Maricopa ballot count update: 45,000 early ballots remain to be counted

Posted at 5:22 PM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 23:05:53-05

Election officials are almost done working through a backlog of more than 400,000 early ballots from Tuesday's election.

In an update Monday, Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said her office has about 45,000 early ballots that have not been processed and tabulated. There are also 55,000 provisional ballots cast on Election Day which will need to be verified by hand before they can be counted.

While the Maricopa County Recorder and Election Department continues to push forward with counting ballots, the Democratic Party recently spoke out against Maricopa County election officials who decided to not try to verify questionable signatures on some early ballots.

Spencer Scharff, the party's director of voter protection, said the county recorder's office isn't following rules outlined in the state election procedures manual. That manual says election officials must make a reasonable effort to contact early voters if there are questionable signatures before discarding their ballot.
"They're clearly violating that requirement by failing to call them," Scharff said. "We're doing everything we can to encourage the county to simply follow the law."

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The counting in Arizona's largest county has drawn attention for how it could change two races, the recreational marijuana legalization measure Proposition 205 and the race between Purcell and challenger Adrian Fontes.

Recorders office spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew said the county did call many voters whose early ballots had missing signatures or ones that didn't match what was on file. But she said that responsibility ends if the ballot is dropped off at the polls on Election Day, and there was no effort to do so for those ballots.
"I guess all I can say is that's the risk a voter takes for dropping off their early ballot at the polls," she said. "Statute doesn't even say that we have to contact these people -- the procedures manual does."
The county had about 5,000 early ballots in all that had bad signatures, and that number dropped to about 1,400 as election officials made calls to voters, Bartholomew said.

Fontes has a roughly 13,000-vote lead on Purcell, who has faced criticism for how her office handled the state's Presidential Preference Election in the spring.

Proposition 205 appears headed for defeat, as it trails by roughly 85,000 votes according to the latest information from the Arizona Secretary of State's office.

Officials said they will resume counting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.