Early ballots for the general election began hitting Pima County voters' mailboxes last week — we see you enthusiastic early voters with your ballot selfies and 'I voted' stickers flooding our social media feeds and stories.

If you haven't yet registered to vote, you should do it ASAP. The deadline to register to vote in Arizona is today, Thursday, Oct. 15 before midnight. You can find voter registration requirements and a link to register on the Pima County Recorder's Website, or go straight to the Service Arizona voter registration website to register. Remember, eligible voters who will turn 18 years old by Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020 can vote in this election, so be sure to register. 

If you're feeling ballot envy seeing everyone with their early ballots, you can still request a ballot by mail here. The last day to request your ballot by mail is Friday, Oct. 23 by 5 p.m.

If you did request a ballot by mail or are on the Permanent Early Voter List but haven't yet received yours you can check the status of your ballot on the recorder's office website here. Sometimes members of the same household receive ballots on different days. You can also sign up for the United States Postal Service's Informed Delivery service where you'll receive notifications and scanned images of letter-sized mail coming your way.

If you haven't received your ballot and believe you should have, call the recorder's office at 520-724-4330 to request a new one or you can vote in person at an early voting location

Despite national concerns over voting by mail, local officials are confident that our voting process will be as smooth as possible here in Pima County. That's because in Arizona voting by mail is not a new process, we've been doing it for more than two decades. Since we're still in the midst of a pandemic, voting by mail is likely your easiest option and it's pretty much contactless, no waiting in lines and little-to-no exposure to others.

"In Pima County, the vast majority of voters vote by mail, as the recorder’s office pointed out that more than 220,000 ballots — or about 91 percent — of primary election ballots were either mailed back, or dropped off at early voting sites," according to this Arizona Daily Star story

If you've got your ballot and want to know what's next, read on for some helpful tips and information. 

Filling out your ballot

Maybe you're a first-time voter. Maybe official documents are intimidating. Maybe you just want to make sure you're doing everything correctly when you fill out your ballot. Your ballot comes with a blue instruction sheet. Read it. Read it again just to be sure you are doing everything correctly.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when filling out your early ballot by mail. 

  • Ballots are mailed in a green envelope from the Pima County Recorder's Office, so keep your eyes peeled for the arrival of that envelope.
  • Use only a blue or black ball point pen to fill out your ballot. Do not use a Sharpie or similar pen that could bleed through the paper. Do not use a pencil. 
  • Fill in the ovals completely. 
  • Ballots are two-sided. Candidates for public office are on the front and propositions are on the back. Don't forget to turn your ballot over. 
  • Pay attention to the number of candidates you can vote for in a particular category and make sure you don't overvote. 
  • Your ballot will still be counted even if you don't vote in every race.
  • When you're done filling out your ballot place it inside the white ballot affidavit envelope.
  • Sign and date the white envelope and print your daytime phone number. The recorder's office uses this phone number to call or text you if they need to verify your signature. 
  • Place the white envelope inside the yellow, postage-paid envelope for mailing. 
  • Do not add a stamp to the yellow envelope, this could actually slow down the mail sorting process and delay your ballot from reaching its destination.  

If you're undecided about candidates or propositions, the Arizona Daily Star's Election Guide has links to stories about the different races and you can find candidate endorsements by the Star's editorial board here to help with your research. 

Returning your vote by mail ballot 

Once you've filled out your ballot you have a few different options for returning it. Here's what to know about each option:

Mail it in: This is your most convenient, contactless option for returning your ballot and doesn't require waiting in line, or venturing too far from home. Just drop your ballot in your residential mail box or at your nearest post office. Reminder, you do not have to add a stamp to your ballot. The postage is already paid. 

If you're sending your ballot from within Pima County, the recorder's office recommends that you get your ballot in the mail by Tuesday, Oct. 27 to make sure it arrives for processing on time. But, you should send it in as soon as possible and not wait until the last minute if you can. 

Walk-in early ballot drop off sites: If you prefer to return your early ballot to a physical location instead of through the mail you can drop it off at three Pima County Recorder's Office locations now and at some early voting sites beginning Oct. 19.

The hours vary by location so be sure to check the list before you head out. 

Curbside ballot drop off: Sites offering curbside ballot drop off will open as early as Monday, Oct. 19, with additional sites opening on Oct. 26. Find the list of curbside drop off sites, hours and addresses here

These sites will be staffed with elections workers and you just have to drive up to the outdoor tent and a staffer will collect your ballot while you remain in your vehicle.

Election day ballot drop off: If you are waiting to drop off your ballot on Election Day (Nov. 3), you can drop it off at any polling location. 

If you are dropping off your ballot in person, be sure to bring a mask with you and drop off your ballot in an official ballot box. The Pima County Library is reminding voters that its book drops are not ballot drop-off boxes. 

Tracking your ballot

Whether you mailed it in, or dropped it off you can track the status of your ballot online here to it make sure it was received

The Pima County Recorder's Office said on Friday, Oct. 16, that it's received a record amount of early ballot returns and it is causing a delay in how long it takes to update the tracking system. 

“We want people to know that if they’ve mailed their ballot, dropped it off, or voted early, we’ve got their ballot. They just need to be patient and it will show up on the tracker in two or three days,” Rodriguez said in a news release. 

Rodriguez says employees are working to shifts every day of the week, including weekends to keep up with the volume and prepare ballots for tabulation. 

In-person voting

If you receive your ballot by mail, it's best to vote that ballot and return it using the options listed in the above section.

If you don't get your ballot by mail, here are your options for voting in person. 

Early voting: You can vote in-person now at three Pima County Recorder's Office locations. Additional early voting sites will open on Monday, Oct. 26. Find the full list of early voting locations, and hours here (some even have evening hours). Any registered Pima County voter can vote at any early voting location, with the exception of the site in Ajo which is only for Ajo residents. You will be required to wear a face mask to vote indoors. If you do not want to wear a face mask, there will be options for you to vote outside. 

Voting on Election Day: If you're waiting to vote on Election Day, you can find your polling place here. You must vote at the polling place assigned to your residence address. You will be required to wear a mask to vote indoors. If you choose not to wear a mask, poll workers will assist you with curbside voting from your vehicle.

If you are headed to the polls to vote in person check this list for accepted forms of ID to bring with you

What to do if....?

Your dog ate your ballot. You didn't get your ballot. You messed up your ballot. Or any number of things that come up or questions you have about voting. 

The Pima County Recorder's Office has a list of FAQ's and more information on its website. You can also call the office 520-724-4330 to ask any questions about voting. 

Pima County also has put together a one-stop resource for voting information on the Vote Safe website

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