By Diane Sweet
Voters in Arizona's Maricopa County encountered a series of problems when they tried to cast their ballots on Tuesday at their polling places.
Many complained about long waits for provisional ballots, which are given to those who don’t show up on the poll roster or fail to produce proper identification.
Officials with Promise Arizona in Action, an organization that advocates immigration reform and fights discrimination, said they are concerned that poll workers were given pre-election instructions that may have forced the huge number of provisional ballots. They also said numerous voters reported their names were not on lists used by precinct workers.
Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, said she was told that 200,000 provisional ballots were cast, as well as 200,000 early ballots. She said counting of those votes will not even begin until this morning and she feared the Maricopa County sheriff’s race would be called before then. And it was, with Sheriff Joe Arpaio beating Democrat Paul Penzone to win his sixth term in office.
“Four hundred thousand ballots — that’s a lot,” Falcon said. “Even if it’s an Arpaio win, those votes should be counted.”
Roopali Desai, Promise Arizona’s attorney, said the number of provisional ballots is “unprecedented” in Arizona — or anywhere. “Nobody can explain it,” she added. “We’re trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Nearly 460,000 votes in Maricopa County and more than 600,000 statewide had yet to be counted as of late Wednesday, clouding the outcome of several close Arizona races.
Some winners might not be determined for several days or even a week.
On Wednesday, more than 100 mostly Hispanic residents rallied outside Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell’s office. The group expressed concern over the number of provisional ballots, and some questioned whether their votes would be counted.
They claimed the Recorder’s Office was not reporting the number of outstanding provisional ballots, but offered no proof. Many went into the lobby and chanted, “Count my votes today!”
An update on Thursday shows the number of uncounted early and provisional ballots in Arizona is far greater than just the earlier reported 400,000...
Thursday's report cites numerous possibilities for the uncounted ballots, and Secretary of State Ken Bennett said the large number of provisional ballots is a positive sign. “It’s the mechanism we use in Arizona to make sure no one at the polls is turned away.”
Prior to election day, some feared that the race-baiting right-wing Sheriff Joe Arpaio could go down, and bring top Republicans down with him. But Arpaio was declared the winner over Paul Penzone before the early and provisional ballots were counted, and before many were even aware there were so many of them.