While some states are warning of delays in elections results, Arizona expects to see them come in faster this year.
As secretaries of state across the country push for mail-in voting this fall to avoid the coronavirus-related safety risks of in-person polls, one thing Arizona’s election officials aren’t worried about is processing time for tabulating ballots.
State election officials in some key battleground states have recently warned that it may take days to count what they expect will be a surge of ballots sent by mail out of concern for safety amid the pandemic. In an election as close as 2016’s, a delayed tally in key states could keep news organizations from calling a winner.
“It may be several days before we know the outcome of the election,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, told The Associated Press. “We have to prepare for that now and accept that reality.”
But Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who like Benson has advocated for all-mail voting, doesn’t foresee that being an issue in the state.
“Fortunately, Arizona has a robust vote-by-mail system. The majority of Arizonans already vote this way, so an increase in early voters would not have a significant impact,” Hobbs’ spokeswoman Sophia Solis told The Copper Courier.
“We are actually expecting the tabulation process to speed up due to a new election law that allows the counties to start tabulating early ballots 14 days before Election Day,” Solis added.
Arizona has had a recent history with delayed election results. In 2018, Republican Martha McSally was narrowly winning the initial tally of in-person votes and mail ballots that had arrived days before Election Day.
More than a week later, after election officials were able to tally all the mail votes that arrived on Election Day, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won the senatorial race by more than 2 percentage points. Arizona changed its procedures to try to speed up the vote count this year.
Delayed results are common in a few states where elections are already conducted largely by mail. But a presidential election hasn’t been left in limbo since 2000, when ballot irregularities in Florida led to weeks of chaos and court fights.
While some states are working to conduct all-mail elections, Solis said Arizona seems to have missed its chance.
“Legislative action would be required to conduct an all-mail election,” Solis said. “This seems unlikely since the legislature has adjourned for the session.”
But Hobbs still has plans to make voting by mail an easier option for Arizonans. She told the Arizona Mirror her office plans to work with counties to make sure voters receive an application to vote by mail for the August and November elections, whether or not they are on the permanent early voting list. And, if a county should choose not to, Hobbs’ office would step in and mail the applications.
For some election experts and Democrats, the prospect of similar uncertainty is especially worrisome this year, as Trump disparages mail-in voting as fraudulent and has claimed without evidence that widespread mail balloting will lead to a “rigged” election.
“It’s very problematic,” said Rick Hasen, a University of California-Irvine law professor. “There is already so much anxiety about this election because of the high levels of polarization and misinformation.”
President Donald Trump has inaccurately attacked Michigan for also mailing applications to vote remotely. He first accused Benson of illegally sending every voter an absentee ballot, which was not the plan. He later corrected himself but still called Benson’s plan a “voter fraud path.”
Twitter added a link to a fact check to two of Trump’s tweets connecting mail-in voting to fraud. A spokeswoman for the company said the tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”
Hobbs, who has reassured Arizonans many times online that mail-in voting is secure, has so far been spared from Trump’s online attacks. But she told the Mirror she isn’t concerned, considering the president has been battling with Michigan and its officials over multiple issues in recent weeks.
Hobbs’ office has been working to actively combat voting misinformation this cycle by participating in the National Association of Secretaries of State’s #TrustedInfo2020 campaign.
The initiative aims to highlight trusted sources of elections-related information and amplify their messages.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.