Election workers in Maricopa County processing ballots that have been returned by voters

With just 13 days to go until Election Day, hundreds of thousands of Arizonans have already cast their ballots, and elections officials in Maricopa County elections officials are counting them.

On Oct. 21, FOX 10 got a look at the ballot processing and signature verification process.

"We have processed more than 748,000 ballots," said Erika Flores.

Counting at the Maricopa County Department of Elections began on Oct. 20.

Officials detail ballot verification process

Elections officials talked about what happens once a person returns a ballot, either by mail or by drop off, and the ballot gets to elections officials.

It all starts with the voter's signature.

“We use the signature here to verify this ballot was really cast by the voter that’s on this code," said Flores. "Each envelope has a code unique to the voter."

The signature verification takes place in one room, where at least two people will have to verify a signature, followed by a final audit, before the signature is confirmed. Meanwhile, watchers - one selected from the Democratic Party and the other selected from the Republican Party - look on.

"Once that’s verified, teams of differing parties separate the ballot from the envelope," said Flores.

Roughly 100 people at any given time are making sure the ballots and the envelopes match. There are 1,800 unique ballots in Maricopa County. The rooms are under 24/7 surveillance.

The verification process makes it incredibly hard for a voter's vote to not count if they make a mistake. Elections officials will reach out to the voter in multiple ways if there’s a question about the signature or envelope. The number of ballots not counted has dropped the past three elections.

“Because our staff works so hard at contacting each voter that we have a question about their signature, it’s actually below 1%," said Flores.

After all of that, if the ballot looks good, it’s time for the ballot to get counted at tabulation.

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