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Bennett announces nine new cases of suspected voter fraud

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PHOENIX – Using an interstate database, Arizona officials have found nine new cases of people voting in more than one state in the 2008 presidential election, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Tuesday.

Bennett, speaking at an event hosted by Catholic Charities Community Services as part of National Voter Registration Day, said that although voter fraud is statistically rare in Arizona elections officials are on the lookout for it.

“In addition to helping people get registered to vote and encouraging everyone to vote, we want everyone to vote once,” Bennett said.

It’s the second time Bennett’s office has referred cases of double-voting from 2008 to the state Attorney General’s Office. Last year, officials reported six cases.

All 15 cases have to do with Arizonans voting in at least one other state, he said.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Tom Horne’s office didn’t return a phone message by late Tuesday afternoon.

Those convicted of voting twice can be charged with a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $150,000 fine.

Bennett said cases in which people vote more than once often involve those who split time between Arizona and other states and cast more than one mail-in ballot.

“We want to make sure that everyone knows that those kinds of things are being checked,” he said. “We will do everything we can to identify those voters.”

Arizona participates in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office has 15 member states. After each state provides data on registered voters, including whether they voted, officials in Kansas look for potential duplicate entries and report back to states for follow-up.

People with similar names in different states can come up as matches, so it takes time to get it right, Bennett said.

“That’s why it takes months or even years sometimes,” he said.

Voter fraud is exceedingly rare in Arizona and across the nation. According to data collected by News21, a national reporting consortium made up of 11 universities and hosted at Arizona State University, reported in August that Arizona has had seven cases of alleged election fraud reach a courtroom since 2000, four of which involved people accused of voting twice.

Bennett acknowledged that voter fraud isn’t a “statistically large problem in Arizona” but said any amount is too much.

“Whether it’s nine cases or 90 or 900, we’re going to try to identify if it’s happening, and when it does, we’re going to prosecute and we’re going to try to prevent it from happening at all,” he said.

Matt Roberts, Bennett’s spokesman, said National Voter Registration Day was an ideal time to announce the new cases of suspected voter fraud.

“There are two essential elements to our electoral process: registration and participation,” Roberts said in an email. “Both should be seen equally to ensure the integrity of the election and improve voter confidence in the process.”