FLORENCE– February 2008 might seem a long way off, but not if you are a Pinal County elections worker.
"Everything has to be tested, working, ready and accurate when Pinal County residents choose their presidential candidates on February 5," Gilberto Hoyos said. Hoyos, a native of Douglas, is the Elections Director for Pinal County.
The Presidential Preference Election has been moved from the fourth Tuesday in February to February 5, or "Super Tuesday" when voters in many other states first go to the polls to choose the leading presidential candidates. Not later than Monday, February 18, 2008, residents will know who Arizona voters will see on the November 2008 ballot for President of the United States.
Today, the Pinal County Elections staff is busy proofing ballots and testing machines for the November 6 election. Voters on that day will decide three school district budget overrides (Apache Junction, JO Combs, Sacaton Elementary), the potential incorporation of Arizona City and the Stanfield Fire District's adoption of the national fire code. By statute, adoption of a fire code, even the national code, has to be approved by voters.
"Most people don't realize that elections can legally take place in four different months," Hoyos explained. "March, May, September and November are the consolidated months for city, town, school district and special district elections."
State Legislators recently passed a law that all financial issues – overrides and bonds – must be voted on in the November elections. That's a change from the past when overrides and bonds could be presented during any of the four election months.
"Immediately following the certification of the votes in the November 6, 2007 election, we start the big countdown to Super Tuesday," Hoyos added. "In reality, we are already working toward Super Tuesday but the heat is turned up in mid-November."
"Needless to say, every four years, I have to be the bad guy again. Our Elections team will have happy holidays but no extra time off," Hoyos said with wry smile.
Early voting, or voting by mail, starts on January 10, 2008. The last day to mail early ballots will be Jan 25, 2008.
Once the Super Tuesday Presidential Preference Election is over, the Elections Department is immediately preparing for the primary, presidential and statewide general election on November 4, 2008. March and May 2008 will host six city or town elections and possibly some school district and special district elections.
In order to directly participate in the administration of elections – to count ballots and officially certify election results – Hoyos and his staff of five must pass a certification course every two years. The certification process covers new election-related legislation, timelines, technologies and voting requirements such as the new law requiring photo identification or two forms of non-photo identification. Every member of the staff is certified as of September 26.
Since 1982, Hoyos has been heading up elections in Pinal County. Prior to this, the Cochise County native joked that he "donated ten years to Pima County."
Pinal County has 120,355 registered voters as of today.