Maricopa County Voters With Personal 'Emergency' Can Cast Ballots Before Election Day

Ray Stern
Voters with personal emergencies can cast their ballots starting at 5 p.m. Friday in some locations.
Some voters have mailed in or dropped off their early ballots. Some plan to vote on Election Day.

Starting on Friday night in Maricopa County, there's another option. Voters who have an emergency of some kind that'll keep them from voting on Tuesday, November 3, can go to any one of dozens of voting locations and cast a ballot in person just like hundreds of thousands will do on Election Day.

This period starts at 5 p.m. on October 30 and runs until 5 p.m. on Monday, November 2.

You get to decide the nature of the emergency, and no one will ever question you on it, according to Maricopa County Elections and state law. Voters will need to provide identification and sign a statement attesting an emergency will keep them from voting on Election Day.

"The voter does not have to tell the poll workers what their emergency is," said Megan Gilbertson, communications director for Maricopa County Elections. Even if a government official wanted to question the emergency, state law gives the county and state "no authority to do something." (See update below on this.)

For the average working stiff who can't afford to take time off the job to stand in line for hours, predictions of epic lines and wait-times during this historic election may well sound like a potential emergency. (Although state officials say most voters will probably wait less than 30 minutes except during the peak times of early morning and evening. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.)

The only catch with emergency voting is that you have to not only figure out where you're going to vote but also make sure the polling place you want is open over the weekend and on Monday.  Not all of the county's 175 voting centers will be open then, but many will.

Check the county's site for information on voting center locations, and look for the link that says "Download a full list of locations here," or just click here for the list. It's a spreadsheet, but don't fear — it's easy to read. Just scroll right for the polling location hours from October 30 to November 2.

Voters in Arizona's 14 other counties will have to check local rules to see if emergency voting applies to them. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved the 2020 voting rules last month.

For all voting needs this year, Maricopa County voters can make use of any voting center in the county. The trick for emergency voting is to find one that's both convenient and open at the right time. Not all will be open after 5 p.m. on Friday, and only 20 locations will be open on Sunday. Once a voter has found the right place and signed the attestation, they can cast their ballot.

Voters with a filled-out early ballot can drop it off at any of the 175 voting center locations anytime those centers are open, including on Election Day. Also important to note: On Election Day, voters with early ballots don't need to stand in line with the people casting their ballot that day; they can walk up to the ballot collection area and drop it off in a secure dropbox.

Masks and gloves will be provided for voters who don't bring their own.

"Voters can track their early ballot by texting 'Join' to 628-683 or visiting BeBallotReady.Vote," county election officials said in a press release. "We notify voters when their ballot has been received, signature verified and sent to be counted."

Update: Gilbertson called back on Friday morning to say that her quote that officials had "no authority" to do anything about the attestations wasn't quite true. Someone could potentially do something, it turns out.

The attestation demands the voter attest under the penalty of perjury that an emergency is keeping them from voting on Election Day. In theory, the state Attorney General's Office could investigate a complaint that someone didn't have a legit emergency and had perjured themselves on the attestation. But "emergency" is defined in the emergency voting statute as "any unforeseen circumstances that would prevent the elector from voting at the polls. The list of excuses involving allegedly "unforeseen circumstances" is probably endless.

Asked for a comment on the breadth of the emergency voting law, a spokesperson for the AG's Office said, "We encourage our elected officials and voters to follow the law."