Courts, election officials preparing for coronavirus

A microscopic image of COVID-19, the virus causing the coronavirus. Photo by NIAID-RML | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

With a third person in the state diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, Maricopa County election officials and courts are preparing for a possible outbreak.

An administrative order by the Arizona Supreme Court allows for the 24-hour operation of one or more courts and an “on call” status for judges to hear any claims concerning emergency measures taken by local or state government officials.

It also allows courts to transfer cases to superior court and to reassign superior court judges to hear cases filed in municipal or justice courts, and allows the use of alternate forms of documentation, such as electronic signatures.

It authorizes constables and other court personnel to “serve process” if the sheriff is unavailable. 

Courts are also authorized to conduct proceedings using audio, video or “other means that allows all parties to fully participate.” 

State election officials also are making plans.

“My goal is to make sure voters are able to cast their ballots in a manner that is safe and meaningful to them,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in a press release, urging voters to request an early ballot for the March 17 primary by today’s deadline.

Hobbs said that county election officials are working alongside the Department of Health Services and the Secretary of State’s office to make sure the election runs smoothly. 

Steps they are taking include ensuring that backups are in place for poll workers, encouraging frequent handwashing, disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and encouraging those with a fever to stay home.

The deadline to request an early ballot today is 5 p.m.

State health officials are monitoring 250 people who may have been exposed to the virus.