500,000 Uncounted Ballots in Maricopa County AZ With Elections In the Lurch

A great deal of the country breathed a sigh of relief and assumed finality and normalcy in the election after last night. And, at first, such was the case in Maricopa County, Arizona. But then it was revealed there were uncounted ballots, a LOT of uncounted ballots. Sources close to the Arizona Democratic Party and Adios Arpaio reported the uncounted votes as follows:

· – 200,000 early ballots were mailed in but not yet counted

· – 100,000 early ballots dropped at polls have not been counted

· – 80,000 ballots machines cannot read

· – 100,000 “provisional and conditional provisional.

That is, to say the least, a LOT of uncounted votes. 500,000 is especially disconcerting considering the controversial Sheriff, Joe Arpaio “won” reelection by 489,952 votes to 401,574 for challenger Paul Penzone.

Furthermore, another critical election for US House of Representatives District AZ-9, between up and coming Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker is separated by only 2,715 votes, with Sinema currently in the lead.

There are a lot fewer ballots out of the nearly 500,000 at issue within the limited bounds of AZ-9 for Sinema and Parker, probably most of them in one of the two early ballot categories.

But ALL of the outstanding ballots, including the 180,000 plus provisional and “hard to machine read” ballots are in play as to the Arpaio/Penzone race, and the majority of the provisionals and “hard to machine reads” are feared to be from precincts of predominantly Hispanic and other minority population, including the incredibly large number of voters recently registered by the Adios Arpaio effort.

Either way the results come out, these are votes that should, and must, be accounted for and counted in the most open and transparent manner possible.

Now precisely what precincts the uncounted ballots are respectively out of, and where the trends from those precincts would indicate a proper counting would take the overall vote, is not yet clear. It is something the County Recorder Helen Purcell and/or Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s office might well get done – or at least you would think so. But, this is a weird county in a crazy state, so it cannot be taken for granted in any regard. 500,000 uncounted ballots in an election with an extant margin of 88,378 between Arpaio challenger Penzone, is fairly significant.

Reportedly, the counting of “early ballots” will commence forthwith, but the counting of provisionals and disputeds will not commence until next Monday. Pursuant to Arizona law, ARS 16-249, “The secretary of state shall certify the election results to the state party committee chairmen of the parties that have candidates on the presidential preference ballot on or before the second Monday following the election.”

Adios Arpaio registered a lot of new voters, especially in the immigrant areas most affected by the deleterious policies of Arpaio. Other Latino and Democratic groups registered a whole lot more new voters. These newly registered voters deserve to have the state insure their votes are counted. It may not be enough to get rid of Arpaio, but it will affect Kyrsten Sinema and other downticket local elections. And it is the least that can be done for the newly registered participants in democracy.

[UPDATE: The latest count appears to be just over 460,000 total uncounted ballots in Maricopa County]

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
14 replies
  1. pdaly says:

    It sounds fishy that local town officials are failing down on the job of providing a basic government duty of holding a public election.

    It’s a good thing the US Supreme Court feels comfortable selecting US Presidents…perhaps state supreme courts will get to the same comfort level.

  2. Peterr says:

    @pdaly: From the Maricopa County Department of Elections comes this little nugget:

    We have received many recognitions including one from the Computerworld Smithsonian Institution for programs to handle Early Voting.

    Looking at the information at the link about these recognitions, they all have to do with getting ballots into the hands of people for early voting. They do not appear to have anything to do with counting those ballots once they come in.

    And therein lies the problem.

    To me, the most egregious part of this mess are the 200,000 early voter ballots that they had received that have yet to be counted. The Dept of Elections knew how many ballots had been mailed in. They knew this, and didn’t have the people/machines ready to count them? It’s not like they had to guess — they were holding the ballots in their hands.

  3. greengiant says:

    Does anyone one do phone follow ups on the provisionals that need proactive voters to send in additional information?

    With the 100th anniversary of various state’s women’s right to vote, there was the mudsling, “politics are too dirty for women”.

    Probably see wall street prosecutions before we see prosecutions of inept and criminal voter disenfranchisement in ariz, florida, mich., pa, etc etc.

    They only have commit crimes when they are losing. Where I live the ex-county commission chair is working for an environmental polluter he gave a temporary permit to, and the county’s largest housing developer where the county is using 30 percent of their road budget to adjacent roads based on “understandings” and “promises” that were “not promises”. The best politicians money can buy.

  4. bmaz says:

    @greengiant: Great question. My guess is no, because….who is going to do it? They are already scrambling for staffing to count votes etc. Now, as far as I can tell, the need to go down to election headquarters only applies to those provisionals completed with disputed identification, not all provisionals. So, hopefully, there are not that many.

  5. JohnLopresti says:

    Arpaio ought to uncork the bubbly now, while the illusion of victory reigns. The sloppy part of the vote counting, for the uncounted 400,000 plus ballots, is likely to show his road show just got back in the caravan and exited Phoenix. Finally. Keep the elections officials honest as they advance thru ballot scrutiny over the next 26 days until the official certified count is complete. I keep wishing Janet Napolitano had a way to return and help AZ somehow over these next four years, or that somehow her organization can strengthen the Democratic party in AZ while she remains serving in Washington. We need good people like ex-governor JN.

  6. ess emm says:


    So, just from the Counties that voluntarily reported their status, there are 1.25 million uncounted ballots in California. The counties must have their results to the Secretary of State by Dec 7 and the Secretary has until Dec 14 to certify.

    In processing vote-by-mail ballots, elections officials must confirm each voter’s registration status, verify each voter’s signature on the vote-by-mail envelope, and ensure each person did not vote elsewhere in the same election.

  7. Kevin Andersen says:

    No more fishy than the republican controlled recorders office putting out spanish language pamphlets and other material with the wrong date,not once but TWICE…. and no more fishy than the same republican controlled recorders office trying to reject boxes of hand carried ballots at the counter…. and no more fishy than a certain republican’s campaign using a robocall machine to call democratic registered voters and telling them that their voting location has changed. Arizona is getting out of hand and i doubt the republican controlled recorders office will ever get around to counting all of the ballots. They’ll come up with a reason not to, and once again democracy has failed .

  8. bmaz says:

    @Kevin Andersen: The “Republican controlled recorder’s office” you refer to is run by a lady named Helen Purcell. Helen Purcell has been around forever, and has always been honorable. When I first came to know of her, she was Clerk of Maricopa County Superior Court. You can cast all the aspersions you want because she is “a Republican” but, for my money, and this is where I live and practice, Helen Purcell is not personally the problem.

    Is it possible somebody below here did something malicious? Yes it is. It is also possible they just do not have the staffing and quality control they once did due to sever funding cutbacks. Likely it is a combination with the majority really being not enough capacity to do what they really need to do in a county that is bigger and more populous than nearly half of the states in this country. I reject the rote claim of partisan misconduct you assign to Helen Purcell. If you have specific evidence, bring it.

  9. emilia colon says:

    Let’s keep AMERICAN practices alive and COUNT EVERY SINGLE VOTE. How dare any American try to surpress, not count the vote of even one citizen, naturalized or otherwise!

    Arizona you are a disgrace to OUR Nation, the only state that is more shameful and TOTALLY LACKING in HUMANITY is FLORIDA.

    What a sad lesson in Civics and in morals for our young people. THE WHOLE OF ARIZONA’S BALLOTS SHOULD BE RECOUNTED. That is the only way to convince me that the results are fair.

  10. ghost says:

    be careful what you ask for, arizona is a pandoras box. check out pima county(democratic) lawsuit. also, arizona was gerrymandered pro left.
    mess with az., you’re talking new constitutional convention.

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