Friday, November 16, 2012

Arizona Voting Still a Mess

Arizona picketers want assurance all votes will be tallied

By Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Dan Nowicki and JJ Hensley
The Republic |

Arizona election workers still have about 163,500 of the 600,000-plus ballots uncounted on Election Day to plow through, including 120,000 in Maricopa County.

Most are provisional ballots.

At an evening rally Thursday, people “dedicated to voter justice” picketed outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office in downtown Phoenix, “demanding all votes be counted.”

Their message was clear: Regardless of the outcome of this election, we will be a force to consider in the future.

Brendan Walsh, chairman of a political-action committee that sought to unseat Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett agreed to meet with Walsh and other representatives after they sent Bennett a letter expressing their concern with the way the election was handled, particularly the delay in counting votes.

“Even the State of Florida, widely considered to be the poster child of dysfunctional election administration, completed its vote count several days ago,” the letter read.

Bennett has been in contact with members of the groups in the past week and is aware of their concerns, according to a spokesman.

Walsh said he is specifically concerned that election officials seemed unprepared for the influx of new voters that groups such as Unite Here, a hospitality-workers union, have registered in recent years.

“We want assurances that the processing of ballots can handle the new voters we’re going to bring into the system,” Walsh said.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell has said that rallies and sit-ins would not speed up counting, and that all valid votes will be counted.

State law gives the counties through today to verify and process the remaining early and provisional ballots. But counties can seek an extension, and Maricopa County and Pima County are doing so.

The Congressional District 2 race between Democratic Rep. Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally remains too close to call.

Cochise County finished counting its ballots Thursday without giving McSally the boost she likely needed to overtake Barber. As of Thursday evening, Barber was leading McSally 139,993 votes to 139,070 votes.

Pima County still was processing most of its 27,000 provisional ballots. Brad Nelson, Pima County elections director, told The Arizona Republic that workers had counted about 925 provisional ballots Wednesday and hoped to count another 9,000 by late Friday.

There also are fewer than 140 early ballots left to count, Nelson said. Pima County hopes to be completely finished by early next week, he said.

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