Originally Published: October 27, 2016 6:01 a.m.
Procrastinators take note – the last day to request an early ballot by mail for the Nov. 8 General Election is Friday, Oct. 28. The Yavapai Recorder’s Office is located at 1015 Fair St. in Prescott, or 10 S. 6th St. in Cottonwood. Hours are Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Cottonwood office is closed from 1 to 2 p.m.
County Recorder Leslie Hoffman advises voters NOT to mail their ballots after Nov. 1. Postmarks are not accepted and late ballots will not be tabulated. The deadline to drop off ballots at the Recorder’s Office, vote centers or a ballot drop box is 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
As of Oct. 24, the county lists 137,390 registered voters, 100,979 early ballots have been mailed, and 572 registrants have voted early in person. Of those early ballots, 20,196 have been received and processed, Hoffman said.
“This is the largest number of registered voters ever in Yavapai County,” she said. The last General Election in 2012 prompted 125,000 voters to register.
Hoffman provided some additional information about the election process for voters.
The different parties have assigned poll workers that are present at the voting centers. Not to be confused with paid poll workers, the poll watchers observe the voting process to make sure policies and procedures are followed. They must present their official paperwork to the vote centers, and they are not allowed to communicate with voters or poll workers.
“If they notice something unusual, they contact the Elections Department and we go out and address it,” Hoffman said.
Verification of ballots
As ballots come in, elections workers check for valid signatures on the affidavit envelope. Envelopes without signatures result in workers’ efforts to contact those voters beginning immediately and up until 7 p.m. on Election Day, Hoffman said.
When affidavit signatures are matched to voters’ signatures on file, the Recorder’s Office verifies that the person has voted in this election, and the envelopes are transferred via a locked box to the Elections Office. Workers attempt to contact by phone, email and U.S. mail those voters whose signature does not match. Voters must appear in person to the Elections Office to update their signature. If the signature cannot be verified by 7 p.m. Election Day, the ballot is rejected.
Other reasons for rejection include no affidavit envelope, missing ballot, or insertion of a ballot from a previous election.
On Election Day, a voter will be issued a provisional ballot if the voter’s name is not found on the roster, the voter does not present any form of identification, the identification does not match the voter registration records, the voter has cast an early ballot.
All provisional ballots cast at the vote centers are reviewed at the Recorder’s Office and verified, then sent to the Elections Office for tabulation, Hoffman said. Voters without identification have five business days after Election Day in General Elections (three for Primaries) to present proper identification. Once verified, the provisional ballot is tabulated.
“We are very proud to report that in Yavapai County provisional ballots will not be rejected for voting in the wrong polling place as we use vote centers,” she said. “Early voters who received a ballot in the mail and did not vote it, may cast a regular ballot on Election Day.”
Tabulation of early ballots begins seven days prior to Election Day; however, results are not reported until one hour after the polls have closed. While all vote center ballots are counted election night, the early ballots dropped off at voting centers and drop boxes on Election Day are not processed until the roster data from the vote centers is uploaded to the voter registration database.
“The reason for this delay is to ensure we do not have voters voting twice,” Hoffman said.
Also, state statute requires the political parties to conduct a hand count audit beginning 24 hours after the polls close.
Another delay is caused by write-in candidates. Every ballot that contains a write-in must be manually reviewed by a three-person board to determine if the write-in is an official candidate. Unofficial names are disqualified. About 10 percent of write-in names are official and tabulated, Hoffman said.
“The last election alone we spent 120 man hours looking through 3,500 ballots for only 450 valid votes. This is huge cost to taxpayers,” she said.