Arizona voters may be able to cast their ballots in 2014 at any polling place anywhere in the county.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Tuesday he wants lawmakers and county officials to consider “voting centers’’ which are capable of not just accepting but processing all ballots, regardless of the home voting precinct of the voter. He said changing patterns in how Arizonans decide to vote makes the current system not only overly cumbersome but unnecessarily slow.
What it also could have been, he said, was embarrassing.
“If the close race in Arizona this year had been the presidential race, and the electoral college was tied 265 to 265 and the whole country and world were waiting for Arizona’s 11 electoral votes, what do you think the scrutiny would have been?’’ he said.
Bennett said the problem is the method and the timing of how people vote.
“Statewide, for example, I think we had about 450,000 early ballots dropped off at the polls on election day or the day or two before,’’ he said. That last-minute process, he said, creates problems that do not exist if people simply show up at their own polls, get a ballot and vote it there.
“Right now if you drop your ballot off at anyplace, it goes into a box, which gets transferred to a bigger box, which gets transferred to downtown,’’ Bennett explained. He said sorting, verifying and counting all those early ballots took about a week.
All that would be different with voting centers.
In essence, each polling place would have electronic access to a list of every registered voter in the county, complete with an image of that person’s signature.
Someone who shows up would be identified by voting precinct. And the poll workers, using printers linked to computers, could then print out a ballot specific to that person, including the right legislative districts, county supervisors and school board members and bond votes.
What that means, Bennett said, is the ballot can be not only verified on site but also put into the machine that, properly programmed, will tabulate the vote. That would apply both to regular and early ballots.
Bennett said the system already is at work in Yuma and Yavapai counties. He said there are built-in safeguards, like having all the voting centers linked to ensure that individuals don’t show up at multiple locations.