Arizona counties plan to send early ballot applications to voters, a move that angered Trump in other states

CLOSE

Election officials in Arizona are planning to send an application for a mail ballot to every voter who has not signed up to receive one, which proponents argue is one way of ensuring fears of the new coronavirus do not dampen participation in the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump has assailed similar plans in other states, but he hasn’t spoken out about the plans in Arizona.

A growing number of Arizonans have embraced voting by mail over the past several years, but promoting the option has gained new urgency in recent months as the new coronavirus pandemic has prompted election officials to rethink polling places with social distancing and sanitation in mind.

Trump, however, blasted election officials in Michigan and Nevada this week, arguing that such steps are unnecessary and making the unfounded claim that voting by mail is rife with fraud.

“Mail-in ballots are very dangerous. There’s tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality,” the president told reporters at the White House on Wednesday, threatening to cut certain funding for Michigan if it proceeded.

Trump’s own campaign has encouraged voters to cast ballots by mail, however, and Republican voters in Arizona have embraced the practice. 

CLOSE

President Donald Trump follows up on tweets threatening to hold up federal funds for two election battleground states that are trying to make it safer to vote during the pandemic by insisting that “mail-in ballots are very dangerous.” (May 20) AP Domestic

Eighty-one percent of ballots cast in Maricopa County during the 2018 election were cast by mail, said Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat.

“Four out of five Maricopa County voters agree mail ballots are the way to go, and I think that number will continue to increase,” he said.

As the number of known coronavirus cases in Arizona increased and the county closed polling places, Fontes made a last-minute push to run the county’s June presidential preference election by mail and send out ballots to voters who had not voted early.

But state Attorney General Mark Brnovich successfully asked a judge to stop that plan, arguing that state law requires that voters request a mail ballot and that the county cannot send out those ballots unsolicited.

Follow Arizona politics? Our reporters stay on top of it all. Subscribe now to azcentral.com. Memorial Day sale: Subscriptions start as low as $1 for the first 3 months.

In the meantime, the Arizona Association of Counties has pushed legislators, without success, to let counties choose whether to run elections by mail.

Not allowed to mail ballots themselves, election officials instead will mail applications for those ballots.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said counties are planning to send applications for the permanent early voting list to voters who have not signed up for it already and have not requested a ballot by mail. Hobbs said her office would mail applications to voters in counties that don’t do so. Voters who sign up for the list will receive their ballots in the mail for all elections in which they are eligible to participate. 

The exact date of mailings is yet to be determined but would come in time for the primary election in August.

Hobbs: ‘COVID-19 has changed the rules’

Hobbs, a Democrat, dismissed the president’s criticisms of similar steps in other states.

“COVID-19 has changed the rules on everything. Government leaders are responding to this crisis in ways that make sure we are fulfilling our statutory obligations,” she said.

While voters from both major parties may have embraced voting by mail, Democrats in particular see increased turnout through mail voting as a key to their victory in Arizona in November.

Politics Podcast: The Gaggle

A new group, Arizona Ready, is launching a campaign to promote the permanent early voting list as part of its efforts to defeat Trump in November.

And mail ballots proved key to U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s victory in 2018, when the protracted process of verifying voters’ signatures on envelopes ended with the election slowly tilting in the Democrat’s favor.

Contact Andrew Oxford at andrew.oxford@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter at @andrewboxford.

Read or Share this story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/05/22/arizona-counties-plan-send-vote-mail-applications-move-has-angered-trump/5237524002/