Will mail-in ballots up turnouts? - The Explorer: News

Will mail-in ballots up turnouts?

Town of Marana doesn’t expect big changes

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Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 2:28 pm

Even though voter turnout increased during the City of Tucson’s all mail-in primary election on Aug. 30, Marana officials still aren’t convinced the town will experience the same upswing.

In Tucson’s first all mail-in ballot election, the City saw a 16-percent turnout, with just over 46,000 ballots cast. In the past, the highest voter turnout in a primary was just over 12 percent.

By Aug. 29, the City already had received 41,000 ballots. On election day, it received about 5,000 more.

While the numbers are encouraging, Marana Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson said she’s still not sure what kind of voter turnout to expect once the Town moves to the all mail-in ballot election system.

The Marana Town Council unanimously approved the transition to mail-in ballots on Aug. 9, with hopes that the convenience factor would increase voter turnout.

Bronson said because Marana has very little controversy, she’s still not sure they will see a major increase in voter turnout.

“If things are going well, people tend to take the, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it approach,’” she said.

Marana’s highest voter turnout was in 1999, when the Town held its first mayoral election, Bronson noted.

With 18,489 registered to vote in Marana’s 2011 General Election, 3,335 voted. Of those, 3,237 were done by mail.

Since 2000, more than 30 Arizona cities and towns have adopted the mail-in ballot form of hosting an election to not only save money, but also to increase voter turnout.

With a Marana election more than a year away, Bronson said town officials will have time to address the issues the City of Tucson had.

Those issues included the problem encountered by Tucson residents who are registered as Independents and, due to a technicality, were unable to vote in the election.

In a primary election, an Independent can choose to either vote Democrat or Republican. The city automatically sends ballots to Republican and Democrat voters; however, Independents are required to call the city and personally request a ballot for the party of their choice. Many Independents did not know this and so never requested a ballot.

A recent poll showed residents registering as Independents are increasing at a high rate, making it important for state entities to address such election issues.

Thinking Arizona, a Tucson-based organization, reported Independents account for 32.5 percent of the state’s registered voters. That number is approaching the 35.46 percent who are registered Republicans and surpassing the 31.1 percent who are registered Democrats.

Bronson said she will be working closely with Chris Rhodes of the Pima County Elections office to address the issues surrounding Independent voters, and any other issues, long before an election is held in Marana.

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