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On April 2, an opinion piece by state Rep. Shawnna Bolick included inaccurate and often misleading information about ballot-by-mail elections. As associations of election professionals, we are committed to ensuring that the rest of the elections in 2020 are accurate, secure and safe for voters, anticipating the COVID-19 pandemic could continue requirements around social distancing for the remainder of the year.

We, on behalf of the Arizona Recorders Association and the Election Officials of Arizona, offer this response to set the record straight and assert that it is crucial that the Legislature extend our ability to hold ballot-by-mail elections for state and federal elections, a practice already authorized for jurisdictional elections. It is the best way to ensure Arizona voters are safe during this pandemic and have the certainty of the continuity of our democracy. We are requesting this change only for 2020, during this unprecedented pandemic.

Ballot-by-mail elections are not just conducted through the mail. There are still in-person voting options that vary by county but include ballot replacement sites that open 27 days before and through Election Day. These sites ensure a ballot can get to qualified voters who experience any issues with the mail. Ballot return sites and drop boxes provide voters with the option of delivering their ballots directly to election officials.

Mailing ballots to voters is less complicated and less expensive compared to the massive logistical undertaking of finding, staffing, equipping, testing, sanitizing and maintaining hundreds of voting locations across the state. Doing so is comparable to opening a new business overnight, and the staffing alone takes the equivalent of a small army. Even if every voter signs up for PEVL, without a change in the law to make these elections all-mail elections, our counties still have to open these Election Day voting locations. And mailing a ballot to every registered voter is a very secure and straightforward process.

Every single ballot is tracked and audited before and after every election, stored in a secured area and signature verified prior to being counted. Since over 80% of Arizona’s voters already choose to vote by mail, mailing ballots to the remaining 20% of voters would not require much additional staff, equipment or training. That number stands in contrast to the Pew Research Center poll sited in the previous opinion piece. We rely on what our communities tell us.

In-person, Election Day voting does not speed up ballot tabulation. The number of provisional ballots and conditional provisional ballots, which can take days to process and can require additional voter outreach, are reduced in ballot-by-mail elections. Also, a recent law allows counties to begin tabulating ballots two weeks before Election Day. Typically, the results that are posted at 8 p.m. on election night are early ballots that have been tabulated.

Additionally, all ballots, whether received at a voting location or in the mail, are printed on a specific kind of paper, so there is no impact there. Although, for counties that must preprint ballots for Election Day voters, there are often millions of unused ballots that must be shredded — a huge waste of resources.

The most compelling reason to pursue the ballot-by-mail option for this year is it is the safest option for voters, election workers and voting sites. It provides a way for people to participate in their democracy while implementing the COVID-19 prevention recommendations. It also provides election officials across the state a way to help protect the health of their employees and volunteers. This is about people, not politics, and we respectfully renew our call to Rep. Bolick and the rest of the Legislature to allow us to conduct accurate, secure and safe ballot-by-mail elections this year.

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Virginia Ross is the Pinal County recorder and president of the Arizona Recorders Association, a membership organization comprising all 15 county recorders in the state. Lisa M. Marra is the Cochise County elections director and president of the Elections Officials of Arizona, a membership organization made up of election directors and officials from all 15 counties.

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