Arizona Secretary of State predicts large turnout for presidential preference election

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, left, and Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan speak at a news conference Monday about the presidential preference election. (Photo by Gabrielle Abbott/Cronkite News)

Maricopa County election workers sort and prepare early ballots that have been mailed in prior to Tuesday’s presidential preference election. (Photo by Gabrielle Abbott/Cronkite News)

The state is ready for Tuesday’s presidential preference election, said Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell. But if Reagan had her way, this election wouldn’t be the state’s responsibility.

There have been nearly 1 million early votes statewide, Reagan said.

Of the early votes in Maricopa County, 271,801 have been Republican, 192,004 have been Democrat and 261 have been Green Party, according to Maricopa County Communications Manager Elizabeth Bartholomew.

Voters in Maricopa County will be able to vote in any of the 60 polling places from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“With the excitement and the interest that we have seen in this election, I am anticipating that we will have in Maricopa between 60 and 65 percent turnout, and that includes those people going to those polls,” Purcell said.

Voters who have not already mailed their ballot must drop it off at one of the polling places, Reagan said.

“If you still have your early ballot in hand, please do not put it in the mail today. It will not make it in time for tomorrow for it to be counted,” Reagan said.

Purcell said they have been preparing for the election for nearly a year, and have made changes to accommodate the projected turnout.

“Since we’re anticipating bigger groups at the polling places, that means more people,” Purcell said. “We’ve had to hire poll workers, we’ve had to hire people to process the ballots that you’re seeing in there.”

There will also be 20 “troubleshooters” working among the 60 Maricopa County polling places and five sheriff’s deputies available if there are any security issues, Purcell said.

The presidential preference election Tuesday will cost just short of $10 million, Reagan said, adding that taxpayers paying this cost is the reason she supports House Bill 2567.

A voter needs to be registered with the Democratic, Green or Republican parties to take part in the presidential preference election. Independent voters are the state’s largest block, according to latest numbers from Reagan’s office.

“If you’re not going to allow one third of the participants from actually participating in it, then why are they forced to pay for it. That’s the only argument that I’m making by running the bill that I’m running at the legislature,” Reagan said. “That and I need six million more dollars to give to the counties because, to put it in perspective, it costs $10 million, just short of $10 million, to run the statewide election tomorrow, and my entire election budget at the Secretary of State’s office is $2.1 million.”

The bill, which has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate, would eliminate the presidential preference election and leave the future of choosing the nominee to the political parties.

In a February press release Reagan said, “By returning control of national convention delegate section to the parties we are empowering them to decide for themselves the best way forward. Parties might conduct an internet election, a mail ballot open to all Arizonans or adopt an Iowa-style caucus. The (election) is about parties doing party business and they should do what they think is best for their members.”

The legislation would also cover some costs of the 2016 presidential preference election, Reagan said.

“I’m not advocating for a caucus system. I’m advocating for the taxpayers to not have to pony up 10 million bucks when everyone can’t participate,” Reagan said.