As a former Arizona State legislator, Bob Thorpe has seen his share of puzzling bureaucratic activity. But Thorpe is now in the midst of one of the most frustrating situations which impacts confidence in local government and the integrity of his own vote.
Thorpe and his wife Donna are registered Republicans who have lived in the same residence for more than 20 years in an unincorporated area of Coconino County. They are signed up on the county’s Active Early Voter List (AEVL) which allows them to receive ballots by mail instead of needing to vote in-person.
Earlier this month they received ballots from the Coconino County Recorder’s Office for the Aug. 2 Republican Primary Election. Everything seemed fine until Thorpe noticed one of the races at the bottom of the ballot was for the City of Flagstaff’s mayoral race.
Only voters living within the city limits are eligible to vote in Flagstaff’s municipal elections. The Thorpes live roughly one-quarter mile outside the city.
Thorpe filed a formal elections complaint on July 22 with various county and city officials, noting that he, Donna, and at least one neighbor received ballots listing the Flagstaff mayor race despite living outside the city limits.
The complaint generated a response from Deputy County Recorder Donna Casner the same day. And while Casner provided an explanation for what appears to have caused the ballot snafu, it does not explain why the problem arose this election and not in any of the others the couple have voted in while living at that address.
According to Thorpe, he and his wife as well as the neighbor “have not moved in over a decade or changed our voter registration information.” There is also no record of their properties being incorporated into the Flagstaff city limits, county officials told Arizona Daily Independent.
Equally frustrating, according to Thorpe, was Coconino County’s reply to State Sen. Kelly Townsend’s July 16 tweet asking any of the 47,000 voters on the county’s AEVL to contact her if their ballots seemed incorrect.
Coconino County tweet-replied, calling information about ballot problems “not true.” The reply went on to reiterate the county’s confidence “that our ballots are correct.”
Yet Casner’s July 22 response to Thorpe concedes the couple received the incorrect ballots for the upcoming Republican primary. This was due, according to Casner, to an incorrect physical residence listed for the Thorpes in Coconino County’s voter registration mapping system.
Casner then appears to blame the Thorpes for registering to vote years ago with an incorrect address which maps within Precinct 23 inside the Flagstaff city limits.
“However, upon further research we have determined that your actual physical residence is located outside the Flagstaff city limits,” Casner wrote. “Your registration record has now been updated to the correct voting precinct, Precinct 63.”
Replacement ballots are being mailed to Thorpe and his wife. The new ballots are the only ones which Coconino County will accept for tabulation, according to Casner.
While Thorpe is happy to be receiving a correct ballot, he is troubled by Casner’s avoiding the big question – why the address issue caused a problem this election when the couple has received correct ballots for several years using the same address.
“Please explain,” Thorpe wrote back to Casner on Saturday.
Thorpe’s July 22 complaint also noted his concern that the Coconino County Recorder’s Office had not sent he and his wife new Voter Identification Cards given that their Legislative District and Congressional District changed earlier this year due to mandated redistricting.
“Neither my wife or I received updated ID cards from the Coconino County Recorder. Why?” he asked.
Casner’s response did not address the reason for a lack of new voter ID cards to reflect their new districts, but she assured Thorpe the cards would be mailed soon.
Registered voters in Coconino County should have received a new voter identification card by now. Because of redistricting there were changes to some of our precincts, legislative districts and congressional district. Throw out your previous ID card & replace with the new card. pic.twitter.com/BMXpgIDVUa
— Coconino Recorder (@CocoRecorder) May 12, 2022