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Arizonans returning early ballots faster than in recent primary elections

(KTAR News Photo/Kevin Stone)

PHOENIX – Arizonans have returned early ballots in much larger numbers than were seen in the last two primary elections at this stage, and more Democrats have already voted than Republicans.

More than 374,000 early ballots have been received by county recorders through Sunday, according to the most recent information posted by Data Orbital.

In both 2018 and 2016, around 248,000 early ballots had been returned with 16 days left until primary election day.

Data Orbital, a Phoenix-based research and consulting firm, has been updating its early voting tracker each day. The data posted Tuesday morning, two weeks before the Aug. 4 primary, covered ballots returned through Sunday.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday that mail-in voting has been steadily rising in the Phoenix area and isn’t just a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also said elections officials have been running an education campaign about the convenience and security of early voting.

“Voters in Maricopa County have traditionally voted by mail. We’ve had a consistent increase in the permanent early vote list year in and year out,” he said.

“The increase has accelerated a little bit this year, but not only are we in coronavirus times, but we’re actually reaching out a lot more to voters.”

By a slight margin, more registered Democrats than Republicans have returned early ballots. If that holds up it would be a big swing from recent primaries.

Of the ballots returned so far, 45.9% came from Democrats, 45% were from Republicans and 9.1% were from independents, who can participate in the primary of their choosing.

Final early voting totals from 2018 showed 49.3% from Republicans, 39.1% from Democrats and 11.5% from independents.

The spread between the parties was even larger in 2016, when the early voting breakdown was 52.6% Republicans, 36.9% Democrats and 10.5% independents.

Early voting for the Arizona primary began July 8.

Friday is the last day voters who aren’t on the permanent early voting list can request a mail-in ballot or be added to the list.

Voters registered as independents, even if they are on the permanent early list, must contact their county’s recorder office to select the primary ballot they want to receive.

Mail-in ballots must arrive at county elections offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day. July 29 is recommended as the latest day to get ballots in the mail.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has released two safety guides for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, one for voters and one for local elections officials, and is encouraging voters to cast their ballots early.

“We want voters to cast their ballot in a way that is meaningful to them,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in a press release.

“However, we are encouraging voters to request a ballot-by-mail to avoid the Election Day crowds and have a safe and secure option in this year’s elections.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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