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Arizona GOP Training Poll Watchers To Spot Ballot Harvesting

Mariana Dale/KJZZ
A 2016 Maricopa County primary election ballot.

The state Republican Party is training volunteers to look for and document illegal "ballot harvesting'' at Tuesday's primary.

A new law makes it a felony to knowingly collect and submit a ballot from another person. Violators could be sentenced to up to a year in prison.

However, county election officials don't intend to stop anyone from dropping off multiple ballots at polling places, saying they're not the police. So the state GOP is training poll watchers to look for violators.

Party spokesman Tim Sifert acknowledged state law precludes them from taking pictures inside or even approaching voters within 75 feet of the polls. "But if a poll observer sees something, they are free to go outside that 75-foot limit. And that's where they can turn on their phones to take either video or pictures or something like that," he said.

Sifert said they can approach a voter outside the polls, ask some questions and even take photographs of their vehicle to help identify them later.

The plan drew an angry reaction from Democratic Party spokesman Enrique Gutierrez. "Republicans have a long history of intimidating voters. And this is just another attempt for them to intimidate more voters at the polls," he said.

Sifert disagreed. "If anybody is potentially committing a crime of some kind, you would expect a good citizen to do something about it."

Someone who brings in multiple ballots is not necessarily breaking the law. Individuals can collect ballots from family members and others living in the same household. Caregivers at nursing homes and adult day care centers are also permitted to collect ballots.