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Pima County mailing record number of early ballots

A record 353,000 Pima County voters have already asked for early ballots for the Nov. 8 election, and the deadline for requesting them is still two and a half weeks away.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez reported Tuesday that the first wave of ballots being mailed Wednesday already exceeds the total 314,258 ballots that were mailed in the 2012 presidential election. In that election, 295,000 were mailed in the first wave.

Statewide, about 119,000 more voters joined the rolls before Monday night's registration deadline, officials said. Non-party and Democratic voters led the way, with Republicans just slightly behind.

A record 45,000 of them registered online on Monday, with another 18,500 registering online on Sunday at ServiceArizona.com, official said.

The record number of requests in Pima County is not surprising since voters are being asked not only to decide between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for president but whether Arizona should allow recreational marijuana and raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020. They are also being asked to decide on a number of state and local races.

So many ballots are being mailed statewide — more than 1.5 million — that Rodriguez cautioned voters to be patient. The ballots may take days to arrive.

The requests indicate while the largest single number comes from Democrats — 41 percent —  there are a sizeable number of Independents. The party breakdown was Democratic: 144,835; Republican, 109,911; Libertarian, 2,445; Green Party, 1,028; and party not designated, 95,462.

The last day voters can still ask for a ballot is Friday, Oct. 28. After voters have mailed their ballots back to the Recorder's Office, they can track the status of their ballot online.

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While early voting helps people take their time deciding and avoid possible long lines on election day, it also has contributed to late election results. To forestall allowing voters to cast multiple ballots, those who ask for early ballots and then go to polls instead are issued provisional ballots, which take longer to process. Of the 27,646 provisional ballots issued in 2012 in Pima County, 15,464 were issued to voters who had been sent early ballots.

Across Arizona, voter registration increased by 119,270, officials with the Secretary of State's Office said.

The Democratic Party's ranks increased by 35,564, Republicans rose 30,671, Libertarians 1,744 and the Green Party added 431 voters. The state's so-called "independents" — those who have not designated a recognized party — grew by 50,860 voters.

Monday, 45,294 registered to vote online at the Arizona Department of Transportation's ServiceArizona.com. Another 18,576 signed up Sunday, with use spiking during that night's presidential debate. ADOT worked with IBM, the contractor for the website, to increase capacity to keep up with the number of users on Monday, officials said.

And by the way, keep those early ballots away from your pets.

After the 2012 election, Rodriguez said that among the reasons people asked for 5,383 replacement ballots were:

  • Cat vomited on my first ballot
  • Parrot ate the ballot
  • Cannot find my ballot on my desk
  • Dropped cigarette on ballot and burned it
  • Changed my mind for president after the last debate
  • Voted for the wrong candidate
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Kim Challender/Pima County Recorder's Office