New concerns raised over Tucson all mail election

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TUCSON, Ariz -- When voting this year, residents won't be heading to the polls.

Weeks ago, Tucson's city council voted to make the switch to an all vote by mail election. It was a decision that stirred up controversy.

But news of missing mail ballots in Sahuarita is causing concern.

On April 5 the council weighed whether or not Tucson can handle an all mail election. And after hearing from the public, council members decided the answer was yes, an all vote by mail election was the best way to go.

"It's just a way of ensuring people cast their votes, regardless of how they cast their votes," said Tucson council member Karin Uhlich.

But that day, questions were raised about how safe an all vote by mail election would be.

"While those ballots are probably very secure while in the postal office's care, they are not secure while in a mailbox," said an attendee of the early April forum on the all mail election.

Those concerns are growing after the U.S. Postal Service misplaced 85 ballots in Sahuarita's election.

"I'm anxious to hear more from the postal service on what occurred," said Uhlich.

Council members were briefed on the situation in an email from City Clerk Roger Randolph.

But Randolph made sure to note, "this does not involve the city of Tucson."

The Pima County GOP, however, is still taking the opportunity to criticize council for its decision.

Chairman Brian Miller writes, "With a larger election and higher stakes, these mistakes will only be magnified."

"It would be a concern regardless of the transition," said Uhlich.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich says there's reason for concern, but it's an opportunity to improve the system long before Tucsonans cast their votes.

"It gives us an opportunity to find out what happened and to work to make sure there's added security," said Uhlich.

Uhlich says she wants the public to know that the way Tucson votes may be changing, but the integrity of the election will remain.

"The message really is that we're committed to a secure election system with absolute integrity and real accountability for voters.  And that will not change," said Uhlich

Councilman Steve Kozachik issued a statement regarding the lost ballots:

What the council just put into place forces people to rely on the postal service, or potentially have to drive 20-30 miles on election day to cast their vote.  The mayor and council should have listened to the citizens who were clear in telling us that they wanted the polling place option preserved.