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11/9/2012 5:02:00 PM
350,000 early ballots still uncounted in Arizona
Secretary of State Ken Bennett
Secretary of State Ken Bennett

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- The state's chief election officer promised Friday to look into problems in counting ballots this year but said it appears the system is working the way it should.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett acknowledged that as of Friday there were more than 350,000 early ballots statewide that had yet to be counted. On top of that there were another 172,000-plus provisional ballots that needed to be reviewed to determine if they, too, should be counted.

But Bennett said all the concerns raised about the number of people who were forced to cast provisional ballots this year is misplaced. And he said there is no evidence that specific groups were targeted.

He said the percentage of the approximately 1.8 million voters who were given provisional ballots is virtually identical to what it was in 2008, the last presidential race.

More to the point, he said Arizona's provisional ballot system is designed to deal with problems that develop, whether it's people who are not on the rolls when they show up to vote, those who show up at the polls without necessary identification, or those who simply wonder whether the early ballot they just mailed will be counted. The process then requires election officials in each county to then verify, on a ballot-by-ballot basis, if the person was eligible.

He said if history is any indication, about 70 percent of those provisional ballots will eventually be verified to be from registered voters and their results counted.

But Bennett said there will be a post-mortem analysis.

"We go through what happens in each county, machines breaking down in one county, untrained poll workers, if there were some, in others,' he said.

In some cases, Bennett said, it may be that voters just need better information. For example, he said, it may be there needs to be a bold notice on the outside of the return envelopes of early ballots that it would be best to return them several days earlier.

That, however, is not a legal requirement. In fact, those who received early ballots can turn them in on election day at any polling place.

About 400,000 Arizonans did just that. And Bennett said sorting them out slows up the entire process.

That still leaves the question of all those forced to cast provisional ballots, even with Bennett saying there has been no net increase.

He said there are legitimate reasons that some who show up on election day are not on the registered voter list. One big one, Bennett said, are those who register to vote less than 29 days before the election, the legal cutoff.

There were other problems.

Bennett said Yuma and Yavapai counties tried an experiment where anyone could show up at any polling place. Election workers would then determine where they live and print out a ballot for that specific voting precinct on site.

"Some of those machines had troubles,' Bennett said.

"If they broke down, some of the lines got a little longer than Yuma County or us would like to see,' he continued. "And those are the kinds of things we'll review in the next few weeks, after all the work is done to count the ballots.'

And Bennett said that, as far as he knows, everyone who wanted to vote on election day got to vote.

He also said there is no evidence that certain minority groups were being singled out for special scrutiny or additional hurdles.

"Provisional ballots come in from every precinct, from every voting location,' he said. And Bennett said anyone who doubts that is the case will get a chance to check for themselves.

"Eventually, all of the votes that are counted will be identified in the precincts,' he said. "If somebody wants to look into whether there is a pattern of treating one group of people differently than others, all of that data will be available for the counties to evaluate and other groups to look at as well.'

One thing that has changed in some counties is the increased use of "voting centers,' with residents of several precincts sent to a single location.

Much of that has been attributed to more people voting early, meaning fewer people actually going to the polls on election day. But Bennett said they also "present challenges that have to be worked through,' like positioning them so as not to inconvenience too many voters.

And Bennett said that the slow pace of counting should not be seen as a failure of the system.

"Our number one goal is not speed,' he said. "Our number one goal is accuracy.'

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: Maybe I missed something

I agree William.

My household has been voting by mail for years. This year I didn't get my ballot, the USPS sucks you say? Well there are FOUR of us at this address and NONE of us got our ballot. I kept calling and they said to wait, we are still mailing them, finally I demanded new ballots be sent . . . I was told each of us had to call individually, but the day before I was able to double check and make sure all four of us were on the list. I said we vote by mail, because we ALL work during your business hours except me . . . I want to talk to your supervisor, we are being disenfranchised. I spoke to the supervisor at 4:45 PM, I had my ballots the next day!

No shenanigans you say . . . well we are three registered Independents and a Democrat. Somethings pretty fishy in Arizona and it aint the Verde River!

Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Article comment by: William Fraatz

How can anyone be certain nothing improper or illegal is happening? My wife and I both mailed in our voter registration forms, requesting early ballots. I registered as an Independent and was duly registered and received mt ballot, My wife registered as a Democrat and received no confirmation of her registration and no ballot. At the polling station she was told they had no record of her. Only a partisan would say there is no appearance of wrong-doing here. Sad as it is to admit it, there are still people say they believe in democracy and are yet willing to steal elections. And when the potential thief is in charge of the investigation, is it any wonder that the system continues to function badly?

Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Article comment by: Slater Slater

350,000? sounds like the number of Medical
Mariquana card holders.Tell me I'm paranoid.

Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Article comment by: Gene Pool

Sheesh, folks, cool your cheese. There is nothing wrong or illegal going on with the vote count. It is just slow and can sure be improved, but that is almost always the fault of the various County Elections Departments, especially in places like Apache County. Maricopa County hasn't even completely reported yet to the state. Early ballots are not counted as soon as they come in. By law they can only be counted on election day. More than half of voters voted early - that is a bunch of ballots on top of the Election Day votes coming in. Early ballots are for YOUR convenience, not to speed up the vote count. Not gonna happen. I'd rather the count be slow and right instead of fast and wrong. The count doesn't change the REAL outcome, it just changes the numbers as we know them. If you made your own conclusions about who won without all the ballots counted, that's your fault.

Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Article comment by: Kayo Parsons-Korn

7,700 ballots in Yavapai County haven't been counted yet? This isn't just sad, it's a fraud. This includes my and my husband's and my ballots. This could actually change the results of some candidates. Ken Bennett has a lot to account for.

Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Article comment by: Doesn't seem right

that so many votes clearly aren't valued. Sad.

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