A total of 3,585 Payson residents had voted in the Town Council election as of Monday, and Town Clerk Silvia Smith is encouraging the remaining 5,000 registered voters to get their ballots in as soon as possible.
"We heard a rumor that scared the daylights out of me," Smith said. "(We heard) that approximately 1,000 people are holding their ballots until Tuesday (March 14) because they don't want them handled too much."
If that happens, the final tally will be delayed until possibly Friday, March 17. That's because Gila County will not verify the signatures on ballots turned in Tuesday until Wednesday.
As it currently stands, the town plans to begin counting the ballots on Monday, March 13, instead of waiting until Election Day.
"We talked to some municipalities, and the one closest to ours in estimated votes had its first all-mail election without punch cards in September," Smith explained. "They had 4,000 ballots and it took them from two in the afternoon until nine at night to run that many ballots. It's a lot slower than punch cards."
The current town schedule calls for the counting equipment to be tested at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, with the actual vote count getting underway at 9 a.m. Monday, March 13. The scanning machines are leased from Election Operations Services, which provides an operator for the counting process.
"We'll probably count from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m. on Monday, and then Tuesday we'll start at 9 a.m. until whenever," Smith said. "We'll have preliminary results sometime after 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
"We will be able to announce Tuesday evening how many ballots are outstanding, because we go to the post office at 7 p.m. and get any ballots that have been dropped off," Smith said. Equipment testing and vote counting sessions are open to the public.