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Students campaign for early voting list as Arizona officials square off

While ASU and NAU groups call voters to bring awareness to the early voting list, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes is encouraging mail-in voting


"The Permanent Early Voting List allows voters to make a single request to receive an early voting ballot by mail for all future state and national elections." Illustration published on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. 

With Arizona emerging as a critical swing state in the 2020 elections, ASU and NAU Young Democrats teamed up Saturday calling over 1,000 voters to raise money for their organizations and bring awareness to the Permanent Early Voting List

The Permanent Early Voting List allows voters to make a single request to receive an early voting ballot by mail for all future state and national elections. 

While NAU and ASU Young Democrats are working to bring attention to the early voting list, a broader conflict exists between Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, state legislators and other officials. Fontes wants to send mail-in ballots to all Maricopa County voters as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but some Republican legislators feel the switch is unnecessary.

In over 1,000 calls to voters, ASU and NAU Young Dems raised more than $780 in donations to help reach their spring semester funding goals. During the calls with voters, the two groups encouraged them to register for the Permanent Early Voting List to avoid potential complications at polling sites due to the coronavirus. 

"Obviously, there might be issues if all of this is still going on in August for the primary (election) and also in November (for the general election)," said Cameron Adams, a global studies sophomore and president of ASU Young Dems. "We think it’s really important that people are signed up to get their ballot in the mail in case it’s dangerous to go to the polls." 

Meanwhile, Fontes is leading an effort to change voting procedures by pushing for elections conducted mostly with mail-in ballots in 2020 in order to address the ongoing fear of spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the New Coronavirus. 

As of April 29, the Arizona Department of Health Services' website reports there are 7,202 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 304 related deaths.

Fontes' plan is to keep in-person polling sites open but to strongly encourage voters to vote by mail to "stay healthy."

"None of the models completely exclude in-person voting — in fact, all of the models have robust in-person voting," Fontes said. "But mailing every voter a ballot in the first place is the single best way we can run a solid election during this COVID-19 pandemic."

This is not the first time Fontes has led an effort to mail ballots to voters during the coronavirus pandemic. Days before the 2020 Democratic presidential preference election on March 17, Fontes printed thousands of ballots to be mailed to all registered Democrats, including those who had not requested an early ballot in Maricopa County.

READ MORE: Arizona officials scramble to provide alternative solutions to in-person voting for preference election

The move was blocked by a Superior Court judge, who signed a  temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Other officials, including the Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, also opposed Fontes. 

"The Recorder's Office under Adrian has taken more of an activist role than an administrative role," said Stephen Richer, a Republican candidate for Maricopa County Recorder. "Trying to say what the law should be rather than applying the law as it is written."

Current law allows the county recorder to send applications to register for the Permanent Early Voting List, but it does not permit the recorder to mail ballots to voters who have not signed up for the list. 

To Fontes, the obstacles in mailing ballots for the upcoming elections are "purely political, nothing more."

"There are some people who are more concerned with their political advancement than they are with the interest of voters, and that is very sad," he said. 

Today, about 80% of registered Arizona voters are signed up to receive early voting mail ballots. While both parties acknowledge the value of the early voting list, the controversy still lies in mailing ballots without legislative support to those who are not signed up for the early voting list in Maricopa County. 

"He is of course allowed to voice his opinion as to what the law should be," Richer said. "What he’s not allowed to do is just write the law himself."

More information about mail-in ballots can be found at

Fontes said he wants to make sure the voting process is safe for all.

"I don’t want to see people get sick and die unnecessarily," Fontes said. "We’re in a face-to-face business and because of the virus, we can’t be face-to-face anymore. So, we have to find appropriate alternatives."

Clarification: This story was updated April 30 at 8:40 a.m. to better clarify how Fontes' order was blocked and to provide more information on state leaders who opposed the move.  

Reach the reporter at and follow @kevinpirehpour on Twitter. 

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