By Corinne Murdock |
The Maricopa County Elections Department spent $10,000 on two of the same custom ballot mascots last February, according to records. That price is within the normal range of costs associated with custom mascots – they typically cost several thousands of dollars. In a statement to AZ Free News, Maricopa County Elections Department spokeswoman Megan Gilbertson explained that the mascot was necessary to mitigate updates to the elections equipment and the fresh outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a new ballot style, new equipment and a global pandemic, Maricopa County wanted a way to ensure voters had the information they needed to successfully and safely participate in elections in 2020. Voter education can help keep polling place lines shorter by providing voters with critical details about election deadlines and important election information. The Elections Department and Recorder’s Office created BeBallotReady. Vote, a customized dashboard where voters can find election information and deadlines, sample ballots, voting locations, information about the new ballot and equipment, and more. Along with the dashboard, the County launched a coordinated campaign to inform voters about the new ballot and equipment as well as direct information about the 2020 elections. The spokesperson of the campaign was Phil the Ballot. The mascot costume was used in all of our videos and graphics during the election and has become a beloved and well liked figure of Maricopa County elections.
The department’s invoice was dated February 27, 2020. At that point, only one case of COVID-19 was discovered in Maricopa County at the end of January: an Arizona State University (ASU) student who’d traveled to Wuhan, China. Additional cases weren’t reported on widely until March, and the first known community spread case wouldn’t occur for over another week.
The county also told AZ Free News that they weren’t going to use the mascot, named “Phil the Ballot,” at any of their polling locations because photography isn’t allowed within 75 feet of any polling location.
According to the invoice, each mascot cost $4,450. The carrying bag set to hold both Phil the Ballot mascots cost $300, and the cooling system and fan for the costume cost $530 altogether. Shipping totaled nearly $464.
However, the elections department did get a discount of $200 for purchasing two of the same costume. The mascots came from Ohio-based Promo Costumes.
Phil the Ballot appears in instructional or informational videos posted by the department on YouTube. These videos cover various topics, such as how to request a one-time ballot or how to locate a voting center. One of Phil the Ballot’s videos published several weeks before the 2020 presidential election even discussed how Sharpies could be used to mark ballots.