With COVID-19, Maricopa County residents are unable to go down to the tabulation center, but a 24/7 live stream is available. The tabulation center is where ballots are dropped off, monitored, checked for errors and counted. (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Arizona is prepared to handle mail-in ballots

With the 2020 presidential election drawing near, concerns over mass voter fraud are increasing. However Arizona is not in danger of mail-in ballot voter fraud.

Mail-in voting took center stage during the Sept. 29 presidential debate when President Donald Trump repeatedly voiced his concerns about voter fraud and how unequipped the U.S. is to handle mail-in voting. 

“They’re not equipped… These people aren’t equipped to handle it, number one,” Trump said. “Number two, they cheat. They cheat.” 

Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs took to Twitter directly after the debate to stand by Arizona’s ability to handle mail-in voting tweeting: “ I just wanna say, I’m not sure who the president was referring to when he said these people aren’t equipped to handle it, but election officials across AZ absolutely are.” 

The Heritage Foundation’s database shows only twenty cases of voter fraud in Arizona in the past 10 years, making up a small percentage of the nearly 4 million Arizona voters. 

Mesa Community College political science professor Dr. Brian Dille said historically, the U.S. has had instances of voter fraud, but modern systems in place appear to be working.

In early America, voting was done publicly with colored pieces of paper that gave away for whom the person voted, Dille explained. Voters were often swayed by which party had the best alcohol or the best parties, not by policies.

Fraud occurred on a large scale due to the open nature and lack of security. In modern elections, fraud is still possible but on a much smaller scale, and those who commit voter fraud get caught. Dille said elections are held at the county level and conducted under state law as another layer of modern voter protection. 

Arizona allows for bi-partisan observers to be involved in every step of ballot collection, transportation and tabulation process. Integrity of elections are the root of democracy, which is why elections are not held at a federal level but carried out by counties. 

The National Association of Counties states on their website: “ County election officials work diligently with federal, state and other local election officials to ensure the safety and security of our voting systems. County election officials strive to administer elections in a way that is accurate, safe, secure and accessible for all voters.”

Another added security measure is bi-partisian observers from each political party whose role is to carefully monitor the voting process and bring attention to concerns. 

“Bi-partisan observers at each step makes it very difficult for cheating to occur,” added Dille. 

Voting security measures include voter identification, signed mail-in ballots compared to other legal documents, bi-partisan observers at each step and a human looking at each ballot to ensure the machines and technology are also working properly.

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office goal for elections is to maintain integrity and take every precaution possible.

Diana Solorio, the public information officer at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, explained it takes six months to prepare for an election, especially a presidential election.  

Each mail-in ballot has a smart barcode and is tracked throughout the counting process. She said, “Every ballot goes under two signature authenticity checks, and the County contacts voters who didn’t sign their ballot or have their ballot questioned.”

Solorio mentioned several resources that The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office has available for people to be involved and observe the election process. A live stream of the signature verification rooms, early ballot processing rooms and the ballot tabulation center is a right to which Arizonans have access.

That law is found under Title 16 Chapter 4 Article 10 section D of Arizona Revised Statutes. The Maricopa County live stream can be found at Maricopa.vote.

Both Dille and Solorio said Arizona has proper security measures in place making voter fraud in Arizona very rare.

“Arizona has been voting by mail since 1996 and has standards and procedures already in place” said Solorio. Over time, she added, the measures in place have become more efficient, and Arizona is prepared to handle mail-in voting this election. 

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office is working to instill confidence in Maricopa voters and offer transparency across their website and social media platforms.

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