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Longtime Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez Overseeing Her Final Election

Published: Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 12:20pm
Updated: Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 12:48pm
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STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Polling sites opened around the state [Oct. 7], including in Pima County. That county's recorder, F. Ann Rodriguez, has held the post since 1993, and this will be the seventh presidential election she's been involved with, and more than 270 elections have been conducted under her watch. I spoke with her earlier to find out what Pima County is seeing with early voting there on [Oct. 7].

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 F. ANN RODRIGUEZ: This presidential election, plus, you know, the United States Senate, Congress and all the other elections here in Pima County, in the various elections that are impacting across the state, we have seen a huge increase of voter registration from the various groups — especially a lot of the groups that have been doing special mailers out to people. I mean, I got three of them; I house myself. And, but there's been a lot of opportunities for citizens to register to vote. Right now in Pima County, we have over 621,000 registered voters. It is the largest one. I went to the Cherrybell Post Office, which is the main post office here in Tucson, and met the two diesels that brought our ballots here in to be mailed in Pima County. So we mailed out, which is our largest load of 489,000 ballots that will be mailed out to the citizens of Pima County. And if you kind of like, do the math, you know, 620,000 registered voters but 489,000 are getting ballots.

GOLDSTEIN: So, as you mentioned, a huge percentage of Pima County voters requesting mail-in ballots. But with early voting starting on [Oct. 7], what did you see in terms of in-person voting? Obviously, early on in the process, were you surprised by what you saw?

RODRIGUEZ: We opened up three sites. We have already voted at our walk-in early voting sites.671 voters. We had lines out here, so we were starting to move them because the — the morning was cool. It's so hot here in October. So it's been a very successfully energized day. I think one of the things that's majorly, major difference is that because of all the national news going on, the national press going on about the post office and this — because of COVID, we've all had to be flexible and adjust our lives, so, you know, the counties, they are prepared for it. We've been doing voting by mail for two decades. I was the recorder that introduced the permanent early voting list, you know, with previous legislation, because this is what the public demanded it. But, you know, there's three options that people in the state of Arizona can, can vote: Voting by mail, go to an early voting site or go to your polling location on Election Day. So it's nothing new to us; we've had time to work out the kinks through the years and the decades, you know, Maricopa and Pima County being the largest counties. You know, we've have our own separate systems that have been modified, upgraded as technology has proved. The 13 counties use the statewide system. But, you know, we all have to — based on the size of the county and the size of our staff, you know, we, we I won't only use the word — we muddle through this thing, but we are prepared for it. I think what none of us were prepared for, it was number one is COVID. None of us were compared to all the rhetoric that goes on national TV and the talking heads. But, you know, the confusion across the country, you know, people in the state of Arizona need to pay attention to our Arizona state laws. We know what we're doing.

GOLDSTEIN: Well, let me ask you about your expectations for early voting. As you said, you've already had lines on [Oct. 7]. Are you expecting this early part — the next week, the next several days — to really see a large walk-up crowd of folks saying that, "Yes, I know how I want to do this and I want to make sure my vote counts."

RODRIGUEZ: We've never had the lines like we have today. But I've also was getting calls two, three weeks ago saying, "Why can't you give me my ballot? I'm ready to vote right now," because they thought they were going to turn off the ads on TV and quit getting the texts and the emails. You know, this is how the state of Arizona is, is conducted on this time. So to answer your question, I think a lot of people that are especially because of COVID, this is the first time going to be voting by mail, there are safeguards in that place. We check every single signature, every single county does that one. We call the voter, if we were questioning the signature, because sometimes the only signature we have on file is the motor vehicle. And remember, you're signing on a pad. Well, you know, when I go to score — the stores, when I used to, and use my debit card and my credit card, and they give me that pad, I don't put my real signature on that because I have no idea where it's going to. It's different when you signed a ballot with a piece of paper and a pen. And that's why we're calling you, because sometimes we can't really read that [Motor Vehicle Division] (MVD) signature. But I think we're showing a lot of interest in that, that's why all the counties, some counties have dropped — you know, they have these ballot box drops. Here in Pima County, II man all my ballot box drops. We're opened into evening. People could stay in their cars. They drive up curbside just like you're going through Starbucks, except you don't get a cup of coffee. You drop your ballot in the ballot box. It's manned by my, by three staff members and we bring them down to Central Count to start beginning the signature process.

GOLDSTEIN: F. Ann Rodriguez is Pima County recorder. She's retiring at the end of this year after 27 years on the job.

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