Recent changes to rural residents’ mailing addresses led to a voting fiasco on Election Day when people arriving at the polls complained they never received early voting ballots.
“We knew we had an issue before we opened the polls,” said Election Director Linda Eastlick.
County officials became aware of the problem when the recorder’s office started receiving returned ballots. Starting July 1, the post office stopped delivering mail to highway carrier (HC) addresses. Residents must use physical addresses.
“People were calling us, asking where their ballots were,” said Gila County Recorder Sadie Dalton.
All told, 1,414 registered voters had highway carrier addresses, and roughly 250 of those voters are on the permanent early ballot list.
During the election, those on the early ballot list had to vote provisionally, and then
county officials had to make sure those voters hadn’t already cast ballots.
“Most people are understanding. Some people of course get very frustrated,” said Eastlick. “But anyone who’s having an address issue — they need to contact the recorder’s office.”
Payson Postmaster Pam Campbell-Vinson said the switch from highway carrier addresses to physical addresses started over a year ago, and residents have received at least two notices — one in February 2009 and another in May of this year.
“This isn’t a requirement by us,” said Campbell-Vinson. “This is a requirement of the county.”
After 9/11, governments started changing highway carrier mailing addresses to physical addresses to simplify emergency services.
“I’ve talked to people who have told me, ‘I’m not going to do it,’” said Vinson-Campbell. “Some of them just don’t want to be found. Others, that’s the address they’ve
had for 18, 20 years and, ‘I’m not going to change it.’”
After the post office stopped delivering to the HC addresses, those residents had to call the rural addressing department in Globe to find out their physical address, and then call the post office — and the recorder’s office — to notify them of the changes.
This election marked the first after the change.
For some people, the recorder was the last person they thought to alert to a changed address. Just because the post office has the right address, doesn’t mean the recorder has it.
“They let their bank know — but never thought about the election department,” said Supervisor Tommie Martin. “A lot of people are saying they were denied a vote.”
Vinson-Campbell said she called the county to ask if officials wanted the post office to deliver the ballots anyway, and the county county said no. “I don’t think they realized at the time what a stink it was going to make,” said Vinson-Campbell.
Adequate identification may have spurred another problem. If a voter didn’t change the address on his driver’s license, then he couldn’t use it to prove his identity at the polls.
Headed into the general election, county officials are working with the postmaster to find a solution so people on the early voting list can receive ballots and other election material.
“It’ll just become a bigger problem,” as more people turn out for the general election, said Eastlick.
To register your new address with the county, you can visit the recorder’s office in Payson, the library or at the county office on Highway 260, next to Fargo’s.