PHOENIX - As a means to protect voters’ health while maintaining their access to the ballot, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes took the unprecedented step today of sending ballots by mail to all voters that typically vote on Election Day and are eligible for the Democratic Presidential Preference Election, scheduled for March 17.
“We are in unchartered territory with the COVID-19. My first concern is to protect the health of the voters and staff who work in the polling places while maintaining the integrity of the election. Anything we can do to minimize human interaction in the polling place is what we must to do,” Fontes said.
By mailing out ballots, most voters will now have the option to just drop-off the voted mail ballot at a voting location without going into the polling place or engaging with other voters and staff in order to vote. This will allow voters to keep to “social distancing” protocols recommended by health officials and still have the opportunity to cast a ballot.
“This action of sending out the mail ballots is done in support of what the Board of Supervisors is doing to keep as many polling places open as possible,” Fontes said. “The Recorder’s Office is doing all it can to support their Election Day effort. We want that plan to be as successful as possible in making sure voters have options and availability to cast their ballots.”
Fontes said he made the decision to mail out the ballots to traditional Election Day voters who are not on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) following a series of cancellations by polling place locations and election worker staff. There is also a lack of cleaning supplies available to meet County Health Department directives for preventing the potential spread of disease in the polling places.
“The Board of Supervisors is doing all they can to keep polling places open, staffed and clean and I applaud their efforts. But I felt this additional option was necessary to serve our voters,” Fontes said.
Fontes acknowledged that the law does not contemplate this type of situation but felt that, as the elected official responsible by law for early voting in Maricopa County, the health crisis creates an emergency situation that demands decisive action to protect the public health.
“There will be some who will say there is no authority to mail ballots to all voters under the law, but there is no prohibition either. Considering this unprecedented emergency situation, we need to act to both enfranchise the voters and protect public health. This plan accomplishes both of those goals,” Fontes said.
Voters will likely receive their mail ballots on Monday and Tuesday and are advised that they should NOT mail back the ballots. By law, all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. Voters should instead DROP-OFF the ballots at one of the many locations available to vote over the weekend, on Monday and on Election Day. The voting and ballot drop-off locations can be found at www.locations.maricopa.vote.
The Presidential Preference Election is Tuesday, March 17.
Contact: Kathren Coleman