Election officials say they're offering as many options as possible to make sure Arizonans vote in a year when their state is expected to play a decisive role nationally.
“It’s all on the line here,” said AARP Arizona Advocacy Committee member Alan Stephens, 70, of Phoenix. Not only are national races competitive, with the presidency and control of the U.S. Senate at stake, but several state contests are as well, Stephens noted.
Using $9 million in CARES Act funds, state and local election officials are implementing an AZVoteSafe plan that includes mail-in ballots, vote centers, expanded early voting, drop boxes, mobile units, and social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) at polling sites.
Maricopa County, home to some 63 percent of the state’s registered voters, has done away with assigned polling places, many of which became unavailable during the pandemic.
They’ve been replaced by scores of vote centers, opened in shopping malls and other locations, where people can vote early using a printed ballot, regardless of where they live.
“We’re going to have the most accessible election in the history of Maricopa County, in spite of COVID-19,” said Adrian Fontes, Maricopa county recorder.
Some 80 percent of Arizonans voted by mail in 2018, and officials are encouraging the practice even more this year.
“Voting by mail is the safest way to vote,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said.
Hobbs noted, though, that some residents, such as those in tribal communities, don’t have reliable postal service, so in-person
options are also available to people unable to vote by mail.
Thanks to a public outreach campaign to recruit more poll workers, Hobbs said she doesn’t expect a shortage.
In terms of advocacy issues, AARP Arizona is responding aggressively to the high number of COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities with a plan that includes regular testing and adequate PPE for residents and staff; stricter oversight and reporting requirements; better access to virtual visits; and no legal immunity for nursing homes related to the coronavirus.
“We want nursing homes to be very careful how they treat and protect residents,” said Steve Jennings, AARP Arizona’s Associate State Director. “We urge voters to study the candidates’ positions on these important issues.”
For more details about how to vote safely in Arizona, please click here.
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