Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, who is running unopposed for a fifth term in the Nov. 4 general election, is in charge of keeping track of the county's registered voters. For the first time, she's created a permanent early-voter list of more than 125,000 voters who will be receiving early ballots for the Sept. 2 primary this week, thanks to help from an outside firm that's helping get those ballots into the mail, as early voting starts on Thursday, July 31. Rodriguez will keep her office on Church Avenue just north of Congress Street open until at least 10 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 4, which is the deadline to register to vote in the primary. For more information or to order your early ballot, visit the recorder's Web site.

Why do you think so many people have embraced early voting?

Well, there are a couple of reasons, one being that people are living longer, and they want the convenience of voting in the comforts of their own home. These are mostly people, like my mother, who don't want to go to the voting booth anymore. Then you have people who live very fast-paced lives, like the single parents with children going to school or people who travel for work, who are too busy to make it to the polls. Another reason early voting has increased is that some people just like it better, because they can take their time, especially on these big elections where there are so many candidates and propositions. They want the opportunity to take their time, because the issues can really bog people down.

What about those people who like to vote the traditional way?

Some people need to feel like they're still going to the polls. But for a lot of people, we live in a fast-paced society and want to vote in the comforts of our own home and ... not have to worry about it anymore.

How has the rise in early voting affected your office?

We send out a mailer asking if people want to vote early in all the elections they are eligible for. We send the request 120 days outside of Election Day. We also ask for any address corrections so that we can clean up the voter list before we send the ballots.

Is there more or less work that needs to be done now that there is early voting?

Well, there is more work to do as far as prep time. However, we're able to spread it out over a year instead of having to get all our requests and process them in less than 30 days. For instance, right now in Pima County, we have 125,000 people who are already on the permanent early-voting list this year, and we already keyed them in three months ago, when normally, we would be doing it now and working late hours. It also got rid of a lot of the pressure, because once we start sending out ballots, and early voting commences, statutorily, we have 48 hours to get (the early ballot) sent out after we receive the request.

Do you count the votes?

No, I do not actually count the votes in this county. In all Arizona counties, the Board of Supervisors is responsible for elections, and it depends on how they choose to delegate the responsibility of counting the votes. In Pima County, they have given the responsibility to the county administrator, who has hired an election director to handle it for them.

Why create a permanent early-voting list?

The reason we created the list was because constituents were tired of having to call year after year when we already knew they liked to vote early. It cut down on duplication within the system. However, there was nothing statutorily allowing us to send a ballot without a request, so I started drafting a bill. We set the criteria for what we needed, such as security measures, so we could ask for signatures and birthdates for comparisons. It's all about constituent service and voter convenience.

What kind of turnout do you expect on Election Day?

For this particular election, you have to remember that Election Day is the day after Labor Day, which might decrease the number of people at the polls. We anticipate 50 percent of the voters (who will cast ballots) will vote prior to Election Day, and those who traditionally like to go to the voting polls will continue to vote that way. It's all about the style in which people like to cast their ballots.

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