Friday, October 22, 2004

Nevada: Local Democrats say GOP group scuttled their opportunity to vote

Susan Voyles
10/21/2004 11:49 pm

Eric Amberson and his wife, Traci, won’t be voting Nov. 2 in Sparks because of a Republican-sponsored voter registration drive that failed to turn in the Democratic forms.
They are the first in Washoe County to complain about the Voter Outreach of America registration drive that is being investigated by Nevada and Oregon officials for voter fraud and for destroying forms from Democrats.
“It’s not fair,” Eric Amberson said. “How many thousands of others won’t have their voices heard because some company decided we don’t count?”
The couple registered to vote Oct. 2 with a canvasser outside the Wal-Mart store on Kietzke Lane.
The National Republican Committee hired Sproul & Associates, of Phoenix, Ariz., to register voters in Clark and Washoe counties under the Voter Outreach of America name.
At the Nevada secretary of state’s request, the Nevada Division of Investigations is investigating the company for fraud in filing bogus registration forms as well as destroying voter registration forms signed by Democrats. The company is also being investigated by the Oregon attorney general’s office after one of its canvassers told a Portland television reporter that he “might have” destroyed forms completed by the Democrats, the Arizona Republic reported.
Nathan Sproul, the firm’s owner and former chief of the Republican Party in Arizona, has denied his employees destroyed any registration forms and said every form has been turned over to election officials, including 1,000 from Democrats.
The state investigation into the voting drive comes as President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are vying to capture five electoral votes in Nevada, which has emerged as one of eight battleground states. In one of the most hotly contested presidential campaigns in recent history, questions have also been raised at voter registration drives in Florida, another key battleground state.
In Sparks, Amberson said he and his wife didn’t have a second thought until they didn’t receive sample ballots in the mail. “Then we started wondering,” he said.
When they checked the Washoe County voter registrar’s Web site Tuesday, they found their names were not on the voter rolls.
“We were in front of Wal-Mart. Obviously, a lot of people registered,” Amberson said. “I’d like to know how many Republicans were registered on that day.”
Checking their voter registration receipt numbers with paperwork at the registrar’s office, the Ambersons’ forms were distributed by American Voters Outreach, a voter registration drive supervised by Sproul & Associates of Phoenix, Ariz.
Steve George, Nevada secretary of state spokesman, said his office expects an announcement from the investigations divisions within a few days on whether there’s a case against Sproul.
Last Friday, Clark District Judge Valerie Adair denied the Democratic Party’s request to reopen voter registration to those whose forms were destroyed.
In Las Vegas, 26-year-old Eric Russell, a former Sproul employee, has told the media that he watched his boss tear up 10-12 forms he had turned in for Democratic voters.
Amberson said he will seek a provisional ballot to vote for the president, senate and congressional race. But he doesn’t give it much hope. And even if he gets a partial ballot, he won’t be happy. “That’s still not acceptable.”
In Washoe County, Democratic Party director Pam duPre said she has heard only from Eric Amberson. But she said people won’t know they’re not registered until they check or go to vote.
Voter Registrar Dan Burk said voters are ultimately responsible for their registration forms. “They have the option to turn it in or mail it themselves.
“If they give it to someone else, they’re always running the risk of not having the form turned in. That’s a risk they run. But it doesn’t make me feel good in this business.”
Burk said his office has received fewer complaints about lost voter registration forms this year than in recent elections. He said the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles lost 200 voter registration forms in 2000.
In addition to Sproul, registrar supervisor Harry Day said many other voter registration drives were held this year. He said the office has received calls from other residents complaining their voter registration forms were not filed. But given early voting and preparing for the election, he said the office has not kept a running tally.
Burk said he was not aware of Amberson’s complaint or any others complaining of not being registered through the Sproul group.
But he said he has turned over 50 to 75 voter registration forms that came from Sproul to the Nevada Division of Investigations. Burk said he suspects the forms are bogus because the handwriting looks the same.
In addition, Day said the office has a stack of at least 200 other voter registration forms - six inches thick - that most likely are bogus. He said these forms have phony addresses and similar scribbled handwriting.
Day estimates at least 75 percent of the stack came from the Sproul group.
Another stack of 50 voter registration cards have been returned to the registrar’s office by the post office because of wrong addresses. Day also suspects almost all of these are bogus.
Day said the Sproul group turned in hundreds of voter registration forms that were valid but had exact count.
Sproul signed for 4,000 registration forms with Washoe County and 1,500 with the secretary of state for distribution in Northern Nevada. State law prohibits canvassers from being paid for each signed voter registration form.
But Burk said that doesn’t stop a company from requiring workers to turn in a certain number of voter registration forms, such as four an hour. And he said that could be the reason why so many bogus forms have been filed.Are you registered? Voters can check to see if they are registered to vote by checking the Washoe County Registrar of Voters Web site at


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