Envelopes containing ballots sent to voters in Maricopa County last week contained a small square with clear plastic on the top left side revealing part of the ballot. The political party of the ballot can clearly be seen in the window, and in some cases, individuals’ voter registration numbers are visible as well. Concerns have been raised that renegade postal workers or election workers might throw Republican ballots out before they reach voters.
State Representative Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa) tweeted, “The post office doesn’t need to know this information. The Recorder’s office is being awfully cavalier & open with personal information in a time when people already don’t trust the mail or AZ’s voting systems.”
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer responded to Parker and said due to spacing and legal requirements, the political party ended up on the portion of the ballot that shows up in that small window, and said the ballots had used that format for over 20 years.
In another tweet, his office stated that “the window on the back of the yellow carrier envelope allows us to quickly scan the 2D barcode containing the ballot style to ensure each voter receives the correct ballot.” However, he did not go into detail why the 2D barcode could not have been placed farther away from the party name.
The office was responding to a tweet from a voter who said, “That’s nobody’s business, not even my @USPS Letter Carrier’s. Is there another way you can package ballots to protect this info?”
Richer defended the practice of letting the political party show through the window by pointing out that anyone can submit a public records request to determine someone’s political party registration, and stated that just because someone receives a certain party’s ballot does not mean that is how they are registered, e.g. an independent can request a Republican or Democrat ballot.
State law prohibits a voter’s party registration from showing outside the envelope on return envelopes, but not on the initial envelope with a blank ballot that is sent to voters. A.R.S. 16-545, which was enacted last year, states that election officers shall “ensure that the ballot return envelopes are of a type that does not reveal the voter’s selections or political party affiliation and that is tamper-evident when properly sealed.”
Concern over this practice was dismissed previously in Florida, since, if a renegade person threw out some ballots due to seeing they were Republican, it would affect the Republicans’ primary race, not Democrats versus Republicans. Former President Donald Trump tweeted his concern at the time.
The Arizona Legislature passed A.R.S. 16-545 in response to the Florida ballots. In both states, the ballots for the general election are all the same for everyone; no party preference is shown.
The Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society identified numerous whistleblowers from the postal service who said thousands of ballots in some states were backdated, tampered with, or tossed out ahead of the 2020 election. Experts signed sworn affidavits stating that over 300,000 ballots were at issue in Arizona’s 2020 election. Postal workers in Pennsylvania and Michigan said Trump mail was ordered to be intercepted and placed in the ‘Undeliverable Bulk Business Mail’ bin.
The Arizona Republican Party is issuing warnings this year about stolen ballots. Executive Director Pam Kirby said the party has received reports of missing ballots in Maricopa and Pinal Counties. In a video, she explains how ballots can be stolen out of unlocked mailboxes.
The party’s director of communications, Kristy Dohnel, said voters in Mohave County are reporting ballots stolen out of mailboxes, and found ripped up and discarded on the ground. She also said some voters tracked their ballots through the secretary of state’s website, which showed that ballots had been mailed to them but were never received.
URGENT: Arizona Primary Election Alert
We are receiving reports that ballots have been destroyed or stolen from mailboxes.
Contact your County Recorder’s office if you have not received your requested ballot.
— Republican Party of Arizona (@AZGOP) July 18, 2022
An Arizona elections expert told The Arizona Sun Times that the legislature should have expanded the law to restrict political party information from being visible on ballots mailed to voters.
A Capitol insider told The Sun Times that they suspect Richer set the clear plastic window to show political party not just for scanning ease, but deliberately to create paranoia among Republican voters.
A voter complained to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, and Jennifer Wright, the Election Integrity Unit attorney, responded and said there was no violation of law, explaining how A.R.S. 16-545 is drafted.
Voters can track their ballots online with the Arizona secretary of state’s office, which displays when their ballot was mailed to them, when it was received back, and whether it was accepted. The Maricopa County Recorder’s office has a similar tracking site.
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