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5 Things To Know About Arizona’s Democratic Presidential Primary

Aside from its unusual name (Presidential Preference Election, or PPE), here are some important things to know about how our state will vote in the race Iowa so messily kicked off. 

1. The PPE is March 17, but that’s not the only important date. 

If you are not registered to vote, you must do so by Feb. 18. (Go to servicearizona.com.) 

The next day, Feb. 19, is when mail-in ballots go out to people on the Permanent Early Voting List, which election nerds call the “PEVL.” If you join the PEVL, drop your completed ballot in the mail by March 11 to ensure it arrives by Election Day. You can also bring your ballot to a voting location on or before Election Day. 

Military and overseas voters get their ballots even earlier than PEVL voters. Those have already gone out this year. ( Go here for more information.)

2. Only registered Democrats can vote in the PPE.

The PPE is is what’s called a “closed” election. It’s different from Arizona’s typical primary elections, held every two years, where independents can choose to vote. Here, you have to register as a Democrat to participate (again, servicearizona.com.) 

The Republican party is not holding a presidential preference election this year

3. The Arizona PPE is run by the counties. Many rules are in state law.

Conversely, the Iowa Caucuses are run by political parties in that state.

“I’m trained and certified in the election process,” said Lynn Constabile, the elections director for Yavapai County. “Parties have all kinds of things that they do. So I think it is an important distinction.” 

Constabile and Leslie Hoffman, Yavapai County’s recorder, said they were both state and nationally certified in election procedures.

But government-run elections are not trouble-free. Maricopa County has had its share of embarrassments in recent years, including long lines during the 2016 presidential preference election and a 2018 primary election where many polling places took hours to open.

4. There will be candidates on the ballot who have publicly dropped out. 

Arizona’s contest is later in the primary season, long after the state’s official list of candidates has been finalized and ballots printed. This year, Julián Castro, Cory Booker, Marianne Williamson and John Delaney are set to appear on the ballot even though they have publicly withdrawn. More withdrawals are sure to come before Democrats vote in Arizona. 

“If a candidate does drop out and they tell the secretary of state that they’re withdrawing, then we can put up a sign in the polling place, we can put up a sign at early voting,” said Constabile. “But if they don’t officially tell the secretary of state, we’re not allowed to put up those signs.”

As of Feb. 4, only Booker has sent that official letter

This is an important detail for mail-in voters to keep in mind, because if you vote early in the election cycle and then your candidate drops out, you’re not able to vote again, Constable said.

5. You can check the status of your early ballot in Maricopa County.

Maricopa County voters can go here to see if their ballot was received.

Want more info? There's a PPE town hall on Feb. 15.

Bret Jaspers was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2017 to 2020.