Election, Health Officials Urge Vote By Mail For Upcoming Arizona Elections

Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - 3:54pm

A coalition of election officials, health experts and voting rights advocates collected more than 1,000 signatures urging Gov. Doug Ducey and legislative Republicans to let ballots be mailed to all voters.

Calling it a “vote-by-mail plus” model, the coalition led by All Voting Is Local Arizona said mailing ballots to every voter would not preclude the state from still offering polling places on election day in August and November.

In fact, Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen said that mailing ballots would allow her office to allocate scarce resources and manpower to areas of the county that most need in-person voting options.

Voters in urban areas have easy access to mail, while rural voters — particularly those on Arizona’s Indian reservations — still need the option to vote in-person.

“Allowing the counties to mail ballots to all registered voters will alleviate the burden that the counties currently have in finding and staffing all of our election day polling locations,” Hansen said.

Hansen said she’s already ordered enough materials to mail ballots to all voters ahead of the Aug. 4 primary election.

She did so even though the Republican-controlled legislature has so far rebuffed bipartisan requests to authorize county officials, like Hansen, to mail those ballots.

Voters can already sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List, or PEVL, to receive an early ballot in the mail. But county election officials need the Legislature’s authority to mail ballots to those not on PEVL.

Hansen said she hopes Republican leaders realize the potential risks associated with operating polling places this fall.

“I've never seen a time when the act of voting or working as a poll worker or being an employee of the elections office may put your health and safety at risk,” Hansen said. “Part of keeping our election secure means ensuring the health and safety of everyone participating in our elections.”

Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association, said there’s no telling if the threat of the coronavirus will have subsided by the upcoming elections.

“We might be lucky and this really could stay at a low boil and not pose a public health threat this fall, but it could be that we're facing a second wave,” Humble said. 

“We know that we're not going to have a vaccine by the fall. What we don't know is how seasonal this virus is. And so this is a pretty common sense public health intervention that's doable,” he added.

It’s unclear if other county election officials have planned ahead as well as Hansen by ordering materials needed to mail ballots to everyone.

But Hansen said officials in every county are mulling their options.

“The majority of the counties are looking at it,” she said. “I can't speak for all of the recorders or the Recorder Association but we've been discussing this. So yes, but the time is coming up that we need to make that decision so we can get those ballots in the mail in the necessary time.”

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