'Late' Early Ballots Delay Vote Counting For Arizona House Seat

By Kate Sheehy
November 06, 2014

There is still no winner in Southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District race between Democratic incumbent Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally.

On Thursday McSally still had the lead by nearly 1,300 votes. The district covers half of Pima and all of Cochise counties where more than 40,000 ballots still need to be counted. Still, results may come in faster this year than in 2012. 

It took 11 days for Barber to clench the district by only less than one percent of the votes in 2012. Matt Roberts, Director of Communications for the Secretary of State’s office, said he estimates there will be a winner this year in less than a week.

Roberts said in presidential election years voter turnout is much higher. In 2012 the state had a 74 percent turnout rate. This year, he said, it looks like it will be around 40 percent. Also Roberts said voter turnout is lower than they expected, and lower historically than the past several elections. 

“So I would suspect the time it takes our county recorders to process this stuff, will be less than it would be in let’s say a presidential year,” Roberts said.

Two years ago 2.3 million votes were cast, almost 800,000 more than this year. However, he pointed out one factor that slows down the process of counting votes. “There has been a trend from Arizona voters, to hold on to their early ballots longer.”

He said the number of late-arriving early ballots has been increasing over the last several years, including early ballots that are turned in at the polls or are not received in the mail until Election Day.

“The fewer early ballots that our county recorders have to process after Election Day, obviously increases the time we can have closure and have actual results, sooner,” Roberts said.

Late early ballots and provisional ballots do not begin to be processed until the day after the election. Roberts recommended that if people aren't going to use an early ballot to vote early, then they should just vote at the polls.

He said people have to vote a provisional ballot for a variety of reasons. It can be a conditional provisional ballot which has to do with proving identity. He said people also cast provisional ballots if they lose their early ballot and go to vote at a polling place. 

Roberts said as of Thursday there are 240,000 early ballots for county recorders to process across the state. The last update from Pima County showed all early ballots had been verified by the Recorder’s Office, but more than 40,000 early and provisional ballots still need to be processed and counted. 

Pima County expects to have updated results by 6 p.m. Thursday.