Election month has arrived, with early voting underway in the city of Tucson's primary election as of Thursday, Aug. 11.
The only primary race that matters is between Democrats Steve Farley and Nina Trasoff in midtown Ward 6. The winner will face Councilman Fred Ronstadt, a Republican seeking his third term. (See last week's "Battle Royale" for the scoop on the primary.)
Close to four out of every 10 voters will likely vote early, if current trends hold. Early voting has grown in popularity with every city race since the Arizona Legislature loosened absentee ballot rules in the early '90s, in hopes of increasing turnout.
Early voting has had little or no impact on the overall percentage of voters who cast a ballot, but those who do vote are increasingly inclined to do it by mail. In the 1999 city primary, about 15 percent of voters cast an early ballot. By 2003, that number had skyrocketed to nearly 39 percent.
The increase can be largely credited to candidates who have learned to lock in support by pushing early voting. Today's sophisticated campaigns collect early-voting requests and carefully time their delivery to election officials to better track supporters and coordinate campaign mailers or phone calls. High-speed campaigns also frequently check lists of outgoing ballots to target other early voters.
Requesting an early ballot is a surefire way to get candidates to reach out and touch you, if you're into that kind of thing.
A factor that could increase the appeal of early voting: The new requirements of last year's Prop 200, which require voters to show ID at the polls.
But those requirements probably won't be in place for the September primary, says Tucson City Clerk Kathy Detrick, because of a squabble between Gov. Janet Napolitano and Secretary of State Jan Brewer over the details of implementing the new rules.
"Obviously, anything can happen, but it seems like it's awfully close to the date of the primary election to have rules in place," says Detrick. "But if there were to be rules in place, we would certainly follow them."
You'll find early ballot requests at local libraries, neighborhood centers and City Hall. Or you can request your early ballot by calling the City Clerk's Office at 884-VOTE (that's 884-8683) or by filling out a request online.
If you want to cast a ballot the old-fashioned way but still crave the excitement of voting early, you can visit a satellite voting booth between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at City Hall, 255 W. Alameda St., and at the Election Support Services headquarters, 800 E. 12th St. (The latter site will also be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) They'll also have booths set up at varying hours at the Wilmot Library, 530 N. Wilmot Road. For details, that number again is 884-VOTE.
Seriously: It couldn't get much easier.
Last week, Trasoff picked up the endorsement of Congressman Raul Grijalva.
"She has the intelligence, values, professional background and ability to develop constructive solutions, when constructive solutions are so badly needed in our city," Grijalva said in a letter. "I consider Steve Farley a decent person and emerging leader in our community and have the utmost respect for him and his causes. However, I believe Trasoff is the better candidate to guide us in a new direction."
The Grijalva endorsement is the latest in a string for Trasoff, who has also landed support from labor unions, Stonewall Democrats, Democracy for America-Tucson, the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus and the morning daily. The Sierra Club has endorsed both candidates.
So much for Kromko v. City of Tucson. Supporters of the referendum on the $14-a-month trash-collection fee lost a round in court last week and appear thoroughly punch-drunk.
Earlier this year, former lawmaker John Kromko took too long get his shit together to launch a petition drive to put the garbage fee to a public vote in November.
Last month, City Clerk Kathy Detrick rejected Kromko's signatures, after a cursory review showed that he did not have the minimum 11,615 necessary to force a referendum.
Kromko sued, saying Detrick improperly rejected several hundred signatures that would have put him over the top.
Without addressing the merits of the case, Pima County Superior Court Judge Ted Borek ruled that Kromko took too long to get his shit together to file his lawsuit.
If you're a Ward 6 resident and you want to cast your ballot in the aforementioned Democratic primary, get y'self registered as a Democrat or independent before Monday, Aug. 15.
You'll find registration forms at local post offices, libraries and lots of other government offices. To comply with the new Prop 200 rules, be sure to bring your driver's license or another document that proves you are a U.S. citizen. DNA samples are not yet required.
Details? Call 740-4330 or visit www.recorder.co.pima.az.us.