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Thu, Aug. 13

Safety a priority as Mohave County heads to the polls

KINGMAN – Arizona voters will head to the polls in the middle of a pandemic on Tuesday, Aug. 4 for the Arizona Primary Election.

The county’s 37 polling places, including eight in the City of Kingman, will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Voters will choose candidates for Kingman City Council, Mohave County Sheriff, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors and numerous special districts for the Nov. 4 General Election.

Many Mohave County residents chose to vote by mail this election, but no voter will be sent away from polling places – masks or no masks, according to county Elections Department Director Allen Tempert, who is preparing for the upcoming Election Day, and Mohave County Recorder Kristi Blair, who was responsible for early voting.

Tempert said the county will be following Arizona Polling Place Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Safety measures will include face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and tape on the floor to encourage social distancing.

“All the above will be supplied to the poll sites (and will be) available for the public and poll worker use,” Tempert said.

But those safety measures won’t necessarily be mandatory for poll workers and voters.

“If face masks are required to be worn by local ordinance the poll workers in those areas will be required to wear them,“ Tempert said. “In addition, if the poll site facility requires face masks to be worn in the facility then the poll workers will be required to wear them.”

While Blair said masks will be made available to voters at polling places, they are not required.

“We will not disenfranchise the voters," she said.

According to Blair, in the 2016 primary election the county received about 20,000 mail-in ballots. This year, that number is about 28,000.

The county population is growing and that meant a lot of new party registrations, too.

As of July 6, 2020, there are 127,522 active registered voters in the county, and over 18,000 inactive voters who could still show up and vote. About 64,000 of active voters are Republicans, 20,000 are Democrats and over 42,000 are independents.

“I would say a good increase of Republicans,” Blair said about this year’s registrations. “A slight increase of Democrats and Independents.”

Independent voters must choose between the Republican and the Democratic ballot when they vote, unless, Blair said, they choose to vote only in the city election.

“That’s when they are interested in voting only for the mayor and the council,” Blair said.

Asked if the county was experiencing problems with staffing of poll sites like other parts of the nation are experiencing, Tempert was serious and concise: “Yes,” he said.

“I had some difficulties,” Blair said, offering more details with her experience with early voting. “There were people whose doctors advised them not to do it. We scrambled but still were able to be successful.”

The county offers curbside voting, Blair said. She added that she has not received any requests so far, and voters are advised to submit such requests in advance.

At the same time, she said, “if someone would call us and say I’m sitting in my car with a ballot, we would definitely accept it.”

The higher number of mail-in ballots could delay vote counting, but Tempert said he does not expect delays in the process of voting itself.

“Only if a lot of people show at the poll sites causing longer lines due to the difficulty of staffing poll sites to maximum capacity,” he said.

Preparing for the election during COVID-19 took more effort, Tempert and Blair confirmed.

“It took staff additional time to order PPE supplies,” Tempert said. “We have been ordering supplies and getting them where we could since last March.” Those expenses will be covered by federal coronavirus relief funding.

“I had some additional expenses,” Blair said. “I also needed additional staff to sanitize voting booth and tables.” She said that her office expects to be reimbursed.

Tempert said there is no change in the voting equipment from last election.

And what if a voter is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms on the day of the vote?

“Then they should stay at home,” Tempert replied.

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