The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
This nation is facing a health crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 1,400,000 cases and more than 85,000 dead nationally. Arizona has more than 13,000 cases and nearly 700 who have passed away from COVID-19.
Throughout our nation, many primary elections have either been postponed or canceled outright. One state, Wisconsin, still held their primary election, in which 52 citizens of Wisconsin tested positive for COVID-19 after trying to exercise their right to vote.
We know that this election year will be different and changes are needed for the voting process. We cannot risk our citizens to the old practice of going to the polling places.
Arizona offers voters the option of signing up to receive their ballot in the mail, using the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). Voters must fill out the form and send it in.
With this COVID-19 health crisis and pandemic, people have raised questions and concerns about voting at polling locations, social distancing, the occupancy at polling places and whether the voting equipment and ballots have been sanitized.
The vote-by-mail process, which Tucson has, answers these questions and addresses these concerns and is safe.
In 2009, a consolidated election was held with several governmental entities and measures on ballots for voters’ consideration.
Polling places were changed, causing voter confusion, which drove down turnout for that election.
In 2011, while we were still in the Great Recession, I brought forward a proposal to have the city conduct its primary and general elections using an all vote-by-mail system, for which my colleagues on the council approved.
The city’s vote-by-mail election process has seen increased turnout across the city in each of the wards. People can vote without fear and in the comfort of their own homes.
This election system saves taxpayer money to the tune of $600,000 each election that Wards 3, 5 and 6 are in an election cycle and $1 million each election cycle for the mayor’s election and Wards 1, 2 and 4.
With the city of Tucson election process, the results are counted and tabulated that night, so we are not waiting an additional period of time for the final results.
The city of Tucson offers a polling place for each ward, as well as the Tucson City Clerk’s 12th Street Election Office for people to cast their ballots if they so choose.
In the last three elections in Tucson, using the vote-by-mail process, there were 29 provisional ballots with 102,454 votes cast in 2019. In 2015 and 2013, there were 37 provisional ballots and three provisional ballots, respectively, for those elections.
The towns of Sahuarita and Oro Valley conduct their elections using vote by mail, as do Prescott Valley, Surprise, Pinetop-Lakeside, Clarkdale, Peoria, Payson, Paradise Valley, Litchfield Park and Globe. This is not something new and untried.
This is a good, tested process that I hope the Arizona Legislature and our national leaders will act on, since there is a health crisis, and let the county recorders run the upcoming elections as vote by mail, even if only for this election.
If they don’t, they may endanger our citizens. You can still get a ballot mailed by signing up for the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). For more information, please call the Pima County Recorder’s Office, 724-4330, or go online to https://recorder.pima.gov/ballotbymail.
We need to be safe and healthy!
Councilman Richard Fimbres represents Tucson’s Ward 5.
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