Arizona turnout percentage down from 2008 election

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona's voter turnout rate in the general election dipped slightly from the last presidential election in 2008.

The official election canvass approved Monday by state officials reported that nearly 74.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the Nov. 6 general election, compared with 77.7 percent in 2008.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Arizona Supreme Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and Attorney General Tom Horne certified the election results.

Bennett served as acting governor during the canvass, filling in for absent Gov. Jan. Brewer. Bennett's deputy, Jim Drake, served as acting secretary of state.

Bennett said possible factors causing the small drop in turnout include heightened interest in the 2008 election because of Republican nominee John McCain's home-state candidacy and of excitement over Democrat Barack Obama's initial candidacy that year.

Approximately 3,000 more voters cast ballots in Arizona this year than in 2008, but the turnout rate was lower because there are approximately 100,000 more registered voters now.

Bennett said he plans to meet in coming weeks with county election officials to consider ways to improve election systems.

"Obviously the No. 1 goals are accuracy and voter inclusion. Speed is below those but not forgotten," Bennett said.

Activists and others have said Arizona was slow to count results from the Nov. 6 ballot, but Bennett said the 14 days needed this year is down from 15 needed in 2008.

He said half of the 171,000 provisional ballots cast statewide this year, up from 151,000 in 2008, were cast by people who had received but not turned in an early ballot.

On another election topic, Berch said she thinks voters' overwhelming rejection of a legislative referendum to give the governor more influence in Arizona's system for appointing many state judges may deter critics of the appointment system from trying again.

However, she said she expects more campaigns against judges up for retention.

Several groups of conservative activists waged an unsuccessful campaign against Supreme Court Justice John Pelander, targeting him because he authored a ruling that overturned Brewer's 2011 removal of the chairwoman of Arizona's redistricting commission.

Voters kept Pelander in office by a 3-1 margin, but Berch said she thinks there will be more such challenges as courts are presented with cases that touch political nerves.

Voters should do their homework and research claims made in blogs, Berch said.

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