By Cecilia Chan, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Daniel Gonzalez
Voters complained Tuesday about long waits for provisional ballots, with more than 50 percent cast in some precincts in west Phoenix, according to 12 News.
Provisional ballots are given to those who don’t show up on the poll roster or fail to produce proper identification. Polls in Arizona are now closed.
Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, a group that has been trying to increase the number of Latino voters in Arizona, says that provisional ballots are shaping up to be a "huge issue."
She said many voters in heavily Latino districts are being told their names are not on the voter rolls and therefore they have to vote by provisional ballot. Some also have been told they signed up for early ballots. She said her organization has called Maricopa County election officials to report the issue.
She said at the Stump precinct in southwest Phoenix, 300 of the 400 voters as of early afternoon had to fill out provisional ballots. The precinct is located at Union Elementary School, 3834 S. 91st Ave.
"We don't know why it's happening," she said. "We are trying to find out."
Falcon said 82 volunteers from Promise Arizona had been going door to door in Latino neighborhoods since 6 a.m., encouraging people to vote.
Francisco Heredia, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said a polling place in south Phoenix opened this morning 45 minutes late. The group has been working to increase the number of Latino voters in Arizona.
When a volunteer from his group arrived at the Roeser precinct at First New Life Church at 19th Avenue and Roeser there was a line of more than 20 people outside waiting for the polling place to open. Polls were suppose to open at 6 a.m.
Heredia said his group has also received many calls from voters concerned they had to vote by provisional ballot.
"They wanted to know if their vote would count," Heredia said.
He said the voters who said they had to vote by provisional ballot were a mixture of first-time voters and others.
The Mitchell Park precinct in Tempe reportedly ran out of provisional ballots. It took about two hours to get additional ones to the location, prompting many voters to leave without voting.
Voters in other parts of the Valley have also encountered issues with provisional ballots.
Shannon Johnson said she waited in line for hour an a half to get a provisional ballot because her Gilbert precinct ran out of envelopes to put the ballots in. The woman forgot to update her address when she moved from Chandler.
“They just stopped helping people because they ran out of envelopes,” Johnson, 35, said.
Johnson said she noticed that a handful of people left without voting.
Ray McGuran said he waited 2.5 hours in line to cast a provisional ballot in Glendale.
“I got in at 11 a.m. and got out after 2 p.m.,” McGuran said. “There were at least 50 people with provisional ballots.”
He said polling officials told him he had received an early ballot, which he said he never requested and never received and was required to use a provisional ballot Tuesday.
“I ended up dragging a folding chair around with me,” the 67-year-old man said. “The time it took was unnecessary.”
When Jason Whiteside, 32, a sales representative for Pepsi, showed up to vote at The Gathering Place in north central Phoenix, he was told he could not fill out a regular ballot because his name was on a list of voters who had requested an early ballot by mail.
Whiteside said he doesn't recall ever receiving the early ballot. To vote, he had to fill out a provisional ballot.
Kristina Proctor, 59, said she has voted in every election since 2001 and never had a problem until Tuesday.
After she was sent to three different polling precincts because poll workers could not find her name on the voting roster, she was finally given a provisional ballot, Proctor said.
“I don’t think they ever get counted,” she said.
Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said the county has had a larger than normal amount of provisional ballots cast at polling places this year.
Voters are casting their ballots on a number of key races, including U.S. president.
Osborne said the reason is many voters ordered an early ballot but went to the polls to vote without it.
“The biggest group we have of people who vote provisional is those who ordered an early ballot,” Osborne said.
There several reasons for that, Osborne said. Many voters claim they never got their ballots, which could be true or a family member could have misplaced it. Others mailed their ballots, but are worried the ballot won’t get there in time to be counted, so they vote at the polls, she added.
Provisional ballots is to ensure the voters don’t vote twice – at the polls and by early ballot.
The county is now estimates provisionals could be as many as 100,000, Osborne said. The record number of provisional ballots for an election is 101,000, she said.
Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell is estimating that 100,000 early ballots will be turned in at the polls on Election Day.
Adding that to the provisionals means there is 175,000 to 200,000 votes that won’t be counted on Election Day and might not be counted for several days, and maybe not for a week.
Osborne said the county won’t be finished counting anytime soon, and it could be as long as 10 to 12 days before results can be finalized.
Reporter Domenico Nicosia contributed to the story.