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How to avoid getting your ballot rejected in Maricopa County

Common mistakes lead to mail-in ballots getting rejected. We spoke with the Maricopa County Recorder's Office about how to avoid errors and how to fix them.

PHOENIX — Arizonans and those in Maricopa County are pretty used to mail-in voting procedures these days. Less than 3,000 ballots out of 860,000 were rejected in the August primaries.

But still, simple mistakes can be made that can lead to a questioned or rejected ballot. 

We spoke with the Maricopa County Recorder's Office about common mistakes are are made with mail-in ballots and what can be done to fix mistakes when they are made.


Far and away what leads to the most rejected ballots is either a missing or mismatching signature.

Of rejected ballots in the August primaries, 323 were for bad signatures and 2,432 were no signature. 

When a person votes by mail, they must verify their identity by signing the green affidavit envelope. 

According to Diana Solorio, with the Recorder's office, each of these signatures undergoes a multi-level check to verify the signature. 

"We have two signature verification clerks who look at the signature and match it against the known signature of this voter from their voter registration or previous affidavits that they’ve signed and then there’s a final audit to the process," Solorio said.

If the signature does not pass the verification process, the voter is contacted. Solorio says even though it's optional, it's important for mail-in voters to put their phone number below their signature on the green affidavit envelope in case their signature is questioned. 

If the signature is questioned, the voter will have until five days after the Nov. 3rd General Election to verify their signature.

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Filling out the ballot

When filling out the mail in ballot, voters must use black or blue ink pens. 

"It’s OK actually if the pen ink bleeds through the ballot, our tabulation equipment can still read it," Solorio said. "It’s just more difficult if you use a pencil and our tabulation equipment can not read red ink pens."

A voter does not have to fill out a vote for every contest if they don't want to. If you leave a contest blank, the rest of the contests will still be counted, as long as they are filled out correctly. 

"Some contests on the ballot will say 'vote for one candidate' or 'vote for two candidates.' If it says vote for one and a voter marks two, this is called an overvote and an overvote is not counted for that particular contest," Solorio said. 

Even if someone overvotes in one contest, the rest of the contests will be counted if they are marked correctly. 

RELATED: What's on my Arizona ballot? Find out with the 12 News ballot guide

If a voter incorrectly marks a ballot or a ballot gets destroyed

If you notice that you accidentally overvoted on a contest, or you used the wrong utensil or the ballot gets destroyed, you can request a new ballot. 

"Sometimes people are really excited and they’re opening up their envelope and accidentally tear their green affidavit envelope," Solorio said. "So, voters can re-seal their green affidavit envelope if it’s a small tear or rip but if the envelope is ripped completely, they should request a replacement."

The mail-in ballot must be paired with the green affidavit envelope when it is sent in.

To request a replacement ballot for any of the reasons above, there are many ways to do so, but it must be requested by Oct. 23 at 5 p.m.

Those who need a replacement can:

  • Request one by mail
  • Call the Recorder's office at 602-506-1511
  • Email VoterInfo@risc.maricopa.gov
  • Sent a direct message to a Maricopa County Elections Department social media page
  • Request a replacement at a Maricopa County voting location, found here.
Credit: 12 News

For any voting questions and to keep up with news surrounding the General Election, be sure to visit 12News.com/PlanYourVote.

RELATED: Map: Ballot drop boxes in Maricopa County for November 2020 general election