Mail-in voting

Pima County sorting mail-in ballots to be counted.

The election has begun, and the Pima County Recorder's Office is busy answering questions and taking ballots.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the election and get your vote counted.

On Monday, the phone queue on the Recorder's voter information line clocked a wait time of about an hour, and County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said there were some lines as voters dropped off their ballots.

"Which is great, we're handling it," she said. "They're moving. It's not like they're voting where it takes longer. They're just standing in line, coming in and dropping in the ballot boxes. We don't have curbside yet, so they have to park and get out of their cars."

If you received a ballot in the mail but want to drop it off in person, the Pima County Recorder's Office accepts them at its offices and early voting locations.

The Recorder's Office locations in Tucson – the Main office, East Side Annex and Ballot Processing Center – started accepting ballots Oct. 7. The Recorder's sites are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Curbside drop off at the Main Office and East Side Annex starts on Oct. 19 and runs through Nov. 2. The Ballot Processing Center starts curbside service on Oct. 26 through Nov. 2.

Closer to home, Good Shepherd United Church of Christ begins curbside drop off Oct. 19. Good Shepherd will also be an early voting site starting Oct. 26 through Oct. 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rodriguez said Monday was especially busy because of Columbus Day, leaving many voters with a day off and time to take care of their ballot drop-offs or to get election information.

Another factor adding to longer phone queues on the voter information line is callers taking added time to ask their questions.

"The issue is when the voters call, they want us to listen to their story," Rodriguez said. "And we have a lot of people voting. People are anxious to vote, they want to vote, they want us to get the ballot in our possession, and that's what we're here to do."

And voters can help reduce wait times on the information line as election day nears.

Rodriguez said much of the information voters ask about is available on the Recorder's website. The website is also useful for many first-time voters using mail-in ballots.

Voters can check their ballot status on the website through the "ballot by mail status" tab under voter information.

Rodriguez said if there were an issue with the ballot, the Recorder's Office would make multiple attempts to reach  the voter, and the website's status would direct the voter to call the office.

"We try calling them, texting them, emailing, whatever source of communication and the final thing is a letter," she said. "And then we'll wait for them to call back. A couple of days later, we'll do round two."

She said calls from the Recorder's Office would show up on caller IDs as Pima County government.

However, the Recorder's Office must speak to the voter and not someone acting on their behalf or through a power of attorney.

"Powers of Attorney are not acceptable to vote somebody's ballot," she said. "As long as they have their mental faculties. They may not be able to mark their ballot because of a stroke, but if they can't communicate with us and someone else is coaching them, we're not going to accept that."

State law says the county can begin counting ballots 14 days before the election.

"They count them, they don't tabulate them," Rodriguez said. "And they have political party representatives there, they have cameras on 24/7, so people can sit there and watch them. That's why on election night, you have that big number right after eight o'clock to post."

Rodriguez said voters could also help the Recorder's Office this election by returning ballots as soon as possible through drop-off locations or by mail.

She added voters who chose to have a mail-in ballot should also stick to the method; otherwise, they would be given a provisional ballot on Election Day, which isn't counted until after all the regular and early ballots.

"They need to vote that ballot and not be part of the longer process that delays things because they chose to change their minds," Rodriguez said. "Or they could go to the early voting site down there in the Green Valley-Sahuarita area. They need to be part of the solution, not the problem."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732