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Huckelberry: Pima vote count could take another week

Nearly 310,000 left to tally across Arizona

With some races being decided by just a handful of votes, it could take Pima County until next Thursday to wrap up its vote count. Broken election machines and a high number of difficult-to-read ballots have slowed the process, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said.

"We anticipate approximately 14,000 ballots will be counted and posted to the Election returns webpage by the close of business today," Huckelberry said in a memo to county supervisors Thursday afternoon. We expect that all ballots will be tabulated by next Thursday, Nov. 13, with the exception of write-in votes that must be hand-counted."

With more than 40,000 ballots left to count on Thursday morning, Huckelberry said that a "higher than average number of ballots that cannot be read by the existing scanners" and two broken ballot scanners were contributing to the long count.

Several close races hang in the balance, from the CD 2 contest between Ron Barber and Martha McSally, to the LD 9 House race that has just 8 votes separating Ethan Orr and Randy Friese.

Election results: Updated live

Statewide, there were still more than 309,000 ballots awaiting tabulation across the state, according to data released by the Secretary of State's Office.

As of noon Thursday, those ballots included some 210,000 in Maricopa County, nearly 28,000 in Pinal County, and Pima County's remaining ballots. Most other counties had between 3,000 and 7,000 ballots left to be tallied.

Thursday morning, there were 41,155 ballots left to tabulate in Pima County, county spokesman Mark Evans said.

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Not all ballots will be valid. The reason for the delayed count is the process of reviewing early ballots returned on Election Day, to ensure that duplicate ballots were not cast by individual voters, and the verification of provisional ballots.

Voters can drop mail-in ballots at polling places on Election Day, so officials review the voter rolls to ensure that voters do not vote more multiple times. Otherwise, a voter could drop a mail-in ballot and vote in person at the polls.

Provisional ballots are cast by voters who do not have the proper ID, who are not listed on the rolls of the polling place they are casting a ballot at, and for other reasons. For voters who lacked proper ID, they have until 5 p.m. next Wednesday to provide proof of their identity at the County Recorder's Office, in order for their vote to be counted.

In Pima County, there are 31,055 early ballots that must be counted, including those ready to count, being processed, or being duplicated because of ballot defects.

There are about 5,000 Pima ballots that must be duplicated prior to counting because they were damaged, including torn and stained ballots, Evans said.

Officials said an updated count will be released around 6 p.m. Thursday, pushing back from an earlier announcement that new results would be released at 4:30 p.m.

"Both the Elections Department and Recorder's Office will work through the weekend to complete the count," Evans said.

That data showed that Pima had 34,248 ballots to tabulate, while county officials said the total number is about 41,155, up from a total released earlier Thursday of 37,500.

County officials have the most up-to-date data on the ballot counts, said Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office.

Election memo from Huckelberry

  • Date: November 6, 2014
  • To: The Honorable Chair and Members
  • Pima County Board of Supervisors
  • From: C.H. Huckelbery
  • County Administrator

Re: Update of Ballot Tabulation

As of this morning, there are approximately 40,000 ballots left to count in Pima County.

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These are broken down in round numbers below:

  • 6,400 processed ballots ready for tabulation that will be counted today.
  • 19,000 early ballots that have not yet been processed by the Elections Department. Processing of early ballots is time-consuming, as it is done by two individuals from different political parties who first inspect each ballot envelope in a batch of approximately 300 received from the Recorder to .ensure the number of envelopes and the voter names match the information provided by the Recorder. The individuals then open the envelopes and separate the ballots from the envelopes; perform a quick check to see if there are marks on the ballots that will prevent them from being read by the scanners and, if so, send them for duplication; verify again the number of ballots matches the Recorder's numbers; and, finally, that batch of early ballots is ready for tabulation.
  • 9,800 provisional ballots cast at the polls that are being verified by voter registration. The majority of provisional ballots are cast because the voter requested an early ballot but failed to vote and return it. Provisional ballots require a great deal of time to process compared to early ballots, so the processing of provisional ballots will be relatively slow.
  • 5,000 ballots in need of duplication.

We have a higher than average number of ballots that cannot be read by the existing scanners that will require duplication. The scanners cannot read these ballots because they have been marked by the voter in a manner that does not allow the ballot to be read by the scanner. This is a higher than usual number of ballots for duplication, which continues to confirm the necessity of voting equipment replacement.

Finally, the central count scanners that have been used to tabulate all early and provisional ballots in the past have begun to fail. One ballot scanner failed almost immediately and is not repairable. On November 5, another ballot scanner failed and is also not repairable.

We are down to five scanners for the balance of the election, which should suffice. We anticipate approximately 14,000 ballots will be counted and posted to the Election returns webpage by the close of business today. We expect that all ballots will be tabulated by next Thursday, November 13, with the exception of write-in votes that must be hand-counted.

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Click image to enlarge

via Pima County elections webcam

Pima County elections workers tally ballots Thursday afternoon.