Polling places will be a thing of the past in future Marana elections.
The Marana Town Council voted 6-0 at an Aug. 9 study session to hold vote-by-mail elections.
Marana's next council election will be in 2013.
Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson told the council the longstanding tradition of going to the polls shouldn't stop the town from changing its election system.
She said a vote-by-mail system could increase turnout and cut the costs of holding elections. Election costs for the 2011 primary and general elections totaled $120,000, she said.
Bronson expects mail-ballot elections to reduce costs by 10 percent.
Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler said the convenience of all-mail elections will encourage more people to vote.
"I would like a lot more people to pick who sits up here," she said of the dais.
Of the roughly 18,500 registered voters in Marana, 18 percent, or 3,335 people, voted in the 2011 general election.
Only 98 of those voters actually went to the polls, though. The rest voted by early ballot, typically returned in postage-paid envelopes.
Not all council members were initially sold on the idea of scrapping polling places.
Councilman Jon Post asked if the town was ready for a new system.
"It's going to be a huge change in the way we do things," he said.
All-mail elections will make it easier for residents to vote, Post said, but he isn't sure if residents who are apathetic care how the town conducts elections.
Town Council candidates also could incur more campaign expenses with mail-in elections, he said.
Candidates reach out by mail to residents who voted in past elections, but with every registered voter now receiving a ballot, Post said, candidates will have to target all voters with expensive campaign mailers.
Mayor Ed Honea admitted to dragging his feet on a new election system for several years.
All-mail elections could change the outcome of races if people receive their ballots before candidates have had the chance to participate in debates or prepare campaign materials, Honea said.
He also wondered if a polling location would be open on election day to accommodate people who want to drop off a ballot they didn't put in the mail.
By law, jurisdictions that conduct vote-by-mail elections must operate at least one ballot-replacement location on election day, said Chris Roads, deputy recorder in the Pima County Recorder's Office.
Roads attended the council study session to take questions from the council.
Polling places will be open when Pima County holds regular or special elections because counties aren't authorized to hold all-mail elections, Bronson said.
The town clerk's office plans to conduct outreach to educate voters about the new system, Bronson said.
Councilwoman Carol McGorray finds value in vote-by-mail elections.
She already votes by mail and likes having the time to research candidates and the issues with the ballot right in front of her.
"It gives you time to study at your dining room table," she said.
Contact reporter Andrea Rivera at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-8430.