About 80% of Arizonans vote by mail, while the national average is only 21%.
While some states are scrambling to expand access to early voting before the Nov. 3 election, officials in Arizona are remaining calm.
That’s because the state has offered flexible early voting since the 1990s.
Previously in Arizona, if voters wanted a ballot in advance, they had to prove they could not be at a poll on Election Day.
But in 1991, the Legislature allowed voters to request an absentee ballot for any reason, making it widely available. Then in 1997, lawmakers changed the language so that “absentee” voting would be referred to as “early” voting.
In 2007, Arizona made it even easier to regularly vote early. The state established the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). When voters sign up for this, they are automatically mailed a ballot for each election without having to request one.
Now, about 80% of Arizonans regularly vote by mail. About 88% voted by mail in this year’s August primary.
Tiffany Anderson, Yuma County, management analyst, told The Copper Courier that 91% of voters voted early in their primary.
“We feel very prepared. Fortunately, Arizona’s been doing this for a long time,” she said.
When it comes to getting ready for the general election, Yuma County is doing what it can to make sure it can process any increases in a timely manner.
“We are expecting our early ballots to increase significantly for the general election, so we’ve made preparations with hiring some temporary workers and getting them trained and ready so when those early ballots come back in we can start processing them right away and tabulating once we’re able to do that per statute,” Anderson said. “We’re also preparing by increasing our drop-box locations from the four to the eight throughout the county.”
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has expressed her faith in Arizona’s robust vote-by-mail system.
Because of a new law allowing counties to start tabulating early ballots two weeks before Election Day, compared to the previous seven days, she said earlier this year she expects to see results possibly come in even faster.
According to Pew Research Center, only about 21% of voters across the US vote by mail. Rules about deadlines and who is eligible to vote this way differ among each state.
Normally, there are five states that automatically send ballots to all voters. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, four more states plus the District of Columbia plan to do this for the general election.
Elections officials pushed for Arizona to have an all-mail election due to the pandemic, the idea was met with fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers, and the state legislature ended their session before the matter could be brought to a vote.
Other states have strict laws that prevent most people from participating in absentee voting.
In 16 states, voters have to provide a reason to vote by mail. However, 11 of them are working to adjust that requirement due to the virus.
In places where those rules are changing, a vast majority of voters are unfamiliar with the vote-by-mail system. In the 2016 election, less than 5% of people cast their ballots this way.
When it comes to deadlines, some states are more flexible than Arizona. Half of the states, plus D.C., count mailed ballots received past the election as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3.
In Arizona, as in the 24 remaining states, ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
How to Participate
The last day to request a one-time ballot or sign up for the PEVL in Arizona is Oct. 23. That is also currently the last day to register to vote.
Hobbs’ office recommends Oct. 27 as the last day to mail back ballots. Voters can also return ballots to drop-box locations around their county.
Check my.arizona.vote for more details.