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Receive an early ballot in the mail by mistake? Here's what you should do

Election generic
Posted at 4:54 PM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 21:42:51-04

PHOENIX — About 80% of Arizonans get their ballots through the mail but in rare cases, ballots for people that no longer live an at address may show up in your mailbox.

Early voters in Maricopa County should recognize the yellow envelope that contains their early ballot.

There are rare occasions, documented on social media, of people getting ballots in the mail for former residents that are still registered to vote.

The county continually cleans its voter registration rolls, but this can happen.

The cleaning is evident in the data. Voter registrations in Maricopa County are down almost 200,000 since their peak of over 2.6 million in October 2021. It is the most aggressive cleaning the county has seen since 2016.

The county relies on six methods to clean voter rolls.

  • The national change of address file for those that notify the US Postal Service of a move.
  • A monthly file from the Arizona Department of Health of deceased individuals.
  • Reports from the courts on felonies and incapacitated persons. Those that that report on jury duty forms that they are not a US citizen are sent a letter.
  • The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). A voter registration list exchange program with thirty-three participating states that notify each other of movers and, in rare cases, people that voted in different jurisdictions.
  • Official election mail sent to registered voters. If official mail is returned to the county as undeliverable then that voter is placed on the inactive list.
  • Updates directly from individual voters.

None of these processes are perfect and there is no national database that tracks a person’s whereabouts.

Those that are more prone to moving from place to place such as people in their 20s, might still be on the voter rolls.

The best thing to do when moving, even when inside the same county, is to inform election officials who will update the record.

New this election, the yellow early ballot envelope also has a check box just above the address that reads “If the addressee does not reside at this address, mark the box and return it to the U.S. Postal Service.”

What about the worst-case scenario, someone filling out one of these ballots that do not belong to them and sending it back to be counted?

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, tells ABC15 that unless that bad actor knows the signature of the person’s ballot and is a master forger, the ballot will be stopped. “We capture an image of the signature that comes back on your ballot,” Richer said. “We compare that image with your past signatures and if it doesn’t match, then we are reaching out to you.”

The signature verification process used by the county is done entirely by staff at the Recorder’s office. Everyone receives signature training and Richer said there is an audit process in place.

No artificial intelligence is used.