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Why is all-mail voting controversial in Arizona?

Across the country, concerns about what the coronavirus will look like in November are prompting states to consider expanding vote-by-mail programs.
Credit: KARE
Mail collection boxes and ballot envelope

PHOENIX — Across the country, concerns about what the coronavirus will look like in November are prompting states to consider expanding vote-by-mail programs.

Already common in the U.S.

Voting by mail isn’t a new idea, as every state already has some kind of vote-by-mail program in place.

Five states conduct all voting by mail. Other states allow absentee voting, sixteen of which require a valid excuse for requesting an absentee ballot. The other 29, including Arizona, offer an absentee ballot upon request, with no excuse needed.

Democrat push for all mail-in voting in AZ

But even states that offer no-excuse absentee ballots may not be prepared for large volumes of votes by mail. Take Wisconsin for example.

With a stay-at-home order in place during its April 7th election, the number of absentee ballot requests overwhelmed the system and many voters never received their requested ballots. On election day, thousands of Wisconsinites masked up and waited in long lines to cast their ballots.

According to Madison.com, dozens of people got COVID-19 after visiting the polls.

It’s one reason why Democrat State Representative Athena Salman will propose legislation in the anticipated special session to expands mail-in ballots.

“It would allow county recorders to send every single registered voter a ballot through the mail and the voter can then decide whether they want to return that ballot or whether they want to still vote in person,” Salman said.

All of Arizona’s fifteen county recorders, including Democrats and Republicans, are on-record in support of universal mail-in voting this election cycle.

Salman said the issue is being politicized in recent years because historically Republicans have supported mail-in balloting in Arizona.

“Unfortunately, what I see on the other side of the aisle is a fear perpetuated by Donald Trump they are echoing,” Salman said.

Republican Opposition to universal vote-by-mail

Opening up absentee ballots to all voters is a popular idea. A recent poll by Pew Research found that 3 in 4 Americans are in favor of the idea for the upcoming election. However, those most likely to favor it lean to the left.

“They want to take away the safeguards that ensure the integrity of the election process,” said Ronna McDaniel, Chairwoman of the RNC.

The Arizona State GOP issued a statement to members today that “Universal vote-by-mail… would greatly expand opportunities for fraud, and weaken confidence in our electoral process.”

Election fraud extremely rare

However, election fraud in all forms is extremely rare. In fact, none of the five states which hold all-mail elections have had any major voter fraud scandals since instituting the program, thanks in part to measures like signature matching and post-election audits.

A now disbanded commission launched by the Trump administration found no evidence of election fraud.

Some Republicans also worry a universal mail-in election will benefit Democrats who tend to gain an edge when turnout is higher.

But it’s not that simple.

Researchers at Stanford looked into three states with vote-by-mail programs and concluded that the expansion of vote-by-mail improved turnout among both Democratic and Republican voters, with neither side gaining a meaningful edge.

“This historically has not been a partisan issue” Salman said. “Whether you are a Democrat or Republican you should have the option to vote how you choose, especially during a pandemic when people are dying at a higher rate.”

The Arizona Republican Party did not respond to requests by 12 News for an interview.

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