Coconino County Voter Registration Reaches Record High Ahead Of Unprecedented Election
Voter registration in Coconino County has reached an all-time high with less than two weeks to go before the Nov. 3general election. Officials have put safeguards in place expecting a likely record voter turnout amid concerns about election security, voter intimidation and public health in the COVID-19 pandemic. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius spoke with County Recorder Patty Hansen about the lead-up to one of the nation’s most anticipated elections.
More election information including a list of polling and ballot drop-off sites as well as voting guidelines can be found at coconino.az.gov/elections.
Ryan Heinsius: How would you gauge participation in this year’s election compared to others?
Patty Hansen: Well, it’s definitely a record-setting year. We’ve had an additional 7,430 people register over the amount we had in November 2018. So we’re very excited about that. Arizona is one of the battleground states, so people realize, I think, this election their vote’s really going to make a difference in the outcome nationally. And also, we have a competitive U.S. Senate race going on, and I think that’s bringing a lot of people out.
RH: How has the pandemic affected planning for this election?
PH: Well, it’s given us many challenges this year. Several of our polling places this year we have moved to schools because we wanted social distancing for our voters to be able to vote during the pandemic. On the Navajo Nation, we have worked with the secretary of state’s office and they’re delivering hand-washing stations to our polling places because they don’t have access to running water. All of our poll workers are going to be wearing masks and we’ve supplied face shield, gloves, disinfectant. We’re also requiring all of our voters to wear masks because the county has a mask ordinance in place. We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that it’s a safe voting experience for the voters and our poll workers.
RH: What steps are you and county officials taking to ensure election security and ballot safety?
PH: We’ve always taken security in elections very, very serious. But this year we’ve added some additional things to our security system. We received a grant from the Help America Vote Act to increase some of our cyber security and our physical security at our offices. We’ve also implemented new procedures for transporting ballots. I feel certain that our elections here in Coconino County are very secure.
RH: Are you concerned about unofficial poll watchers who may show up on Election Day and whether some of them might try to intimidate people casting ballots?
PH: Arizona law is very clear that the only poll watchers that are allowed into our polling places or early voting sites are people that have been officially designated by the Republican or the Democratic party. There’s only one allowed at each location from each party. And they have to have their credentials with them. Arizona does not allow anybody to designate themselves to be a poll watcher. Now, we have been working with the Flagstaff Police Department and the County Sheriff’s department to talk about security at our polling places on Election Day. I think we have a very good plan in place. I’ve been here 17 years and I’ve never seen any problems with people at our polling places so I’m hoping that will continue this year.
RH: What is your biggest concern in the final weeks and days leading up to the election?
PH: That there may be a lot of activity at the polling places on Election Day. We have enthusiastic voters on both sides of the political spectrum this year, and I think that there’s going to be a lot of campaign activity at the polling places. It’ll be outside of the 75-foot area. I hope that people will be calm and they’ll put their enthusiasm in check a little bit and follow our laws and be respectful to each other.