We often hear that over 90% of Maricopa county voters voted early in 2020. While this is true, it can be misleading – leading individuals to think that 90% voted early by mail. In reality, less than half actually returned their ballot by mail – 993,000 to be exact. The next largest group, 714,000, were early ballot drop offs. Of those, more than 200,000 were dropped off on election day alone.

This means that an individual went to a polling location on election day, but instead of showing ID and signing the poll book, they dropped their ballot into a drop box. These are often referred to as “late earlies” even though they are received by the election day deadline, and they are a major cause for the post-election days long tabulation process in Arizona.

The county begins processing these after the polling locations have closed. They have to be scanned, “signature verified,” cured, removed from the envelope, and finally tabulated with some going on to be adjudicated. This takes time, which reduces confidence. It also increases the likelihood of invalid or fraudulent ballots being counted.

That’s where SB1362 comes in. Sponsored by Senator Mesnard and signed by the Governor on June 6, SB1362 establishes the framework for tabulating these ballots on-site.

Instead of dropping the ballot off, the voter, if they choose, can show their ID, have the poll worker check the envelope to verify it is their ballot, sign the poll book, and then remove the ballot and tabulate it themselves.

This means more voters casting their ballot at a polling location on election day, showing ID, and signing the poll book. It also means that their ballot is immediately tabulated, preventing electronic adjudication – where election officials decide how a voter intended to mark their ballot out of sight and knowledge of the voter.

With on-site tabulation, if there is an issue with their ballot they will know then and there when they tabulate it, just like in-person voters, providing confidence that their votes are being recorded as intended.

SB1362 is the example of making it easy to vote and hard to cheat. It introduces a new option for voters, providing more access, with strong front-end safeguards like requiring ID and back-end auditability by requiring the county to reconcile the number of ballots tabulated with the number of voters who signed the poll book and the number of ballot envelopes deposited.

However, the process setup by SB1362 is optional for the counties as well. They are not mandated to do it, but they should and we strongly encourage them to do so.

Not all counties currently tabulate on-site even for in-person voters, instead transporting them from the polling location to a central count facility. These counties should move to on-site tabulation – for both election day in-person voters and for election day early ballot tabulation established by SB1362.

Other counties, Maricopa being one, do currently tabulate in-person election day ballots on-site. SB1362 provides these counties, who already have the necessary equipment, an opportunity this November to simultaneously increase access to voters and increase confidence, security, and transparency. They should enthusiastically do so.

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