3OYS: Voters concerned with personal information being exposed

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Sure, you can go to the polls and wait in line just to cast your ballot. But nowadays, the majority of people take advantage of early voting, where you fill out your ballot at home and mail it in.

For example, remember the Phoenix vote on the one-cent sales tax initiative? Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell says mail-in voting for that issue was huge.

"Ninety-five percent of the people who voted in that election voted by mail," she told 3 On Your Side.

Purcell ought to know. As county recorder, she's responsible for maintaining voter registration rolls, and it's her office that recently mailed out early registration notices to voters.

"We sent out a 90-day notice to every voter who is on our permanent early voting list," she said, "and that's just to say, are you still there at your address? Do you still want to vote early?"

But it's the information on the card that's raising eyebrows. You're supposed to provide, of course, your name and address but also your date of birth.

With no envelope included and no postage required, you mail the card back and that information exposed. Some voters say they're not comfortable with that.

"I'm a victim of ID theft already," one voter told us. "I lost my birth certificate and some more ID stuff, so I'm kind of skeptical about that."

Another voter said, "You know, there's too much identity theft. I just wouldn't fill it out and mail it."

Purcell says she understands the concerns but that the only people who handle the card are postal workers.

"Are you concerned that somebody is going to see that? Who is going to see it? Somebody at the post office, possibly? I really don't think they're going to look," she said.

Well, postal workers might not look, but what if the card is lost or falls into the wrong hands? Purcell says there's a solution.

She recommends filling out the card but putting it inside an envelope, and then mailing it back to the county. That will protect your information and make you feel a little better.

"If you're not sure how it's going to be handled, what's going to happen to it, then put it in an envelope and send it back to us," Purcell recommends.

This issue of sensitive information being exposed on the back of a card comes up nearly every year, county officials say.

Some voters say the county is already stuffing an envelope with documents, registration cards and other information mailed to voters. So, would it be feasible to put the ballot an envelope as well? Purcell says doing so would be cost-prohibitive. 

So, if you're interested in registering and voting early by mail, fill out the registration card, place it in your own envelope and add a stamp. That way, no one will see your personal information.