With two days left before the end of Scottsdale’s special 2019 bond election this Tuesday, voter turnout is already exceeding turnout in the last bond election back in 2015. In 2015, 25 percent of eligible voters cast ballots; as of Oct. 29, 25.7 percent had voted.
The election determines whether or not the city is authorized to issue up to $319 million in bonds to pay for infrastructure, public safety and parks projects throughout the city.
The bond issue was not the only thing on the ballot for many Scottsdale voters.
Voters within Scottsdale Unified School district boundaries, which primarily includes Scottsdale residents but also parts of Phoenix, Paradise Valley and Tempe, will decide whether to continue the district’s existing 15 percent maintenance and operations budget override.
As of Oct. 29, the county received 25.7 percent of Scottsdale voters' ballots in the city bond election, according to the city.
The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and Scottsdale Unified School District did not respond to a request for the number ballots returned in that district’s election.
However, the county received 44,631 ballots as of October 29. That's up by roughly 7,000 compared to the 2015 election, where 37,766 bond election ballots were in.
Five days before Election Day in 2015, the county received 28,202 ballots – over 16,000 fewer ballots filed so far in this year's bond election as of Oct. 29.
The increase in early votes could largely be the result of a new change implemented for this election, by the county.
This is the first time the county conducted an all-mail-in special election, which included voters not on early voting lists.
This year, the county sent out ballots to the 173,547 registered voters in Scottsdale. In 2015, only 94,590 voters received ballots by mail.
If history is any indication, the decision to switch to all-mail-in ballots should not have a detrimental effect on overall voter turnout.
Historically, early voters cast the vast majority of votes in off-year elections in Scottsdale.
In the 2015 bond election, early votes accounted for over 93 percent of all votes.
In the 2013 special bond election, early votes accounted for just over 89 percent.
While turnout in 2019 is trending well ahead of 2015, it still lags far behind expected turnout in elections where other local, state and national issues motivate greater participation.
In the last three off-year elections in Scottsdale, voter turnout hovered between 18.5 and 29.4 percent.
That is less than half of the 71.4 percent of Scottsdale voters who participated in last year’s general election, which included a number of issues that likely galvanized voters, including a City Council race and Proposition 420, along with contests for state and federal lawmakers.
Historically, turnout in Scottsdale bond elections increase when bond questions share the ballot with other major issues.
The city’s 2010 election –which included two bond propositions, seven charter amendments and a city council race – had a voter turnout of 62.5 percent.
Voters who still wish to turn in their ballots can do so in person at voting center, but it is too late to mail ballots.
The county recommended placing ballots in the mail by Oct. 29 to ensure the recorder’s office received them by Nov. 5.
There are two voting centers in Scottsdale at the Indian Bend Wash Visitor’s Center, 4201 N. Hayden Road, and at the Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park, 8950 E. Pinnacle Peak Road.
Ballots can also be delivered to Maricopa County Elections at 510 S. Third Ave. in Phoenix or 222 E. Javelina Ave. in Mesa.
For voting center hours of operation: scottsdaleaz.gov/elections.