Adelle Abrahams on her 97th birthday

In 1940, Adelle Abrahams cast her first ballot in a presidential election. “I voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” Abrahams said, “and I went in person to vote in my very first election.”

But in the years since, Abrahams, 97, has been voting by mail, something more people are doing this year as a result of the pandemic. As soon as Abrahams’ ballot arrives in the mail, she marks it quickly.

“I’m going to take it directly to the post office,” she said. “I’m going to take it in and hand it to the person at the counter. I’m taking every precaution.”

In 1991, Arizona’s legislature changed the election law to allow any voter to obtain a mail-in ballot for any reason. Before that change a voter had to provide a specific reason they couldn’t go to the polls in person on Election Day. The new law spurred a cascade of people choosing to vote by mail. In the last decade, a majority of registered voters in Arizona chose to vote early and by mail.

Allie Bones, Arizona’s assistant secretary of state, said that the state is more than ready to handle the number of mail-in ballots it expects to receive. “The primary election numbers were historic,” she said. “We had more participation, higher turnout and about 88% of voters participated by mail. If we see numbers similar to that for the general election, we anticipate that Election Day will be just as smooth as it was for the primary election.”

Annette Michaels, 93, is somewhat nervous about the election and whether her ballot will arrive in time. But as someone who has voted in every presidential election since she was 21, she takes her civic responsibility seriously.

“Voting is not a chore,” Michaels said. “Voting is something that is much more meaningful than just something to do. It’s our gift to ourselves to be able to vote.”

As a resident at The Palazzo, Michaels will have access to a secure drop box for her ballot; that ballot, along with others, will then be picked up by a representative from Maricopa County Elections.

Michaels said she will use the drop box, although she thinks the mail would be as safe. She’s always voted, and said voting is too important to skip. “Just do it!” she said.

Kaylie Medansky, director of Temple Chai’s social action programs, works with volunteers to inform voters about registering to vote, signing up for the permanent early voting list and how to vote by mail. “Our goal is really providing everyone with all of their options,” she said. “We’ve also had a number of people want to get involved, because this is something close to their hearts, and they want to volunteer.”

Harriet Robbins, 83, is a veteran of voting by mail, and is confident that her vote will count this year as it has in the past. As a longtime former poll worker, Robbins encourages people to volunteer. In all her time as a poll worker, she said she only experienced one “irritating man.” In general, she said, it was fun and interesting, and she met a variety of people.

Poll worker recruitment is a focus for Bones’ office as well as the governor’s office this year. “The average age of the typical poll worker is over 65,” Bones said. “We are asking that younger folks and people without health conditions step up and help volunteer to be a poll worker and help with democracy.”

So far, thousands have inquired about volunteering, she said.

Robbins said the only drawback to being a poll worker was that it was an exhausting day. “You have to be there at 4 a.m., and you don’t get out until 7 in the evening,” she said. “I even thought about it this year. But it would be too long a day for me.”

Arnold Wininger, 93, sees this year’s contest as a critical election. Since he first came to the United States in 1949 after losing his parents and brothers in the Holocaust, he has valued the country’s free and fair elections and what they represent. Once he became a citizen, he became a diligent voter.

“I follow the democratic principles of this country,” he said. “I’m waiting for my ballot. I have to vote by mail, and I’m not worried about it.” JN

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