Donna Gratehouse, who blogs at Democratic Diva and elsewhere on all things Arizona, sends us this.
Protesters are chanting “Count our votes! Count our votes!” in a vigil outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s office they've been holding since Wednesday. At issue are an estimated 600,000 outstanding ballots statewide, representing about a third of the 1.8 million votes cast in Arizona on Tuesday night. The majority of the uncounted votes are in Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa. About a third of these ballots are provisional ones, which are issued when there is a discrepancy in the voter’s polling place or registration information. Promise Arizona, the Latino civic engagement group that organized the vigil in Phoenix, is demanding a transparent count of every vote and an explanation for why so many votes were provisional. Several precincts throughout the county reportedly ran out of provisional ballots, an occurrence unheard of before this election.
Latino groups and Democrats accuse county and state election officials of not being prepared for a big influx of newly registered voters. They also claim there was systemic voter suppression, pointing to two separate incidents of Maricopa County voter information materials putting the wrong election date in Spanish and to a robocall by Senate candidate Jeff Flake’s campaign instructing Democratic voters to go to the wrong polling place. A group called Verify the Vote, an Arizona affiliate of the Tea Party backed True the Vote effort, recruited hundreds of volunteers to monitor polls. Arizona Democrats believed the intention was to intimidate likely Democratic voters in minority districts. “We know the areas in which they’re targeting,” says state Sen. Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) to the Arizona Capitol Times. “They’re not trying to verify the vote in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley. They’re trying to verify the votes in south Phoenix and west Phoenix where you have a high concentration of Latinos.” Democrats and other groups dispatched their own poll watchers to ensure voters weren’t harassed or intimidated. As it turns out, intimidation wasn’t as much of a problem as was the record number of provisional ballots cast. Lauren Kuby, a longtime liberal activist in Tempe, expressed her frustration on Facebook late Tuesday evening after a long day of assisting voters in her district: “I apologized to two first-time voters today. I'm so sorry that our state makes it so hard for you to vote.”
The outcomes of some close races hinge on the large number of outstanding ballots being counted. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, running for Congress in the 9th Congressional District in the Phoenix suburbs, is ahead by nearly 4000 votes at this point, but the race has not been called for her and may not be decided until next week because of the number of uncounted votes. Sinema’s campaign expects she will prevail. “We remain confident that as more ballots are counted, our lead may go up and down, but that in the end, Kyrsten Sinema will be declared the winner,” they said in a statement earlier today. Paul Penzone, the Democratic candidate for Maricopa County Sheriff, conceded on election night when the polls showed him nearly 70,000 votes behind Joe Arpaio. But supporters are encouraging Penzone to retract his concession, given that there are still hundreds of thousands of uncounted votes in the county and many are the provisional ballots that tend to break largely toward Democrats. This gives Penzone a chance, albeit slight, to overcome his vote deficit. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rich Carmona, who also conceded on election night when he was seven points behind Republican Jeff Flake, is believed to have a better shot at coming out ahead.
Pima County in Tucson is Arizona’s second largest county and has about 80,000 uncounted ballots, a third of which are provisional. This puts another congressional race in limbo. Tucson Democrat and former Gabby Giffords staffer Ron Barber ended Tuesday night about 500 votes behind Republican Martha McSally in their 2nd Congressional District race but was reported to be in the lead by 600 votes on Thursday.
We’ll find out next week.