Vote 2014: Early Voting

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Early voting is already underway, with the primary election set for August 26. Find out all you need to know to cast your ballot properly, whether you vote by mail, vote on Election Day or are registered as an independent. Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell will give us all the details.

Ted Simons: Early voting started last week and although casting a ballot may seem like a simple thing, there are lots of factors that come into play. Joining us now is Maricopa County recorder Helen Purcell. It is that time of year. Good to see you again. Are you busy? You must be just crazy busy.

Helen Purcell: Just a little bit.

Ted Simons: Just a little. Let's get to early ballots. I'm going to ask you a lot of questions here, just basic stuff. How do you request an early ballot?

Helen Purcell: You can do it a couple of ways. First of all, if you were on the permanent early voting list, you do not have to request. We would just automatically send you a ballot. If you happen to be not registered in a major party, then you have to tell us, even though you're on that permanent early voting list, you have to tell us which ballot you want. Do you want Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Americans Elect or maybe you just want to do a city election, you can just ask us for a city ballot.

Ted Simons: Interesting because, again, independents can choose wherever they go, but they've got to choose one place.

Helen Purcell: That's right. But they can vote in the primary and that's the point that we've gotten across this year.

Ted Simons: Yes, yes. We'll see about that. Who, who can request an early ballot?

Helen Purcell: Anyone that's a registered voter can request an early ballot and you can do it if you're not on the early voting list, you can do it on our website, you can call our office at 506-1511 and request it that way. Anyone can request, up until the 15th of this month.

Ted Simons: So that's the deadline, right?

Helen Purcell: The deadline to request.

Ted Simons: What if you miss that deadline?

Helen Purcell: Then you can always go to the polls. You can go to an early voting site and we have a number of those around the country that you can go to one of those until the Friday before the election. So you still have a few days and if you miss all that, you can go to the polls on Election Day.

Ted Simons: I think people forget sometimes. They say, oh I missed the deadline; I can't vote. Of course you can vote, just go to the polls.

Helen Purcell: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Alright so, what if you've just moved here, maybe you've got a forwarding order for your address. How does that come into play?

Helen Purcell: I'm missing what you're saying.

Ted Simons: Well, let's say that you've moved and you've got a forwarding order with the post office. Is that enough to get everything election-related and registration-related sent --

Helen Purcell: Not your ballot. A ballot is not forwarded. It will come back to us. If you're not at that address any longer, it will come back to us. So if you didn't get your ballot, then you need to contact us.

Ted Simons: So if you've moved and you haven't updated your registration?

Helen Purcell: That's right.

Ted Simons: So basically a post office, all that kind of change, not good enough.

Helen Purcell: Not good enough. If you haven't updated that registration, not good enough.

Ted Simons: So let's say you've requested the early ballot, can you learn if you're registered on the website?

Helen Purcell: Absolutely, you can go to our website, you can go to the Secretary of State's website and find out if you're registered.

Ted Simons: Okay. How do you cast an early ballot?

Helen Purcell: Well, we sent them out this year in bright yellow envelopes, so you take that ballot out of the envelope and you vote the ballot, you can look at the sample ballot online if you want to ‘cause there's sample ballots is online, but you take that ballot out, we want you to study it. You've gotten a lot of information in the mail and so forth, vote that ballot, put it back in another yellow envelope and send it back to us. Be sure you sign and date the outside of that envelope.

Ted Simons: Now, am I correct in assuming that you can't just use any old pen? You can't use like a red ink or a permanent ink on these?

Helen Purcell: Red ink will not show up on our computers so you need to use -- we suggest a black pen. It doesn't have to be a felt tip like we use at polling places, but just a regular black pen.

Ted Simons: And the idea is to connect those two sides.

Helen Purcell: Just connect them. You don't have to scrub it or anything like that. Just connect them.

Ted Simons: You don't have to make artwork out of it. Just connect them. What if you make a mistake? You're sitting there at home and oh, my goodness I just voted for the wrong person.

Helen Purcell: You let us know and if you send it back to us and say I need a duplicate ballot or give us a call and we will make sure that that first ballot does not count and we'll reissue you a ballot.

Ted Simons: Okay. That bright yellow envelope, what if the dog eats it or what if you lose it? What happens if you lose the envelope?

Helen Purcell: There again, you have to let us know. Because we have to have an envelope coming back that's got your signature and the date on it. So we can replace that if we need to.

Ted Simons: And as far as, again, early ballots having to be received. That date is?

Helen Purcell: They have to be received by Election Day.

Ted Simons: By Election Day.

Helen Purcell: Seven o'clock on election night. If you have not dropped your early ballot in the mail and I wouldn't put it in the mail after the 20th of August. If you haven't done it by then, you can drop it off at any polling place and that will be received in our office that night.

And you say the 20th. That would be six days before the election. Is that because postmarks don't count?

Helen Purcell: No, postmarks do not count in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Can you check the status of your ballot? If you've gone ahead and mailed it in, could you say did you get it, did you get it?

Helen Purcell: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: You can?

Helen Purcell: You can check online.

Ted Simons: Wow, alright. Casting early ballots on Election Day. How does that work?

Helen Purcell: As I said, you can drop them off at any polling place on Election Day. Those are the first ballots that we take care of, are those early ballots that have been turned in on Election Day either in the mail or at a polling place and those have to be processed. And then we get to the provisional ballots. If for some reason you had to vote a provisional ballot, we want to make sure first that you haven't voted that early ballot if you ordered it. And then we will process your provisional after we process the early ballot.

Ted Simons: And, as you said, signed and sealed in that envelope.

Helen Purcell: That's right.

Ted Simons: Now, if you haven't cast a ballot, you requested the early ballot, you got the early ballot, you haven't cast a ballot, do you still go to the polls. You got to do the provisional thing again, don't you?

Helen Purcell: That's right. If you don't have that ballot with you, you have to vote a provisional ballot.

Ted Simons: What does that entail?

Ted Simons: It's just we have provisional ballots tables that you can go to. And this year there's going to be a change at the polling place because we have electronic poll books. So you'll walk into a polling place with your identification, let's say your driver's license or your voter registration card, you swipe it through the reader and your name will automatically pop up. If you're in the wrong place, as we have had people do before and you want to get to your right voting place, the electronic poll book will print out a receipt for you that will tell you where your polling place is and give you cross streets to get there.

Ted Simons: Oh my goodness, that is quite an improvement, isn't it? It's Brave New World out there at the polling place. As far as this permanent early voting list, how do you get on it again, I need better information on that. That one seems like it's kind of controversial. How do you get on it and is it still okay if you missed a few? Because I thought the law -- they were trying to push that through, but I don't think that made it through, did it?

Ted Simons: It's still okay if you missed a few. We do not change your status for the fact that you haven't participated in an election. We'll change it if you've moved because then we can't deal with you anymore. But anybody can call us, anybody can re-up, go to Service Arizona and say I want an early ballot. Go to our recorder's website and say I want an early ballot. There are any number of ways you can do that.

Ted Simons: The question you get most often regarding early voting, what do you hear most often?

Helen Purcell: I think -- I didn't get my early ballot. We've had already at our call center people, my husband got his and I didn't get mine. Well, you're not on the permanent early voting list and your husband was. So now, you can order it, and we'll send it to you. Why haven't I gotten a ballot? My neighbor got a ballot. Why didn't I get one? You haven't signed up for one. Those are the kinds of questions.

Ted Simons: And as far as -- and as far as again, independent voters because that's such an interesting aspect of the election. What do they need to know?

Helen Purcell: We've concentrated on that this year, let them know that they can vote, let them know that they have to let us know. So we sent them a 90-day notice telling them they need to tell us which ballot they want and then we again send them the 33-day notice, again telling them we haven't heard from you yet, we would like to hear from you. Now, we've had almost 60,000 of those people that have requested a ballot for the particular party they want, which is a lot more than we even had participate in the 2012 election. We only had about 43,000 participate in the whole 2012 election.

Ted Simons: And you, of course, are hoping that they return the envelope in the mail and don't come in there with those provisionals. Because that makes for late counting, doesn't it?

Helen Purcell: That's the one problem that we have and that's what we're trying to alleviate with the work that we've done up to now.

Ted Simons: Well alright, it sounds like all systems are a go as they say. We'll see how far they go. Always a pleasure, good to have you here.

Helen Purcell:Recorder, Maricopa County;

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