While some Republicans are making false accusations that mail-in voting suddenly isn’t secure, most Arizonans are remaining calm.
That’s because the state has offered flexible early voting since the 1990s.
Decades ago in Arizona, voters had to prove they could not be at a poll on Election Day if they wanted a ballot in advance.
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.
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In 2007, Arizona made it even easier to vote early in every election. The state established the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). When voters signed up for this, they were automatically mailed a ballot for each election without having to request one.
Republicans changed this last year when they renamed PEVL the Active Early Voter List (AEVL). It is no longer considered “permanent” because voters are removed if they don’t vote by early ballot at least once for two consecutive election cycles. Additionally, those removed from the AEVL are removed from the voter rolls completely and are also ineligible to vote in person unless they re-register.
About 80% of Arizonans regularly vote by mail, and in the 2020 general election, about 89% of voters turned in an early ballot.
Confidence in the System
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is now running for governor, has expressed her faith in Arizona’s robust vote-by-mail system.
Adrian Fontes, who is running to be her replacement, has also advocated for the security of mail-in voting. Fontes was in charge of elections in Maricopa County in 2020.
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Fontes’ opponent Mark Finchem, on the other hand, wants to ban mail-in voting for the vast majority of voters. Finchem has spread lies about the 2020 election and denies that Joe Biden won. As a state legislator, he introduced a bill to allow state lawmakers to override the will of the state’s voters.
Hobbs’ Republican opponent, Kari Lake, has similarly come out against mail-in voting and claimed without evidence that the 2020 election results were tampered with. Earlier this year, Lake joined a lawsuit that attempted to abolish early voting in Arizona altogether.
Both Lake and Finchem have stated they will only accept the results of the 2022 election if they win.
According to the US Census Bureau, only about 21% of voters across the US voted by mail in the 2016 general election. In 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number increased to 43%. Rules about deadlines and who is eligible to vote this way differ among the states.
Eight states conduct all-mail elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Two allow counties to choose to conduct elections by mail, while nine—including Arizona—allow certain small elections to be conducted solely by mail.
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Elections officials in 2020 pushed for Arizona to have an all-mail election due to the pandemic, but the idea was met with fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers, and the state Legislature ended its session before the matter could be brought to a vote.
In most states, anyone can vote by mail, but in 15 states, voters have to provide a reason as to why they can’t vote in person.
When it comes to deadlines, some states are more flexible than Arizona. Nineteen states count mailed ballots received past the election as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
In Arizona, 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 for the Nov. 8 election or sign up for the AEVL in Arizona is Oct. 28.
The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office recommends Nov. 1 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.