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It was just a few short days before Halloween in October 2012. Petty Officer Second Class Scott Bourque was stationed in Japan and had just received his mail-in absentee ballot for the presidential election. He knew it would be nearly impossible to fill out his ballot and mail it back in time for it to be counted by Arizona Election Officials on Nov. 6.
“I think it was kind of disheartening to get it late,” Bourque said. “It just felt like the state didn’t care about us … they didn’t want us to vote, not that they were trying to suppress us, just that we were an afterthought.”
Today, Bourque could have voted on time with Arizona’s electronic ballot mailing system.
Beginning in 2004, overseas Arizona voters could request that ballots be sent to them electronically, but they still had to return ballots by mail or fax. That changed in 2014, when Arizona allowed military and overseas voters to return their ballot via the Internet or by fax up to 7 p.m. on Election Day.
The voter’s county sends a notification through email to the military or overseas voter that his or her ballot is ready. The voter signs into the secure system electronically, fills out the ballot, and scans it back into the system to be returned electronically to county election officials. The voter’s county recorder’s office then receives and processes the ballot.
Maricopa and Pima counties have the most military and other Arizona citizens living abroad, including about 10,400 registered voters in 2012, according to the Election Assistance Commission. Helen Purcell, Maricopa County Recorder said helping to advance technology for military voters and overseas citizens was personal because her own son had been unable to return his ballot in time by mail.
“My son was stationed in Iraq in Desert Storm,” Purcell said. “I could get a ballot to him. I couldn’t get it back in time to count it. I didn’t want that to ever happen again, to anybody. Because it seems to me that those people should be more the ones allowed to vote than anybody else.”