by Lesley Aine Mckeown
We are living in unprecedented times. Everywhere we turn, things we normally took for granted require extra thought and precautions.
With the 2020 General election just two months away many of you are wondering how this pandemic will affect voting and vote security.
Jumping in your car and running down to the polls to vote is now a health risk, and every other headline is about the defunding of the post office and how this may interfere with early voting.
These are all valid concerns, and I would like to address them and provide you with accurate
information so you can feel a little more secure in these unsure times.
Let’s look at early voting and vote-by-mail. In Yavapai County it was reported by the Elections Office that a record 91% of voters mailed in their ballots in the August primary elections. Voter turnout was up 25% compared to the 2018 midterms. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs says she points to Yavapai County as a "great example of exemplary election operations in the state." These encouraging numbers reflect voter confidence in early voting.
Ways to vote
There are several ways to vote in Yavapai County. You can:
Request an early ballot by mail, vote and mail it. Mail-in ballots must arrive no later than 7pm on Election Day, Nov 3. There is no postmark requirement.
Vote early in person at one of the two county recorders offices. Vote in person Oct. 7 till 5pm on Oct. 30. In Prescott: 1510 Fair Street, Room 228 In Cottonwood: 10 S. 6th St.
Put your ballot in one of the County's 13 official drop boxes. For a list of official ballot drop boxes, visit www.yavdem.org/voting.
Take your early ballot to the polling station on Election Day, Nov. 3, and put it in a ballot box before 7pm.
You may vote in person on Election Day in any polling station in the County if you are registered to vote here. Polls will open at 6am and close at 7pm. There are 24 County polling stations; for a list visit: www.yavdem.org/voting.
On Election Day
Arriving at the polls, you will be directed to an Electronic Poll Book (EPB) clerk and asked for your driver's license. Other accepted forms of ID include student or military ID and passport. The EPBs are air-gapped, not connected to any outside network or the internet. The Touch Screen Poll Machine is also not connected to the internet, and prints a report at the end of the day for use in the tabulation process.
Once your registration is verified (this usually takes less than five minutes), you'll be issued a paper ballot.
Paper ballots are issued to each voter, whether for early voting or voting in person. Yavapai County does not use electronic ballot boxes to read your ballot. You'll place your paper ballot in the ballot box, overseen by the Ballot Judge, and get an “I Voted” sticker.
So what happens to the ballot after you put it in the mail or drop it in an official drop box?
The Recorder's Office begins recording early ballots 14 days before the election, which alleviates the rush on Election Day to process all the ballots. Once a ballot is received at the Recorder's Office, a county officer in charge of elections compares the signature on the affidavit with the signature in the voter’s registration record. These officials receive forensic training in signature analysis, and often consult several forms of voter documentation to confirm the signature matches the records. Once the signature is authenticated, the officer then verifies that the affidavit envelope (the white envelope you sign) reflects the current election code and matches the batch report from the vote center. All ballots are then secured in a sealed container and taken by two election officials, one from each political party, to the Central Counting Place. There the ballots are tabulated by an election management system (EMS), basically an electronic tabulation machine.
After that there is a mandatory hand-count audit. This is con-ducted by the Hand Count Board members from both political parties, overseen by election officials. The hand-count results are compared to the EMS tabulation.
Once the election has been certified, the final results of the election are given to the Secretary of State's Office for publication.
Each poll worker hired receives a payment of $135 for all in-person and online training and
service on Election Day. Each poll worker must complete the online training, and new poll
workers are required to attend in-person training as well.
On Election Day poll workers may not use personal cellphones or tablets, or have contact with anyone outside the polling station, and must stay within 75 feet of the station until dismissed by the Inspector. Poll workers can expect their Election Day service to last up to 15 hours, and are allowed to bring food and drinks for the time they serve.
Being a poll worker is fun, and you will be serving your county and your country! It’s an
important civil responsibility. Be a part of history, become a poll worker!
Sign up at secapps.yavapai.us/PollWorkerApplication.
All these steps and many more not listed here make Yavapai County elections secure and
virtually tamper-proof. The Elections Office is constantly working to ensure vote security.
As a poll worker myself I have seen firsthand the dedication, hard work and attention to detail that goes into voting in Yavapai County, and I am proud to serve.
If you have questions about the election process, contact the Elections Office for more
information at 928-771-3250, they will be happy to help. You can also sign up for a tour of the Central Counting Place to see firsthand some of the internal workings of how our elections are conducted.
Lesley Aine Mckeown is Communications Chair for the Yavapai County Democratic Party and a longtime poll worker.