Voter FAQs - Early Voting
What is Early Voting?
Early voting is just as the name implies, voting prior to Election Day. In Arizona, a voter may cast their ballot as early as 26 days prior to Election Day in any election. Early ballots may be sent to the voter by mail, or a voter may walk in to an early voting site and vote early in person.
Is early voting the same thing as Absentee Voting?
Basically yes. Before early voting was permitted, Arizona only allowed Absentee Voting. Under absentee voting, a voter could only cast their ballot prior to Election Day if they were going to be gone or absent from their home on Election Day and the voter was required to sign an affidavit to that effect. When the Arizona Legislature adopted early voting, the requirement that a person be absent from their home county before they could vote prior to Election Day was eliminated. So any registered voter may now vote prior to Election Day without specifying any reason for doing so.
Is there a difference between an early ballot and a regular polling place ballot?
All candidates and ballot issues are listed in the same order and in the same manner on both the early ballot and the polling place ballot. The only difference between the two ballots is that an early ballot will be marked “EARLY” at the top of the ballot. There are no other differences between the ballots.
Who may vote early?
Any voter who is validly registered to vote on or before the registration cutoff date that is 29 days prior to the election may vote early in any election involving their residence address. The registration cutoff date for an election always falls on a Monday.
Are Early Ballots really counted or are they only counted in close elections?
All valid early ballots that are returned prior to the deadline are processed and counted. In fact, in Pima County and many other counties in Arizona, the majority of votes cast in all elections are by early voters. Early ballots that are returned in advance of Election Day are processed and counted prior to Election Day. By law the results may not be released prior to 8:00 p.m. on election night. The results from those early ballots are released with the first election results just after 8:00 p.m. on election night. Those ballots that are returned on election day or just prior to it, will be processed and counted as soon as possible after Election Day. In many elections, the political parties have observers present whenever ballots are being processed to ensure that the legal requirements are met.
The closeness of the race does not determine whether or not an early ballot is processed. By law, all valid early ballots are tabulated even when the results of the election are a landslide victory.
Please note that election results released on election night are “unofficial” results. The results do not become official until all early ballots and provisional ballots have been processed and tabulated. For small jurisdiction elections, that may occur within a few days after Election Day. For major elections, that may not occur for up to two weeks after Election Day.
How do I get an early ballot mailed to me?
There are several ways to request an early ballot by mail. You can call the Recorder’s Office at 724-4330 and request a ballot. You can go to the Recorder’s Office website, www.recorder.pima.gov and click on the link for Requesting an Early Ballot and complete the online request form. You can also send a written request to the Recorder’s Office by mail. Finally, if you wish to vote early for every election, you can complete the form to be included on the Permanent Early Voting List. Just click on one of these links to request an early ballot or sign up for the Permanent Early Voting list.
For more information about PEVL read the PEVL FAQ
How early can I request an early ballot?
By state law, a ballot may be requested beginning 90 days prior to an election. If the election cycle includes both a Primary and a General Election, you may request both ballots at the same time beginning 90 days prior to the Primary Election.
Can I request an early ballot for someone else?
It depends. It is the policy of the Pima County Recorder's Office to allow a person to request a ballot for their spouse, parents may request a ballot for their child and children may request a ballot for an elderly parent. No one else may request a ballot on behalf of anyone else.
What is the last date that I can request an early ballot?
By state law, all requests for a ballot by mail must be received by the Recorder’s Office no later than 5:00 p.m. on the 10th day prior to the election. This date always falls on a Friday.
Why is there a deadline for requesting an early ballot by mail?
The deadline is designed to make certain that you receive your ballot in time to mark the ballot and mail it back to the Recorder’s Office prior to Election Day. The number of early ballot requests that are received on the last day determines how quickly they are mailed out. For city and town elections when the volume is low, the requests received on Friday afternoon are generally mailed on that same day. In large elections such as Presidential Elections, it is common to receive several thousand requests on the last day. These large volumes will then be mailed the following Monday. Depending on the mailing address, it can take anywhere from one to three business days for delivery in Pima County and up to five business days outside of Pima County. If the voter wishes to return the ballot by mail, the voter will have only a couple of days at most to mark the ballot and get it mailed back to the Recorder’s Office. Out of state voters always have the option of using Express Mail or another overnight delivery service to make certain that the ballot is received on time. All ballots received by the Recorder’s Office after 7:00 p.m. on Election Day must be rejected.
If I want to return my ballot by mail, how long can I wait to mail the ballot?
If you are mailing the ballot within Pima County by regular mail, we recommend that you mail the ballot no later than the Friday prior to the election. If you are returning the ballot from outside Pima County but within the United States, we recommend that you mail it no later than ten days prior to Election Day. If you are mailing the ballot from outside the United States, we recommend that you mail the ballot back no later than two weeks prior to Election Day. Voters who are sending their ballot from anywhere outside Arizona may also return their ballot by Express Mail or using another overnight delivery service at their expense.
What happens if I mail the ballot after your recommended deadline?
By state law, the ballot must be received in the Recorder’s Office by closing of polls (7:00 p.m.) on Election Day. Our recommended time frames are designed to allow the normal postal processing time for your ballot so that we receive it on time. If you are out of state, you can always send the ballot by express mail or other overnight services at your expense. If you are in Pima County, you can either drop off your ballot at any polling place in Pima County on Election Day or bring your ballot to the Recorder’s Office. Although we send staff to the main Pima County post office location just prior to 7:00 p.m. on election night, if the Post Office has not been able to process your ballot by that deadline, it will not count. It is therefore better to be safe than sorry and choose an alternative method to return your early ballot in the last few days before the election.
If I missed the deadline for requesting an early ballot by mail, can I still vote early?
Yes. You may still vote early, but you must do so in person at an early voting site. For every election in Pima County, the Recorder’s main office location at 115 N. Church Avenue in downtown Tucson will always be used as a walk-in early voting site during normal working hours. During larger elections, the Recorder’s Eastside office located at 6920 E. Broadway, Suite D, and the Ballot Processing Center at 6550 S. Country Club Road, will also be available as walk-in early voting sites. For major election cycles occurring in the fall of even numbered years, the Recorder’s Office also has several other early voting sites open in regional locations throughout Pima County. You should check the Recorder’s website, www.recorder.pima.gov and click on the link for Early Voting Sites to find the location nearest you and the hours of operation. The deadline for walk-in early voting is 5:00 p.m. on the Friday prior to Election Day.
It’s the Saturday prior to Election Day and I had planned to vote at my polling place. However, I just found out today that my boss is sending me out of state on Monday afternoon and I will not be able to return until Thursday. Am I disqualified from voting?
No. Although early voting has ended, state law allows “emergency voting.” An emergency voter is a person who discovered after the close of early voting that they will not be able to vote at their polling place for some reason. This applies to persons who are required to leave town or discover that they must be hospitalized on Election Day or any other reason that will prevent them from being able to vote on Election Day. Emergency voting is always available on the Monday prior to Election Day at the Recorder’s main office location at 115 N. Church Avenue and depending on the size of the election, may also be available during the weekend prior to Election Day. Check the Recorder’s Office website Early Voting Site link for the locations and hours of emergency voting. By law, emergency voting ends at 5:00 p.m. on the Monday prior to Election Day.
How much does it cost to mail back my ballot?
If you mail the ballot within the United States by regular mail, early voting costs you nothing. The Recorder’s Office pays the postage both ways. If you mail the ballot from outside the United States or choose to use express mail, overnight delivery or certified mail to return the ballot, you will have to pay the cost of the additional services. You should check with the postal service to determine the costs of these additional services.
I received an early ballot package in the mail and there are several items in the package. What are all these papers?
The early ballot package contains several different items. There are sheets containing instructions, two envelopes, the ballot and an “I Voted Early” sticker. You should refer to the instructions to make certain that you mark the ballot correctly (completely fill in the oval) using the proper type of ink pen and that you follow the correct procedures for returning your voted ballot.
Your ballot will arrive folded. After you have marked the ballot with your choices, fold it back the same way it was folded when you received it. Mark the ballot using blue or black ink (do not use red ink) and do not use a marker that “bleeds” through paper. Ball point pens work best. You should always look at both sides of the ballot to make certain you have made the choices that you want for all races that you wish to vote.
Once you have marked your choices on the ballot, fold it back up and place the ballot in the white affidavit envelope (the one containing your name and address). Seal the white affidavit envelope containing your ballot and sign your name where indicated by the large “X.” Then place the signed white affidavit envelope containing your ballot inside the larger yellow envelope. Seal the yellow envelope, write your name and return address on the yellow envelope and deposit the yellow envelope in the United States mail. Do not return the instruction sheets. Be certain to wear the “I Voted Early” sticker.
Since the white affidavit envelope contains my name and address and I wish to vote anonymously I will just mail my marked ballot in the yellow envelope and discard the white envelope. Will my ballot count?
No. Under Arizona law, before an early ballot may be accepted for tabulation, the Recorder’s Office is required to compare the signature on the early ballot affidavit with the signature on the voter’s registration form. This comparison confirms that the voter is the person who actually voted the ballot. If the white affidavit envelope is not signed and returned with the ballot, the ballot must be rejected and will not be counted.
Anonymity of the ballot is protected in the manner that the early ballots are processed after the signature is verified. The processing is conducted by the Pima County Elections Department which is a separate department from the Recorder’s Office. Further details on how they protect anonymity of the ballot should be obtained from that department by calling 724-6830.
Why do you recommend that I use blue or black ink to mark my ballot?
The ballot system used in Arizona is an optical scan system. The ballots are tabulated by optical scan readers. The readers are machines that have been calibrated to read the markings on the ballots. The type of ink that is most likely to be recognized by the reader is blue or black ball point ink. Other colors of ink may or may not be read by the tabulator depending on the ink formula mixture used by the ink manufacturer. The safest choice is a simple blue or black ink ball point pen.
Since ballots frequently have issues or candidates printed on both sides of the ballot, you want to be certain to use a marking device that does not “bleed through” to the other side since this could cause the bleed through marking to be interpreted as a vote. We therefore strongly suggest that you do not use felt tip markers such as magic markers or Sharpies. Stray marks of any kind should be kept to a minimum. Once again, the safest choice is a standard blue or black ink ball point pen.
I made a mistake on my ballot. What do I do now?
The easiest way to correct the mistake is to request another ballot. Call the Recorder’s Office at 724-4330 to request a replacement ballot to be sent to you. You can also bring your spoiled ballot to a walk-in early voting site location to obtain a replacement ballot in person. If you obtain a replacement ballot at the walk-in location, you will be required to vote that ballot at the walk-in voting site.
I received my early ballot by mail, but I have decided that I would rather vote at my polling place on Election Day. Will I be able to vote there?
Yes. However, you will be required to vote by provisional ballot. A provisional ballot is a regular ballot that is sealed in a special envelope rather than tabulated in the polling place. Since voters have until 7:00 p.m. on Election Day to return an early ballot, we have to verify that you did not return your early ballot before the polling place ballot can be counted. Once we make that verification, your provisional ballot is then verified and tabulated.
I mailed in my early ballot but I have changed my mind. Can I receive another ballot or go to the polling place to vote on Election Day?
No. An early ballot is an official ballot. Under Arizona law, once you have voted, you may not vote a second time in the same election. So if your ballot has been returned and processed, you have already voted in the election and you cannot vote again.
How can I find out if there were any problems with my early ballot?
You can track the status of your early ballot online on our website, www.recorder.pima.gov by clicking on the Early Ballot Status choice. We update the status at several different stages: when your ballot has been requested; when the ballot was mailed; when the ballot has been received back in our office; when the signature has been verified and when it has been turned over for tabulation. If there is any issue during the signature verification stage, we will post a notice in your early ballot status link for you to call our office. The website updates occur in real time. If we receive your ballot from the post office, we typically have available the return date information on our website the same day.
In addition to tracking your ballot online, it is the policy of the Pima County Recorder’s office to notify a voter if there are issues with their ballot. If we have a phone number on file for you, we will call. If we do not have a number on file or we cannot reach you by phone, we will send a letter to you notifying you of the problem. For some problems with an early ballot the only way to resolve the situation is by sending you a new ballot. We will include a letter explaining the reason we are sending you another ballot.
If you have already returned your early ballot and you are contacted by the Recorder’s Office, you should contact our office as soon as possible in order to resolve the issue since your ballot will not count until the problem has been resolved. Recorder’s Office staff will always identify themselves and leave a call back number.
If you do not have access to the Recorder’s Office website to track your ballot status, you can call our office at (520) 724-4330. Please wait 7 days after mailing your ballot to phone.
If I mail my ballot back on Election Day so that it is postmarked on Election Day, will my early ballot count?
No. State law requires that the early ballot be RECEIVED by the Recorder’s Office prior to the closing of the polls (7:00 p.m. on Election Day). If you mail the ballot on Election Day, there is a significant chance that it will not be received by the Recorder’s Office by 7:00 p.m. and therefore must be rejected. The post mark date on the ballot envelope is not relevant in the timeliness of the ballot receipt. If you still have your early ballot on Election Day, the best way to ensure it is received by the closing of the polls is to take it to any Pima County polling place or bring it directly to the Recorder’s Office.
Can someone else mark my ballot and sign the affidavit on my behalf?
Generally, no. You must vote your own early ballot and sign the affidavit yourself.
The only exception to this rule is for a person who is unable to mark their ballot or sign the affidavit due to a disability or illness. If you are disabled or suffering from a significant illness, you may ask someone to assist you in marking your ballot. That person should mark the ballot in the voter’s presence in accordance with the wishes and instructions from the voter. The affidavit must also be completed properly. The person assisting must print and sign their own name on the white affidavit envelope where indicated for “voter assistant.” The voter’s assistant may not sign the voter’s name.
It is the policy of the Pima County Recorder's Office to contact the voter directly if someone else signed on their behalf. We want to make certain that the ballot was marked with the voter’s choices and in the voter’s presence before the ballot will be validated. So if you have someone else mark your ballot for you, do not be surprised when you are contacted by the Recorder’s Office.
Please note that the only time a person other than a voter may mark someone else’s ballot is when the voter cannot mark it themselves due to illness or disability. If a voter is out of town when their ballot arrives, no one else may mark the ballot for the voter. The voter merely being absent is not a valid reason for someone else to mark that voter’s ballot. The Recorder’s Office will mail the ballot directly to the voter at a temporary address upon request.
I have power of attorney for someone. May I mark their ballot for them?
No. Under Arizona law, a person holding a power of attorney has no authority to act on behalf of their ward in any election matter, including registering to vote or voting. You may think that this rule conflicts with the rule stated directly above that allows a person with an illness or disability to be assisted when voting, but it does not. A person with a power of attorney has the legal authority to act on behalf of their ward even if the ward objects. In voting matters, the person assisting may only mark the ballot in compliance with the direction of the voter. If you hold a power of attorney and assist the voter in marking their ballot but sign using either “POA” “Power of Attorney” or “Attorney in Fact” by your signature, that implies that you did not follow the voter’s direction and therefore the ballot will be rejected. If you assist the voter and sign the affidavit using only your own name without reference to the Power of Attorney, once we confirm with the voter that you followed their direction, the ballot will be processed.
How secure is early voting?
Early voting is one of the more secure methods of voting. While in the comfort of your own home, mark your ballot with your choices, place the marked ballot in the white early ballot affidavit envelope and then seal the white early ballot affidavit envelope with the ballot inside. You then write your signature on the white early ballot affidavit envelope. You then place the white early ballot affidavit envelope in the yellow mailing envelope, seal it inside and mail it. The Recorder’s Office will remove the yellow envelope but will not open the white affidavit envelope containing your marked ballot.
When the Recorder’s Office receives the mail and at all times thereafter, the ballots are only processed when at least two people with different political party affiliations are present to observe the process. When ballots are not being processed, they are kept in a restricted access location with multiple locking devices to secure that location. The locking devices include a computer tracked electronic locking mechanism as well as mechanical locking devices.
The Recorder’s Office staff will remove the yellow envelope and examine the sealed white early ballot affidavit for signs of tampering. If there is no indication of a problem, the signature on the affidavit will be compared with the signature on their voter registration form. A computer inventory is generated for each ballot processed and accepted by the signature verification operator. Once the ballots are processed, two other staff members (with different party affiliations) will verify the computer generated inventory with the actual sealed early ballot affidavit envelopes containing the ballots to ensure that all are present. The ballots (still sealed in the affidavit envelopes) will then be transferred to the Pima County Elections Department. The staff of that department will then re-check the inventory. The Elections Department staff is responsible for removing your ballot from the sealed white early ballot affidavit envelope and then processing the ballot for tabulation (the counting of your votes).
At all times when the early ballots are present in the Recorder’s Office, staff will only work on or handle the sealed ballot affidavits containing the ballots when employees with different political party affiliations are present. Political party observers may also be present to watch the process.
Lists of all voters who requested an early ballot and a separate listing of the voters who returned their early ballot are provided to the major political parties on a daily basis. The parties then use this information to monitor the ballot processing and tabulation by the Elections Department as an audit over the process.
At any time a problem is detected in processing an early ballot while it is in the possession of the Recorder’s Office, the voter is notified by phone (if a number is available) and/or by mail. If any ballot is to be disqualified, the voter is notified and provided an opportunity to correct the problem or receive another ballot. Voters can also track the status of their early ballot through the Recorder’s Office processing by going to our website, www.recorder.pima.gov and clicking on the Early Ballot Status link.
When are early ballots counted?
Generally, if an early ballot is received by the Recorder’s Office prior to Election Day, it will usually be tabulated prior to Election Day. If the ballot is received on Election Day, it will not be tabulated until a day or two after Election Day. Please note that results released on Election Day are unofficial results and the results do not become official until all early ballots and all provisional ballots have been processed and the Board of Supervisors approves the official canvass of the election.
I moved to a new residence but did not update my voter registration. I want to vote but I do not want to vote by provisional ballot. Can I vote early?
Yes. However, you will need to update your voter registration to your correct current address first. The fastest way to update your registration is to complete a registration form online at the MVD website www.servicearizona.com. Make certain that you update your MVD address as well since their system will use your address on file to complete the registration form. Please allow five days from the time you submit the online registration form for your address to be updated in the voter registration record.
In most elections ballots differ from precinct to precinct and within precincts as jurisdictional lines such as school districts and city and town limits lines occur. Therefore the ballot you would have received at your old address will not have all the same candidates as the ballot for your new address. In order to vote early, we must have your new address on file to send you the correct ballot.
You may also go to a walk-in early voting location and notify the staff that you have moved. They will provide you with a voter registration form and your changes will immediately be entered into the computer system. They can then generate the correct ballot for your new address and you can vote immediately at the walk-in site.
The last option is for you to go to the polling site for your new residence address and vote by provisional ballot. As long as you did not vote at the polling place for your old address and are in the correct polling site for your new address, your ballot will count. Immediately after the election, the Recorder’s Office will use the information on the provisional ballot form to update your voter registration record.
I requested an early ballot by mail but moved before it arrived. I submitted a forwarding address request to the postal service but I have not received my ballot. What happened to my ballot?
Your ballot was probably returned to the Recorder’s Office by the postal service marked “undeliverable.” Under Arizona law voting materials, including ballots, cannot be forwarded to a new address by the United States Postal Service. If you moved after requesting an early ballot or you moved after enrolling on the Permanent Early Ballot List, you should notify the Recorder’s Office as soon as possible to update your address. If you have moved, you may need to complete a new voter registration form. Once you move, any ballot mailed to you at your former address will be returned to the Recorder’s Office marked “undeliverable.”
I am temporarily away from my residence. Will the post office forward my ballot to my temporary location?
No. If you know that you are going to be temporarily away from your residence and you have requested an early ballot by mail or you are on the Permanent Early Voting List, you should contact the Recorder’s Office at (520) 724-4330. We will mail your ballot directly to the temporary address. The United States Postal Service will not forward a ballot to a different address even if that is only temporarily being used as an address.