More polling places closing

Voting by mail has become very popular.

So popular, that 60% of Pima County's voters have signed up for the permanent early voting list.

By signing up, the voters get a ballot in the mail automatically every election.

It's convenient, cheaper for the county and increases turnout.

So what's not to like?

Plenty it seems.

The county will pare its polling places down from a high of 411 to 244 in the next election cycle.

All voters will get a bright yellow card with their polling place vividly marked.

Even so, more than 2,000 voters went to the wrong polling place in the past election.

"It's not always where you went last time," says Brad Nelson, the Pima County Elections Director.

"I went there and it was closed," said Erlita Salazar, who says she looked at her yellow card and saw the word church and tossed it.

But, turns out, it was a different church.

"It was my fault," she says.

She spent the day trying to find her polling place.

"It took all day. I didn't go to work," she says.

She gets around by bus so each stop took a while but she finally voted at the right place.

"I wanted my vote to count," she says.

"It is necessary for them to be in the correct polling place for that ballot" to be counted says Nelson.

But it's not just wayfinding.

In the past election, nearly 27,000 voters who received early ballots showed up at their precinct to vote on election day, ignoring the fact they could have voted by mail.

Those voters will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot but it must be verified.

That process can take days, if not weeks.

The voter must first be checked to see if they're registered, voted in the right precinct and signature matched to make sure they are who they say they are.

It must also be verified whether they voted twice.

"It's very costly," Nelson says.

Off the top of his head, and an estimate on the fly, Nelson believes it costs about $2 to print and send a mail in ballot.

But if the voter doesn't use it and votes provisional, then he believes it can cost up to $15.

Which is why the state legislature is involved trying to find a solution.

"Education is the key," Nelson says.

But there may soon be education after the fact as well.

He believes that any voter who ignores the early ballot may get a letter from the county recorder which may say something like, "Dear Sir or Madam, you've signed up for the early voter list and your actions in the most recent election seem to indicate you don't want to vote early anymore. Should we keep you on the list or not?"

The new precinct lines should be approved by late November.