Arizona Republic reporters break down primary election day voting issues and a few key races
Arizona Republic, Arizona Republic

Problems continue at check-in system at county polls, despite county official’s April promises of more testing and additional technology as a backup.

A new Maricopa County voter check-in system was supposed to expedite the process by allowing people with designated forms of identification to cast ballots without showing secondary ID.

But some voters carrying tribal IDs say the county recorder’s new system, SiteBook, didn’t accept their identification.

“It was just ‘Nope, I just can’t help you,’ ” said Scott Williams, a Gilbert resident, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who presented his tribal ID card to vote.

Williams said he saw on the Arizona Secretary of State Office’s website that tribal ID documents were to be accepted at the polls, so he decided to use his Cherokee Nation card instead of a driver’s license. The Cherokee ID complies with the strict federal REAL ID Act.

“There’s a magnetic strip on the back of the card and the guy said the machine won’t pick it up. It almost felt like they had no idea it was allowed,” he told The Arizona Republic.

After several minutes of back-and-forth with the poll workers, Williams presented his driver’s license and was allowed to vote.

The tribal ID issue was one of the many problems voters faced as use of the electronic check-in system, which debuted in 2017, was expanded. The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office reported that 62 polling locations were not ready to operate at 6 a.m. when voting began, and problems were not resolved until 11:30 a.m. 

MORE: Who is to blame for Maricopa County’s election day problems?

‘Potentially disenfranchised’

It’s unclear how widespread the problem with tribal IDs was in Maricopa County.

Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation, said he did not hear of Cherokee citizens having problems during the Arizona primary election, but said in Williams’ case he was “potentially disenfranchised.” There are 5,299 Cherokee citizens who reside in Arizona. 

“It’s always disappointing if one of our citizens are disenfranchised, but we also take the opportunity to reach out,” Hoskin said. “I think if we just show them their own law, they’ll work with us. I think generally people are operating in good faith.”

The county recorder’s website states that a “tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification” is among the four forms of identification that do not require a secondary ID in order to vote.

A spokesperson for the County Recorder’s Office said the check-in system is programmed to use a voter’s driver’s license by scanning the bar code, but voters can manually check in with another form of ID.

The Recorder’s Office clarified Friday afternoon that tribal IDs are valid identification, but voters would have to enter their information manually.


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Expiration dates and photos

Richard Conser’s Choctaw Nation ID card was rejected at his polling place in north Scottsdale.

It wasn’t the first time his tribal identification cardhas been questioned. During the 2016 elections, he said he was told it would not be accepted because it does not have an expiration date or bar code.

“I told him it expires when I do, because I was born an Indian and that’s how it works,” Conser recalled.

Poll workers found Conser’s name in the system – complete with his Scottsdale address – and he was able to receive a provisional ballot.

“The last time I wasn’t given a provisional ballot – this time I was. It’s getting worse,” Conser said.

“While he may have technically cast a provisional ballot, it was still treated as a normal ballot, and was approved by our system and counted,” Sophia Solis, a spokesperson for the Recorder’s Office, said in an email.

Solis confirmed on Friday that Conser was at his proper polling location and should not have voted provisionally. She said in an email that they planned to contact Williams. 

MORE:4 Arizona polling locations with malfunctioning equipment reopened

A problem ‘across the country’

As of Wednesday night, a hotline run by the Native Election Vote Protection Project had not received any reports of tribal IDs not being accepted.

But Leonard Gorman, the executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, said the use of “government-issued ID cards has been a thorn in the side of many indigenous people across the country.”

Gorman said he voted using a Navajo language ballot Tuesday after supplying only his vehicle permit card from the Navajo government.

He was unaware of Navajo citizens being unable to vote Tuesday but said he pushed back on the requirement to furnish an ID card in order to vote.

“In the sense of identity, we have entirely different methods than the European way of thinking,” Gorman said. “The other form of ‘tribal ID’ is our clan system.”

Clans establish kinship in the Navajo Nation, creating a form of identification as it tells who a person’s relatives are across matriarchal lines. Sometimes a clan may geographically determine where a Navajo citizen is from, as clans can be localized to a certain part of a reservation. 

In a clan society, an individual’s reputation and identity are more valuable than a plastic card, Gorman said.


Voters encountered long lines at the Tempe Public Library polling place. People leaving the lines said they wa
David Wallace, Arizona Republic


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