(KFYI News) – The Maricopa County Recorder's Office says this year's primary and general elections should go a lot more smoothly than the general election in 2012, when it took two weeks to verify and count the over 7,000 provisional ballots that were cast.
County Recorder Helen Purcell says the reason so many provisional ballots were cast was that a lot of voters who received early ballots instead showed up at local polling places to vote in person. In each case, Purcell says, the ballots had to be compared to the mail-in ballots to ensure that the person hadn't returned their early ballot and was attempting to vote twice.
This year, Purcell's office is undertaking a major publicity campaign asking voters who request early ballots to either mail them in before the deadline, or deliver them to a polling place on Election Day, rather than showing up at a polling place and requesting a new ballot.
The publicity campaign also reminds registered independent ("no party preference") voters that they are allowed to vote in primary elections, but they have to request a specific party's ballot.
Purcell says that part of the publicity campaign is already paying off. She says so far this election cycle, about 48,000 independent voters have requested early ballots, which is more than double the 21,000 who requested early primary ballots in 2012. While that's a significant increase, it represents only a little more than five percent of the 862,000 early ballots requested. Independent voters account for about one-third of all registered voters.
Part of the reason for the increase in early ballots requested by independents, Purcell says, is a mailing required by law that went out in May, 90 days before the primary election. This year, she says a second mailing will go out 30 days before the election reminding independent voters that they can vote in the primary, but must request which party's ballot they want to receive.
While the vast majority of ballots cast in elections any more are early ballots that are mailed in, another significant change this year concerns voters who choose to vote in person on Election Day. In the past, voters arriving at a polling place were checked in by poll workers who looked them up in a book. If you showed up at the wrong polling place, the poll workers would tell you that you weren't on their list and therefore didn't belong there, but they had no way of telling you where you SHOULD vote.
Now, the county is using new technology that will allow voters to check themselves in by swiping their driver's license or voter registration card through a reader. If they're at the right polling place and didn't vote early, they will get a ballot. If they're at the wrong polling place, they will be redirected to the proper polling place based on their address.
Finally, Purcell says, there were accusations during the two weeks that it took to process ballots in the 2012 general election, that the process took so long because it didn't really run from 7 am to 10 pm as officials claimed it did. This time, Purcell says, they've installed six webcams around the room that will be used to process ballots, so that the public can watch the process on any computer.
The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 26, and the general election is on Nov. 4.