PHOENIX — This is one of the top questions we get: Why does it take so long to count early ballots in Maricopa County? After all, they're mailed early.
We verified that those ballots will be counted earlier this year, and there should be fewer uncounted ballots the day after the election.
When will early ballots be counted in the 2020 presidential election in Arizona?
Before Election Day, if it's mailed before the mailing deadline on Oct. 27.
WHAT WE FOUND:
Cynthia Harrod of Mesa is one of those voters who returns her mail-in ballot almost as soon as she gets it.
“They text me to let me know when they’ve received it. They text me to let me know that it’s been signature verified. And I was wondering why my vote can’t be counted then?” she said.
We took Cynthia’s question to Reynaldo Valenzuela, Maricopa County’s co-elections director. He’s worked on county elections for almost 30 years.
Cynthia’s early ballot will be counted before Election Day -- if she mails it before the Oct. 27 mailing deadline.
Here’s what’s making the count faster:
- Thanks to a new state law, the early ballot count starts 14 days before the election, up from seven days.
- The county's new tabulating machines process ballots up to three times faster than the old machines.
- Voters will have more places to drop off their mail-in ballot before Election Day, so they can avoid post office delivery.
Early ballots delivered or dropped off Monday or Tuesday aren’t counted until the Wednesday after the election.
The August primary was the first real test of the faster count. According to county elections officials, 97% of all early ballots that were returned by the Sunday before the primary were counted before the primary.
“Anybody that gets their ballot back to us by Sunday, it will be part of the Election Day 8 p.m. results. That’s guaranteed," Rey Valenzeula, Maricopa County's co-elections director, said.
Valenzuela acknowledges there will still be a ballot backlog after the election.
In the 2018 mid-term election, there were about 475,000 uncounted ballots. This year, Valenzuela forecasts 200,000 to 250,000 uncounted ballots.
If you’re an early voter, you can get a text message telling you when your ballot was received and counted. Sign up by texting JOIN to 628-683.