Early voting

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters in Santa Cruz County are now on the Permanent Early Voter List.

With next Tuesday’s primary election just days away, the number of registered voters in Santa Cruz County is roughly equal to previous years. The Permanent Early Voting List, however, has swelled significantly.

A total of 28,849 local voters are currently registered, according to the County Recorder’s Office. That number represents modest growth over the 28,238 registered voters at the time of the 2018 midterm elections and 26,276 in the 2016 presidential election year.

But the ranks of voters on the so-called PEVL jumped more than 50 percent since 2018, from 11,755 in that year to 18,199 now, according to data provided by the Recorder’s Office.

That means 63 percent of county voters are on the PEVL, which is still below the state average. Figures from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office show a total of 3.99 million registered voters in Arizona for the August election. The secretary said in a February press release that there were 2.7 million voters on the PEVL statewide.

In the Aug. 4 primary, county Democrats will have the chance to vote for party nominees in statewide elections as well as contested local races, including sheriff and recorder.

Local Republicans have a choice for their nominee in the U.S. Senate race and for the Arizona Corporation Commission, but most local Republicans are running unopposed in the party primaries.

All voters in city limits, regardless of party affiliation, can also choose up to three candidates in the Nogales City Council elections

In Santa Cruz County, Democrats outnumber Republicans a little more than 3-to-1 in total registrations as well as PEVL registrations.

Some early voters in Santa Cruz County have already made their choices: 4,863 ballots had been returned as of Tuesday, according to the Recorder’s Office.

The increased interest in voting by mail is likely due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Polling places will still be open, with precautionary measures in place, but County Recorder Suzie Sainz told the NI in June that her office was encouraging local voters to sign up for the PEVL, or at least request a one-time mail-in ballot.

Local organizers for the Democratic Party also said they were prioritizing signing voters up for the PEVL.

Even so, nearly 20 percent of voters on the PEVL – a little more than 3,400 people – were not sent early ballots for the Aug. 4 primaries. That’s because some PEVL voters didn’t specify which ballot – party or non-partisan – they wanted to receive.

In the end, a total of 14,758 mail-in ballots went to PEVL voters in Santa Cruz County – 10,695 to Democrats and 3,285 to Republicans.

(The Recorder’s Office sent out two notices to undesignated PEVL voters giving them the opportunity to choose a party ballot, according to Cristina Rojas, a clerk at the office.)

Another 186 mail-in ballots were sent to voters who requested a one-time early ballot, Rojas wrote in an email, and 49 people had voted early in-person at the Recorder’s Office as of Thursday morning. Friday is the last day of early in-person voting.

Among all county voters, there are 14,541 registered Democrats (50 percent of the total), 4,793 Republicans (16.6 percent), 33 members of the Green Party, 1,622 registered Independents and 155 Libertarians. Another nearly 8,000 voters are “party not designated” or “other.”

Voters who received a mail-in ballot but still haven’t sent it back can bring their ballot to the Recorder’s Office or a polling place on Election Day.

The general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3.

(Additional reporting by Genesis Lara.)

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