Thursday, May 14, 2020

Guest Commentary: Voting by Mail, Your Life May Depend On It

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Councilmember Richard Fimbres - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Councilmember Richard Fimbres
Tucson City Councilman represents Ward 5. The Weekly welcomes guest commentaries from elected officials, candidates for office and anyone with something important to say. Send yours to executive editor Jim Nintzel at jimn@tucsonlocalmedia.com.

Richard Fimbres is the Councilmember for Tucson’s Ward 5. This nation is facing a health crisis, with the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 1,300,000 cases and more than 80,000 dead while Arizona had more than 12,176 cases with 594, who passed away from COVID-19.

Throughout our nation, many primary elections had either been postponed or canceled outright. One state, Wisconsin, still held their primary election, for which 52 citizens of Wisconsin, tested positive for COVID-19, after trying to exercise their right to vote.

We know that this election year will be different and changes are needed for the voting process. We cannot risk our citizens for the old practice of going to the polling places.

Arizona offers voters the option of signing up to receive their ballot in the mail, using the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). Voters must fill out the form and send it in.

With this COVID-19 health crisis and pandemic, people have raised questions and concerns about voting at a polling location, social distancing, occupancy at a polling place, and whether the voting equipment and ballots have been sanitized.

The vote by mail process answers these questions and addresses these concerns, a vote-by-mail election process, for which Tucson has, and is safe.

In 2009, a consolidated election was held with several governmental entities and measures on ballots for voter consideration. Polling places were changed, causing voter confusion which drove down turnout for that election for all involved.

In 2011, while we were still in the Great Recession, I brought forward a proposal to have the City of Tucson conduct its primary and general elections using an all, vote-by-mail system, for which my colleagues on the Council approved.

The City of Tucson’s election process, vote by mail, has seen increased turnout across the City in each of the Wards. People can vote without fear and in the comfort of their own homes.

This election system saves taxpayer money to the tune of $600,000 each election cycle for the Wards 3, 5, and 6 Council seats and $1,000,000 each election cycle for the Mayor’s election and Wards 1, 2, and 4 Council seat.

With the City of Tucson election process, the results are counted and tabulated that night, so we are not waiting for an additional period of time for the final results.

The City of Tucson offers a polling place per Ward as well as the Tucson City Clerk’s 12th Street Election Office for people to cast their ballots if they so choose.

In the last three elections in Tucson, using the vote by mail process, there were 29 provisional ballots with 102,454 votes cast in 2019. In 2015 and 2013, there were 37 provisional ballots and 3 provisional ballots respectively for those elections.

The towns of Sahuarita and Oro Valley, conduct their elections using vote by mail, as well as Prescott Valley, Surprise, Pinetop-Lakeside, Clarkdale, Peoria, Payson, Paradise Valley, Litchfield Park, and Globe. So this is not something new and untried.

This is a good, tested process, that I hope the Arizona Legislature and our national leaders would act since there is a health crisis, and let the County Recorders run the upcoming elections as a vote by mail, even for this election only.

If they don’t they may endanger our citizens. You can still get their ballot mailed to them by signing up for the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). For more information, please call the Pima County Recorder’s Office, 724-4350, or go online to recorder.pima.gov/pevl.

We need to be safe and healthy!

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