Maricopa County's Number of Remaining Ballots Unknown; Activists Urge Penzone, Carmona, to Retract Concessions

The Maricopa County Elections Department has given a straight answer about the number of ballots that still haven't been counted as of noon on the day after the election: they don't know.

Citizens for a Better Arizona activists went to the elections office today to get a clear number, as media reports have cited multiple estimates between 175,000 and 500,000 uncounted ballots, including both provisional ballots and early-voting ballots dropped off at polls on Election Day.

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Linda Weedon, the deputy director of the Maricopa County Elections Department, said they're still counting the number of ballots, and although she clarified that elections officials don't know the number, she said it's probably around 100,000.

Weedon said having 100,000 provisional ballots and 100,000 early-voting ballots still to count after Election Day is "not unusual" for the county.

In response to CBA president Randy Parraz bringing up the possibility of 500,000 not being counted at this time, Weedon responded, "I don't think so."

Outside the elections office, Brendan Walsh -- the executive director of Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy -- said they wanted Paul Penzone, the Democratic challenger to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Richard Carmona, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, to retract their concessions to their opponents.

"It's unacceptable for us to not know who our sheriff is today," he said.

Walsh pointed to previous voter-turnout figures for the reason he believes an estimate of 200,000 uncounted votes is too low.

In 2008, Arpaio defeated Democrat Dan Saban, with more than 1.3 million votes being counted in that race.

At the time of this post, almost 890,000 votes have been counted in the sheriff's race between Arpaio and Penzone. Arpaio's lead on Penzone currently stands at 88,123 votes.

It's difficult to compare voting in the Senate race since there hasn't been a Senate election in Arizona during presidential-election year -- which has a higher turnout than the mid-term elections -- since 2004. Other counties will have provisional ballots that need to be counted, too.

Parraz also noted that votes weren't cast or almost weren't cast due to various "errors, mistakes, and irregularities" in the voting process throughout the county.

Several CBA activists told their stories of not getting their early ballots, which is a complaint we've heard a lot. A lot. Most stories we've heard don't end with simply showing up to the correct polling location and casting a provisional ballot instead. There have been multiple complaints about not being on the voter rolls, or being incorrectly redirected to other polling locations before many of them finally get their hands on a provisional ballot.

There have also been rumors of a few polling locations simply closing their doors at 7 p.m. and sending people home even though they were already in line at the time, but we haven't haven't gotten any evidence of that, and haven't heard a first-hand account.

Back inside the elections office, Weedon said officials are currently finding out how many ballots remain -- a number that could come back today -- although the votes on those ballots probably won't be added up for several days.

That didn't please the activists who wanted their votes counted in a timely manner, instead of politicians conceding their races before their votes were added to the totals.

"They may be provisional ballots, but we're not provisional citizens," Parraz said, after explaining that these provisional ballots "can't be the rule instead of the exception."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley