Jul 20, 2022 - Politics

Hey, Arizona. If you get someone else's ballot, just check the box

Illustration of a mailbox covered in "I Voted" stickers. 
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Arizonans who received early ballots for people who don't live at their addresses have an easy way to alert election officials.

The big picture: Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law in 2021 requiring counties to include a box on early ballot envelopes that people can check if the named recipient doesn't live there.

  • When counties receive a ballot with the box checked, they mail out an additional notification to the voter in an attempt to confirm where they live.
  • If the voter doesn't respond, election departments place them on inactive status and they will no longer receive early ballots.

Details: Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department, tells Axios Phoenix that there are numerous reasons people may receive ballots for voters who don't live at their address.

  • Election officials receive information from the U.S. Postal Service when people change their addresses, but Gilbertson noted that some people don't notify USPS when they move.
  • She says maintaining accurate voter registration information is a "partnership with the voter" that requires them to inform election officials of changes.
  • "There is no single system that tracks the movement of voters in the United States," Gilbertson says.

Election officials check sources such as death records or the interstate Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to maintain accurate voter rolls.

Yes, but: Election officials can only take action without voter input if there is a "hard match" that includes first and last name, as well as date of birth.

  • Sometimes death records include minor variations that prevent election officials from making a hard match, including missing hyphens in last names and two-part last names that appear as a voter's middle name.

By the numbers: Maricopa County sent out 1.4 million early ballots for the Aug. 2 primary election.

  • From Jan. 1 to June 28 of this year, 75,370 new voters registered in the county, 195,083 voters modified their registration information, and about 236,000 active voters were moved to inactive status, Gilbertson says.

Context: Misinformation about early ballots and voting by mail has been widespread since 2020, and some have sought to portray ballots sent to the wrong addresses as a sign of insecurity in elections.

The bottom line: Even if someone receives an early ballot for a person who doesn't live there, actually voting with it is difficult.

  • A voter must sign the affidavit that comes with the ballot, and election officials use signatures on file to verify voter identity.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show election officials receive information from the USPS when people change their address, but that USPS is not always notified when people move.

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