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Early ballot envelopes look a little different for current Arizona elections

When voters receive mailed ballots for people who don’t live at their address, they can now check a box on the envelope to inform election officials. 

The current bond and override elections in school districts across the state are the first in which counties are required to include the box on ballot envelopes. The legislature approved a law earlier this year requiring county election departments to include a box on early ballot envelopes stating, “If the addressee does not reside at this address, mark the box and return it to the U.S. Postal Service.”

If someone checks the box, the voter whom the ballot was intended for gets another opportunity to confirm that they live at the address. Megan Gilbertson, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Elections Department, said the voter will receive a follow-up notification asking them to confirm that they live at the address. If they don’t do so within 35 days, that voter is placed on “inactive” status. 

When voters are placed on inactive status, they are still eligible to vote in-person, either on election day or at an early voting center. But they will no longer receive ballots in the mail until their addresses are confirmed. If inactive voters cast ballots in person, which requires them to show identification with proof of address, they are removed from inactive status.

Voters who don’t respond to the notification letter, don’t change the addresses on their voter registration or don’t vote in person to confirm their addresses are removed from the voting rolls after four years or after the second general election following the notification. 

Off-year elections for special taxing districts are conducted exclusively by mail in most counties in Arizona. Because ballots are mailed to every registered voter, Gilbertson said they’re a great way to check current voter registrations. And for those who don’t receive ballots in the mail because they’re listed as inactive, counties are still required to open at least one in-person voting location in each jurisdiction that’s holding an election. 

Several Arizona politicians in recent days have posted photos on social media of ballots they received in the mail for people who don’t live at their homes, often with questions about how secure voting by mail really is. However, it is extremely difficult for others to fraudulently cast those ballots because election officials don’t count them until they’re able to verify the signatures that voters affix to the return envelopes.  Concerns over the security of voting by mail have risen over the past two years, largely due to former President Donald Trump’s false claims that such systems are susceptible to fraud

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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Jeremy Duda/Arizona Mirror

An envelope for a Maricopa County ballot mailed in October 2021, the first time state law required envelopes to have a box that voters can check if the recipient no longer lives at the address.