked a box on a form that said she was interested in registering.
Then she did crucial follow-up: She asked for the actual voter registration form. She knew just saying she was interested in voting didn't make her registered to do so, and she was concerned that DES staff, even though they were registering people to vote, did not advise people of that next step.
More disconcerting is that when she talked to Stallworth Pouquette about her difficulties Tuesday, the recorder asked her if she'd registered at the DES office — meaning, the county official had heard from other people who'd had similar issues.
Stallworth Pouquette confirmed this, telling of one man who did the first “check box” form but acknowledged he hadn't been given the next one. Fortunately for him, he was an inactive voter but still in the system, and allowed to vote.
Even though she was also ultimately able to vote, Minton says she is not sure everybody who registered, or thought they registered, at that office were able to cast their votes Tuesday.
“To me, to not explain the process to people who've never done this before, it's criminal — it's wrong.”
After leaving her polling place, Minton went downtown, first to the elections office. A worker suggested she get some proof of local residency, like a utility bill. So she went to City Hall and got a copy of her water bill, then went to the recorder's office. She worked directly with Stallworth Pouquette and left positive that her issues had been resolved.
Stallworth Pouquette told the Yuma Sun that she would make it a priority to meet with the state agencies that register voters, even though those offices have other missions, and better educate them on voter outreach.
From start to finish, Minton spent about five and a half hours Tuesday, some of it with her 4-year-old in tow, making sure her ballot got where it needed to go.
She said some people might have given up, but she's “a little more tenacious” than others, especially with a right that she values as much as voting.
“I'm a dedicated voter,” Minton said. “You're not gonna stop me from voting”
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.