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Counting Votes: Florida Finished Same-Day, Arizona Finished Monday – Here’s What They Did Differently

With Arizona finally wrapping up its vote-counting Monday, almost two weeks after the midterm elections, one question that naturally arises is: Why did it take so long?

Florida reported the vast majority of its results on election night.

Much of the slowdown in the Grand Canyon State has to do with voters dropping off their mail-in ballots on Election Day.

Maricopa County, which encompasses the Phoenix metropolitan area, saw a record approximately 290,000 ballots dropped off on Election Day, surpassing the previous record by 70 percent, according to The Arizona Republic.

As Election Day seemed to turn into Election Week, there were still about 516,000 ballots statewide to be counted on Nov. 11.

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The largest percentage of those were in Maricopa County, where over 60 percent Arizona’s registered voters reside.

Arizona could learn a few lessons from Florida.

One is providing more polling locations, so it is not as hard for people to vote on Election Day.

Jon Gabriel, in a piece for the Republic, noted that Miami-Dade County offered 1,048 polling places for its approximately 2.6 million residents on Election Day. So that is one polling location for every 2,541 residents.

Do you think Arizona should require voters to show their ID to drop off their ballots on Election Day?

By contrast, Maricopa with a population of about 4.5 million people only had 223 locations or one for every 20,166 residents.

Of those, 70 were having ballot printer and tabulation issues, according to the county, though a lawsuit filed by GOP gubernatorial Kari Lake’s campaign puts the number at 114, or 53 percent of the sites.

The malfunctions at the polling sites contributed to hours-long lines like this one in Anthem, just north of Phoenix.

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Florida and Arizona have robust mail-in ballot and early voting options, and in both states, these ballots vastly outnumber the Election Day voters.

According to Florida’s Division of Elections, about 5 million used mail-in ballots or voted early of the over 7.7 million votes cast.

About 80 percent of Arizonans voted by mail-in ballot.

Here are some things Florida does differently than Arizona to get the vote done quicker.

“Florida … ends early in-person voting three days before the election and doesn’t allow mail-in ballots to be dropped off at voting precincts on Election Day — though voters can take ballots to their local elections office. Election workers in Florida had three days before Nov. 8 to process and count ballots without the addition of any new in-person early ballots,” according to FactCheck.org.

In other words, the state still allows the Election Day drop-off of mail-in ballots, but makes voters go to the central vote processing facilities to do it.

By contrast, Arizona allows the ballots to be dropped off at every polling location on Election Day.

“In Maricopa County, we had 290,000 mail ballots dropped off on Election Day this year, which all require sorting, scanning, signature verification, etc. before tabulation,” Jason Berry, a spokesman for Maricopa County, told The Western Journal via email.

“Arizona law also provides a longer ‘curing’ period [than] Florida,” he added. “Voters have five business days to respond [to] the Elections Dept. if their signature is questioned or they didn’t have ID at the polls and need to show proof.”

In Florida, voters get two days for curing.

Florida also has tighter reporting deadlines for early voting and mail-in ballots.

“The results of all early voting and mail-in ballots that have been counted by the end of the early voting period are uploaded into the county’s election management system by 7 p.m. on the day before the election, according to state law,” Factcheck.org noted.

Republican National Committee member and former state Sen. Lori Klein told The Western Journal there are some quick fixes Arizona can make to greatly speed up its vote-counting process.

First and foremost, Klein said, you require all who drop off a mail-in ballot on Election Day to show their ID right at the polling locations. That negates the need for the county to use a signature match to verify identity at the central processing center.

“Basically, you have voter rolls right there, and you can look at the IDs,” she said. “So that way, it would be almost like they were voting in person.”

GOP state Sen. J.D. Mesnard told the Republic he plans to offer legislation to create an express lane at polling locations, where voters whose IDs are verified can run their ballots right through the on-site tabulators.

“It seems like a really basic thing you can do,” he said.

Klein also recommended establishing an early deadline for traditional signature-verified mail-in ballots to be received. She recommended cutting off these ballots a week before Election Day.

If voters miss that deadline, they could still drop their ballots off at early vote polling locations (which ended the Friday before the election) or on Election Day by simply showing their IDs.

“If Gov. [Doug] Ducey would call a special session, we could implement some changes that I think would be fair to everybody … basically making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Klein said.

She added that he “will certainly be a hero for Arizona” if he does.

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