PHOENIX — It's top of mind for nearly two million voters who all hoped to see their ballots in their mailbox this week.
Thousands did. In fact, the Maricopa County Elections Department says they've already picked up more than 28,000 ballots from the post office, sent in by voters.
Still, there are some who are waiting for theirs to arrive, and others, who've reportedly received someone else's ballot.
“She said, 'I haven’t gotten it, but I got my next door neighbor's ballot in my mailbox,'" said Stick Bogart, a voter in Sun City, who tells ABC15 a family member picked up her mail Saturday only to find a ballot addressed to another voter.
“You know this is very important this time, more than any time of the year," added Bogart. "Each mailbox is a lockable thing where the only person who can put the mail in your box is the postal office.”
Bogart tells ABC15 his relative was later able to track down her ballot, after another neighbor reported finding it in their mailbox.
So, how did this happen? "For the most part we do a pretty good job of using registration verification, the national change of address list to the post office, all of these acronyms," said Rey Valenzuela. "Not every single one of them is one-hundred percent, since the voter registration database is so fluid.”
Valenzuela, Maricopa County's Early Voting Director, says he's seen this happen to voters who recently moved into new homes.
Still, mistakes can happen. “The post office is not just dealing with our two million ballots," added Valenzuela. "They, on average, deal with three million pieces of mail a day. So, we don’t deny the fact that there is the potential."
Maricopa County has what they call a contingency plan in place for voters who either don't get their ballot in the mail, or discover issues like this.
Valenzuela encourages anyone who still can't locate their ballot by October 14 to call or email the elections department, and ask for help tracking it down.
"We will actually be able to track that ballot and say where it is in the status," said Valenzuela. "We may see that it’s in limbo and the post office hasn’t scanned it at your local.... Then, we don’t wait for the post office to resolve that. We will void that as a reprint, and send you a second ballot."
However, election officials say even with two ballots in play, voters won't be able to vote twice.
Maricopa County keeps track of the ballots sent out to voters, each identified by a unique barcode. Only one ballot will be counted for each voter. That also means no one else can submit a second ballot on another voter's behalf. If, for example, someone else gets a hold of your missing ballot.
"What we hang our hat on for the voters to know, is that every single return packet is signature verified one-hundred percent," explained Valenzuela. "So, if we had a bad actor that was like 'well, I’m going to vote this packet', then they would have to know that signature.”
Election officials encourage voters to check if their ballot has been mailed and what address it was sent to online at beballotready.vote. If you live in Maricopa County, or my.arizona.vote for other counties statewide.
Maricopa County touts a tracking system that lets you know when your ballot has been mailed, as well as when it's received and counted by election officials. However, they can't tell you if or when it has been delivered to your home.
"We tracked that we’ve handed it to the post office, but that’s as far as we can go," said Valenzuela.
Voters can still get those alerts though, by signing up for "Informed Delivery" through the U.S. Postal Service.
"You can sign up and actually get pictures and notices from the post office," he added. "When they scan it, it will tell you when it’s going to be in your mailbox and actually show you an image of the packet to see what’s coming that day.”
Voters can also go vote in person if they choose, even if they've requested an early ballot. You can either bring the ballot to a vote center, or go in without it. The county's E-Poll books will allow poll workers to see whether or not you've submitted your early ballot already. If you haven't, they'll issue you a live ballot at the vote center, which will void the early ballot initially sent out.
To contact the Maricopa County Elections Department- you can call 602-506-1511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org