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Saturday, October 22, 2016

by Suevon Lee, ProPublica

It’s been two weeks since Election Day, but it’s not all over in Arizona. Thousands of early and provisional ballots remain uncounted. These votes aren’t actually expected to impact any more races — just one state legislative race is too close to call — but the prolonged vote count has drawn national attention.

So what’s the reason for the delay, who have been the most vocal critics and why did so many ballots take so long to be counted? We take a closer look:

Exactly how many provisional and early ballots were there in Arizona this year?

Out of an estimated 2.3 million votes cast, more than half consisted of early ballots. More than 400,000 of these weren’t actually turned in close to or on Election Day, catching county elections officials off guard. Arizona voters cast roughly 171,000 provisional ballots this year.

How many votes were left uncounted following Election Day?

About 602,334 votes in all, which includes those early and provisional ballots. The vast majority of these ballots came out of Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county and voting district. There, nearly 440,000 early ballots were still uncounted the day after Election Day. And at least 115,000 provisional ballots were issued in polling locations across the county.

As of Tuesday morning, Maricopa County was still counting roughly 34,450 of those ballots. The state has until Dec. 3 to certify final election results.

Were there more provisional ballots in Arizona than past years?

Yes, but it’ll be roughly the same proportion. In 2008, voters cast 151,799 provisional ballots — or about 5 percent of the total vote. That’s about the same percentage the state will see this year, according to the Arizona secretary of state’s office.

What is notable is the concentration of the overall bump in provisional ballots. They’ve largely originated out of Maricopa County, where in 2008, voters cast 99,826 provisional ballots (compared with 115,000 this year) and neighboring Pima County, where in 2008, voters cast 17,912 provisional ballots (compared with 26,194 such ballots this year.)

Is that why it’s taking so long to count these votes?

That’s one reason. Before they can be tabulated, provisional ballots have to be checked to confirm a voter’s eligibility and that they were cast in the correct precinct. For early ballots, the signature on the envelope must be independently verified. Arizona has also seen a decreased number of polling locations this year as the result of redistricting. The delay is not new to this election. “The media seems to believe that things are taking longer than four years ago, but they aren’t,” Arizona secretary of state spokesman Matthew Roberts told ProPublica. “Our counties completed their work in 15 or so days last time, and that’s what we are expecting this year.”

How many state races are still pending?

As of Tuesday, the local media reported that just one state House seat remained too close to call as the result of Maricopa County’s untabulated votes. But that’s hardly been the only — or most significant — delay. It took nearly a week for the state’s 9th U.S. congressional district to see a winner. And it took until just this past weekend for a victor to be declared in the seat once held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Democrat Ron Barber edged out his opponent, Republican Martha McSally, by just 1,402 votes.

Despite the fact that the most crucial races are settled, the vote count continues for other reasons. “We wouldn’t want to disenfranchise Arizona’s voters that cast a ballot,” Roberts said. “We don’t necessarily have any value on who’s winning or who’s losing — we just want to make sure they’re accurate.”

So why have some Arizona groups been vocal in protesting the delays?

Because they contend that provisional ballots were issued to a disproportionate number of minority Hispanic voters — many of whom are first-time voters. Petra Falcon, president of the voter advocacy group Promise Arizona, told ProPublica her organization helped register 34,000 new Latino voters this year in Maricopa County alone.

However, Falcon said some of those registered reported never receiving a free voter registration card or a requested early ballot in the mail. Others showed up at their polling location only to be told they were not on the voter registration list and that they’d have to cast a provisional ballot instead. Falcon said she didn’t have exact figures on the number of complaints.

A national voter rights hotline illustrates the kinds of problems voters encountered this year. One person called to report that a polling location in South Phoenix was “running out of provisional ballots because they are providing so many.”

Another caller in Maricopa County reported that many voters “were denied provisional ballots even when provisional ballots were requested. Ran out of provisional ballots and people were turned away.”

The outcry in the election aftermath led Pima County to assure voters that “provisional voting is designed as a ‘fail-safe’ method to allow voters to participate in an election even if problems occur.”

What else led to these snafus?

According to Matt Roberts, the secretary of state’s spokesman, voter error can’t be ruled out. “It’s possible they didn’t receive an early ballot, or far more likely they lost or misplaced it,” he said. As far as the missing names on voter registration lists, he said: “It’s hard to say why that would occur. Would I tell you the system is 100 percent every time? Of course not, there’s not a system that’s going to function perfectly every time. That’s why we have provisional ballots.”

Yet Falcon says the day before the election, at least 6,800 voters signed up by Promise Arizona were not appearing in the state’s official voter database. “How do we know that all of our voter registrations were accounted for on their end with so many new ones coming in?” she said. “These are the questions we’re asking because there’s obviously something broken in that part of the system.”

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  • Look out Florida there is somebody else trying to steal your thunder. Pathetic and shameful.

  • nobsartist

    they only have 10 fingers and 10 toes.

    We need a new federal law that governs ALL elections. I do not like my rights violated by a states interpretation. this must be fixed or soon there will be big trouble.

    state officials must wind up in prison. There is a long list of elected felons in michigan that need prison time starting with the governor.

    brewer needs to take responsibility and go to prison also.

  • Why? Because some of its citizens flunked arithmetic when they were in elementary school. Seriously, people like them are an embarrassment to our country. They are making the USA and our electoral process look like something straight out of a banana republic. Shame on them!

  • It’s easier for them to steal an election in Arizona and Florida, they have to see how many dead people votes that they need to come up with. The longer they take, the more they can confuse the populace.

  • Any state that is control by the GOP will try anything to frustrate or hamper or create a problem if they know that the person voting is a DEM . And trust me if your any color other then white your a problem to the state .

  • onedonewong

    Just another reason for mandatory voter ID laws to stop all this illegal voting. When you have 20 precincts that voted 100% for obama or when you have 10 precincts in miami dade and brower where they had more votes than population. Coupled with military voter supression and you have a dem win

    • Florida is one of the states that voter fraud happened in before the election was done by an outfit that the National Republican Party recommended the state Republican party hire to register voters and wasn’t caught until 4-6 weeks before the election. You seem to forget that Romney also had precincts that voted 100% for him. How was the military vote suppressed? You are one of those Republicans that forget how Bush 2 won his 2 times in the White House, dangling paper tags in Florida and the Supreme Court in 2000 and in 2004 the county in Ohio that had more people voting than there registered to vote, happening after a Republican secretary of state told Bush 2 that he would win that county and the state of Ohio, which he did.
      Also mandatory voter ID doesn’t stop fraud, in Georgia there is a case where while a man was in the hospital someone used his picture ID to vote early and this wasn’t discovered until a week later when the man that had been in the hospital went to vote early and was told he had already voted when he hadn’t. So all this bull about voter ID stopping fraud this case shows it doesn’t. Voter ID laws that were enacted just 8 -7 months before the election, and waiting to purge voting rolls 6-5 months before the election both of these are voter suppression which is the only way the Republicans knew they would win and even with all that, they still lost.

      • onedonewong

        Voter fraud in Florida started in 1996 when ACORN was at fully funding from the taxpayers. The voter roles in FL are being purged due to acorn, naacp and laraza that continue to submit voter cards for the dead, illegals and felons.
        There were NO precincts that voted 100% for Romney anywhere in the US.
        Military voters were suppressed by 6 states that never mailed their absentee ballots on time and that a plane went down carrying ten’s of thousands of absentee ballots and couldn’t be replaced rough;y 200,000 military members couldn’t vote. You can be sure that HBO or Oliver Stone won’t make a special about this suppression.
        W won the vote in Florida after 3 recounts while dems wanted to pretend they were the Great Karnark and devine voters intention, that’s what the SC decided, they didn’t have that ability.. In Ohio W won by over 120,000 votes it wasn’t even close.
        Voter ID will stop the largest avenue for voter fraud ABSENTEE Ballots where illegals have submitted over 3 million ballots in 2012. That’s why Holder and Barak took those states to court to stop the enforcement.
        just like Naacp and laraza going to prisons an registering inmates to vote even though they are barred by law.
        As far as making folks provide a picture ID the federal govt required it come Jan 1. Anyone receiving a govt check has to have direct deposit which means a bank account with REQUIRES a picture ID to open