The elections are over, but Latino activists in Arizona are up in arms over hundreds of thousands of early ballots and provisional ballots that haven’t been counted. They say the uncounted ballots could impact the outcomes of some races that already have declared winners.
As of Thursday night, 459,078 early ballots hadn’t been counted and an additional 172,196 provisional ballots still needed to be processed in Arizona, according to the Secretary of State website.
A majority of those uncounted ballots come from Maricopa County, where hundreds of volunteers worked hard to register Latino voters. There are 300,000 uncounted early ballots and 115,000 provisional ballots that have yet to be verified in Maricopa County, according to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.
The Arizona counties have until Nov. 16 to verify and process the remaining early and provisional ballots.
Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell told several media outlets on Wednesday that there was certainly a slight increase in the number of voters who were asked to fill out provisional ballots during Tuesday’s elections compared to past presidential elections. However, she said the increase wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Late Tuesday night, Maricopa County Department of Elections spokesperson Yvonne Reed also told VOXXI there wasn’t anything unusual going on in regards to the number of provisional ballots that voters were being asked to fill out at the polls.
“There are a lot of people who go online and check ‘yes’ where it asks if they want to be on the early voting list,” Reed explained. “When they go to the polls, they forget that they signed up to be on the list and they’re asked to fill out a provisional ballot.”
Latino voters face issues at the polls
But Latino voters and activists aren’t buying that. Hundreds of them stormed the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Wednesday and Thursday to protest the high number of uncounted ballots.
They also voiced complaints about the large proportion of provisional ballots and issues voters faced at the polling places located in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.
They said many voters were asked to fill out a provisional ballot because their names appeared on the list of voters who were signed up to receive early ballots. However, many voters claimed they don’t recall ever signing up to be on the list. Others said they did sign up but never received an early ballot in the mail.
Some voters were also told they weren’t on the list of registered voters and were turned away. And others were told the county gave them the wrong voting precincts.
All of the confusion created long lines. Even after the polls closed on Tuesday, there were still dozens of people lined up to vote.
Activists were alerted of these problems Tuesday afternoon after volunteers, who are trained to oversee polling locations to ensure they run smoothly, began noticing such issues.
January Contreras, an attorney and a trained poll overseer, told VOXXI that a total of 833 ballots were cast at three polling places she inspected in Phoenix. Of those, 486 were regular ballots and 347 were provisional ballots.
Contreras said other poll overseers noticed the same issue happening in various polling places that were located in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.
She doesn’t speculate that something “sinister” happened that caused a high volume of people to cast provisional ballots but said she wants the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office to address it.
“No one wants for the public to lose faith in the principle that every vote counts but only transparency and speed will counter that at this point,” she told VOXXI. “I believe everyone shares the goal to get 100 percent of votes counted, but let’s hope this happens with a sense of urgency so voters can rest easy and know that they didn’t waste their time at the polls.”
These concerns come two weeks after the Maricopa County informed Spanish speakers on two separate occasions that this year’s elections were on Nov. 8 instead of Nov. 6.
During a live interview with 12 News on Wednesday, Purcell acknowledged there were issues at the polls this year and vowed to address them.
“We’ll do better next time,” she said during the interview. “We’ll have to look and see what the situations are and see what we can do to help.”
Purcell also refuted allegations that most provisional ballots were handed out in largely-Latino neighborhoods.
“There is no particular area that we’re seeing them from,” she said. “They’re from everywhere, so I can’t see how they can say that they have been targeted.”
Uncounted ballots could impact races
In another interview with ABC15 on Wednesday, Purcell admitted that the uncounted ballots could impact the outcome of some competitive state races in Arizona.
One of the races she pointed to is Arizona’s 9th Congressional District duel between former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) and former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker (R). That race is still too close to call.
Latino advocates are also concerned with how the uncounted early and provisional ballots could impact key races, such as the Maricopa County Sheriff race and the U.S. Senate race.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 80, was declared the winner on Tuesday and will now serve a sixth term after defeating Democratic challenger Paul Penzone, a 45-year-old retired Phoenix police sergeant, by about 88,400 votes.
For the U.S. Senate race, Republican Congressman Jeff Flake pulled an upset against former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who ran as a Democrat. Flake led Carmona by 74,300 votes.
Penzone and Carmona conceded their races Tuesday night, but Latino advocates aren’t ruling out the possibility of both candidates losing. They say many of the early and provisional ballots that haven’t been counted are from Latinos they encouraged to turn out to vote in favor of Penzone and Carmona.
Though it is unclear whether there would be enough votes from the uncounted ballots to change the victor in both races, many Latino activists were upset that winners were declared Tuesday night without having all the votes counted.
“No race should be declared when we still have so many votes that haven’t been counted,” Contreras told VOXXI.