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Maricopa County considers spreading election over 2 weeks

A sign points to a local polling station for the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A sign points to a local polling station for the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona’s largest county is considering holding up to two weeks of in-person voting in the August primary election to reduce the risk that the coronavirus will spread among people casting ballots.
Maricopa County election officials proposed opening 75 to 100 “vote centers” where any registered voter can cast a ballot during a 10-to-14-day period before the Aug. 4 primary. The proposal was outlined Monday by Scott Jarrett, head of Election Day and emergency voting for the county, in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors. A final decision is expected next month.
Vote centers would maintain social distancing and cleaning protocols, and voters would not be tied to a neighborhood polling location.
About eight in 10 voters already cast ballots by mail, and the county also plans an advertising campaign to let the remaining voters know how to request a mail ballot.
The county could make the change without the approval of the Legislature under existing laws allowing for early voting, said Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the county’s Elections Department.
Election officials around the country are scrambling to come up with plans for safely carrying out the election this year.
Dozens of coronavirus infections were linked to Wisconsin’s spring election and presidential primary last month. Health officials there said at least 52 people who voted in person or worked at the polls later contracted COVID-19, though several of them also reported other possible exposures to the virus.
In Arizona, voting rights advocates have called on the Legislature to let counties mail a ballot to all registered voters regardless of whether they request one, while maintaining robust in-person voting options. That idea has received a frosty reception from Republican lawmakers, who hold the majority in the House and Senate.

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