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Deadline to request early ballot Friday, as primary numbers outpace 2018 figures

Nearly 357,000 early ballots for the primary election have been sent out in Pima County, surpassing the number of 2018 requests by 60,000. Voters have until Friday to request an early ballot be mailed to them for the August 2 election.

The latest figures follow a trend of increased early voting requests for midterm primary elections in Arizona’s second most-populous county. Democrats are cautiously optimistic about the figures, while Republicans said they are confident in a strong showing on Election Day.

Most voters in Pima County have become accustomed to casting ballots by mail, with about 90 percent of those voting in 2020 choosing to vote early, data from the Pima County Recorder's Office showed. While many are already on the early voting list and are sent a mail-in ballot each election, about 5,000 of the ballots sent out for the primary have been individually requested, officials said.

Friday at 5 p.m. is the deadline to request early ballots be mailed out. The Recorder’s Office advises people to return their early ballots by Tuesday, July 26, so they arrive on time to be counted. Voters who miss the mailing deadline can return their ballots in person, either on Election Day or at a drop-off site.

Early in-person voting and ballot drop-offs are available at select locations until July 29. A limited number of sites will be open July 30 and August 1 for emergency voting. Ballots can also be dropped off on August 2 at any of the county’s 129 voting centers.

The increase in early ballots could be caused by new residents moving to the state and voters not wanting to allow extremists to get elected, said Bonnie Heidler, chair of the Pima County Democratic Party.

“But what's more important is the return. How many get returned, turned in? How many vote? That's the number I'm interested in of that 357,000,” she said. If all the early ballots were returned it would be “absolutely terrific,” Heidler said.

The percentage of ballots returned tends to be higher in general elections, according to data from the Recorder’s Office. The percentage returned in the 2018 primary was only 59 percent.

Just more than 11 percent of voters have already returned an early ballot in the primary, favoring Democratic ballots nearly 2-to-1 in Pima County, according to data tallied by Democratic political consultants UpLift Campaigns. Across the state, the margins are tighter, with 230,000 Democratic ballots having already been voted, and 202,000 on the Republican side.

More than 210,000 ballots have been sent out to registered Democrats in the county this year, while Republicans have only requested around 125,000, according to data provided by Michael Truelsen, a spokesman for the Recorder’s Office.

Only about 5,000 of the ballots mailed out were requested by people not already on the county’s active early voting list.

The early ballot numbers don't concern Shelley Kais, chair of the Pima County Republican Party, who cited the tendency of GOP voters to cast ballots on Election Day. The nearly 357,000 early ballot totals are fine with her as long as the correct voters are receiving them.

“Well, if they are going out to legally registered voters then I don’t have any problem with that,” Kais said.

An important voting bloc in the state are non-party voters — the so-called "independents." There are more than 197,000 active voters not registered to the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian parties in Pima County. There are more of these voters than active Republicans, who number 175,000 in the county. There are 245,000 registered Democrats in the county, and 4,600 Libertarians.

Arizona’s primary, which allows independents to select which party’s primary they vote in, “encourages many voters to register as independents,” Prof. Barbara Norrander, a University of Arizona political scientist, told the Sentinel via email.

Both party leaders stressed the importance of those non-party voters.

“The path forward for Democrats is through independents,” Heidler said, who cited legislative districts that favor the GOP, where independent support is needed for Democrats to win. Data from outreach to independent voters has been positive, she said. Some she’s talked with have said they will no longer vote for Republicans.

Kais said many independents and people without a party designation are pulling Republican ballots.

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“And it doesn't matter what your party affiliation is, if you can't put food on the table, and you have to make a decision between gassing up your car or meeting your pharmaceutical needs,” she said. “You're not happy with the way things are going.”

In Pima County, voters without a party designation have signed up to get Republican ballots at a slightly higher rate than Democratic ballots — about 9,000 for the GOP compared with 8,600 for the Democrats, according to numbers provided by Truelsen.

There are different reasons independent voters may request a certain party’s primary ballot, said Norrander, who teaches in the university’s School of Government and Public Policy.

While many independents consistently prefer one party, others select the primary ballot for the party with the more intriguing races, she said. 

“This year there tends to be more advertisements by the Republican candidates for statewide office such as governor and U.S. Senate,” Norrander said. “This may lead more independents to select the Republican ballot this year.”

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Pima County Recorder's Office

Pima County has sent out more than 356,000 early ballots for August's primary election. There's only a day left to request them.

How to request an early ballot or vote before Election Day

To have an early ballot for the August 2 primary mailed to you, call 520-724-4330 or use the online form to request one from the Pima County Recorder's Office.

15 early voting sites are open around Pima County, where ballots can be cast in person before Election Day. A limited number of sites will be open July 30 and August 1 for emergency voting.

Early ballots should be mailed by Tuesday, July 26, in order to be received and counted. Early ballots can also be dropped off at any early voting site, or one of the 129 voting centers that will be open on Election Day.

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