Mesa is the latest Arizona city talking about switching to all-mail ballot elections in hopes of boosting voter turnout.
The move stems from the early-voting trend that is changing election dynamics in Arizona. Voters are cashing in on the convenience of receiving and casting ballots by mail instead of going to the polls. In Maricopa County, early ballots are mailed to registered voters 33 days before elections.
Carefree, Paradise Valley, Peoria, Litchfield Park, Oro Valley and Sedona have held all-mail ballot election in recent years.
The City Council will discuss the idea today at its morning session at 7:30 a.m. in Council Chambers, 57 E. First St.
In the November 2002 gubernatorial election, 351,620 of the 723,867 ballots cast in Maricopa County were early ballots, a rate of 48.58 percent, said Yvonne Reed, a spokeswoman for the county elections department.
In the March 2002 Mesa primary, about 73 percent of the ballots cast were early ballots, said Barbara Jones, Mesa’s city clerk.
Mayor Keno Hawker supports all-mail ballots for some city elections, but said it probably won’t happen until at least 2006 because of the cost.
"I think the trend and increasing voter turnout is in that direction," Hawker said.
Mesa would pay about $100,000 more per election to switch to all-mail ballots. The extra cost is primarily due to postage for ballots and publicity pamphlets.
Some people caution that the switch may increase voter fraud.
Sheila Horton, who is part of Citizens for Accurate Mail Ballot Election Results, based in Boulder, Colo., said all-mail ballot elections make it hard to ensure the "one person, one vote" principle because no one can be sure who marked the ballots.
In Arizona, voters must sign early ballots. The signatures are verified against voter registration lists.
However, experience has shown that some places don’t verify the signatures, Horton said.
Paradise Valley and Carefree have seen dramatic increases in voter participation since switching to allmail elections, town officials said.
Duncan Miller, Paradise Valley’s deputy town clerk, said there was a 16 percent voter turnout at the town’s last walk-in election in 1998. Elections in 2000, 2002 and 2003, which were all-mail ballots, had turnouts around 30 percent each, he said.
Carefree’s voter turnout jumped to 53 percent from 24 percent since the town went to all-mail ballot elections in 1997, said Betsy Wise, Carefree’s town clerk and treasurer.
All-mail ballot elections discussion
When: 7:30 a.m. today
Where: City Council Chambers, 57 E. First St.
TV: Broadcast on Mesa Channel 11
Information: (480) 644-3333 Mesa’s March 2002 primary election
Total ballots cast: 35,649 Early ballots: 26,143, or about 73 percent of total Cost of election: $182,643 Estimated cost to hold an all-mail ballot primary election: $280,716