PRESCOTT – For the first time, Prescott voters will not be going to the polls, come primary day on Sept. 11.
Indeed, by that day, most registered voters in Prescott should already have cast their ballots for mayor and the three City Council posts that are up for election this year.
Instead of heading to the polls, though, voters will be able to sit at their kitchen tables or in their easy chairs to fill in their ballots.
This year, the City of Prescott joined several other Yavapai County municipalities in choosing the mail-in option for its election.
That means that more than 18,000 official ballots will be going out in the mail to Prescott voters today.
Those ballots will include a number of decisions for voters: the mayor's race, which includes two candidates, Dick Cooper and Rowle Simmons; three seats on the City Council, for which eight candidates – Bob Bell, Phyllis Boris, Robert Luzius, Bob Roecker, Allisone Scott, John Steward, Robert Widen and Glen Wright – are in the running; and a number of ballot propositions.
Voters should receive their ballots by the end of this week. Those who are expecting a ballot but do not receive one by Monday, Aug. 27, should contact the Yavapai County Voter Registration office at 771-3248.
City Clerk Marie Watson emphasized that the publicity pamphlets that arrived in the mail last week are for information only; they are not the official ballot. The official ballot will include a green affidavit envelope with pre-paid postage.
To conduct the mail-in election, the city has contracted with the Yavapai County Recorder/Voter Registration and Election Department to send out the ballots and count the results.
According to information from the Yavapai County Recorder's office, a 1996 state law allowed the "vote by mail" option in Arizona.
The official process began 60 days before the primary with a notification postcard that went to every registered voter within the city.
Watson pointed out that the postcard served to weed out hundreds of voters who were on the city's records, but apparently are no longer at the addresses they registered for. For that reason, she said, the total registered voter numbers dropped by several thousand in this primary. While Prescott's records previously indicated that the city had more than 22,000 registered voters, the count this year is less than 19,000.
After the Voter Registration Office cleans up the voter rolls, an official ballot goes out to each registered voter 21 days prior to the election. Prescott's primary is set for Sept. 11, so the ballots are going out today.
For those people who are expecting a ballot but don't receive one by Friday, another option exists. The County Recorder's Office points out that those voters may be on an inactive list because Voter Registration could have the wrong mailing address. Election materials cannot be forwarded.
Voters on the inactive list do not receive a ballot. But they may vote on a "ballot to be verified" at either Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St., or at the Voter Registration Office, 1015 Fair St., Room 228.
People who lose or spoil their ballots have the same option. They also may vote by "ballot to be verified" at either Prescott City Hall or the Voter Registration Office. If possible, they should bring in the spoiled ballot when they vote.
The mail-in process allows voters three weeks to complete their ballots and return them by mail. Watson stressed that ballots must be in by the time official polling closes at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11. Officials will not count any ballots that arrive after that time.
Voters may either mail their ballots, or they may drop them off in the white mailbox in the front of the Yavapai County Administration Building, 1015 Fair St., or at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.
The only ballots that officials will not be counting are those that arrive after the 7 p.m. Sept. 11 deadline, or those that do not include a signature on the affidavit envelope, or if that signature is different from the signature in the file at Voter Registration.
Voter Registration officials will be verifying signatures prior to the tabulation of the ballots. Come primary night, Voter Registration will begin counting the votes. The unofficial results should be available by 8 p.m. Sept. 11.
City and county officials say the mail-in election is more convenient for voters, because it does not require a trip to the polls on election day. It also gives voters more time to consider their choices.
Watson says the mail-in election also usually results in higher voter participation. While voter turnout was about 34 percent for the 1999 primary, Watson is predicting participation of at least 55 percent this year.
The city conducts a primary and a general election every two years. Candidates who receive more than 50 percent of the vote on primary night, automatically win election. Others go on to the general election for a runoff.
Watson said it is almost certain that the primary will decide the mayor's race. "It would have to be a total tie" for it to result in a runoff, Watson said.
In the council race, it is less likely that the primary will decide all three seats. In the past three elections, one top vote-getter has won an automatic seat on the council in the primary, while others have gone on to the general election.
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