Incompetence leads to massive number of provisional ballots cast in Arizona


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

There are an estimated 400,000 provisional ballots to be counted. In the most under-reported story of the night in Arizona, there were massive poll register errors in Maricopa and Pima Counties that we know of that resulted in this large number of provisional ballots being cast. I do not know what occured in other counties.

All day long voters were showing up to vote and being told that they were not on the poll register. Many were told they were at the wrong voting location (in Pima County, at least, due to consolidation of precincts into voting areas). Attempts to send voters to the right voting location often resulted in voters being told again that they were not on the poll register. Many cast a provisional ballot as a result.

But how many voters became discouraged or angry and just walked away without casting a ballot due to this incompetence?

This is a massive man-made problem that will determine the outcome of several races in Arizona, including Congressional District 2 (Tucson) and Congressional District 9 (Phoenix Metro), and possibly Congressional District 1 (Eastern Arizona).

I have heard that the Republicans will be going to court as early as today. Close races are likely to be decided by the how the court deals with these provisional ballots.

If you worked as a poll worker on election day, please post your experience in the comments.

And let's begin the discussion how to fix this problem. I suggest that Arizona consider adopting the state of Oregon's all-mail balloting system. Every registered voter gets a ballot, and the single greatest weakness in our election system — changing poll locations and poorly trained poll workers — is eliminated. There should be no provisional ballots under an all-mail balloting system. Discuss.

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. Imho (In my humble opinion) The local democratic party does not promote early in-person voting enough for this kind of voter. There is an early voting location on campus, and I am not sure that it is adequately used.

    I believe that the student should be able to vote easily there if they have any type of ID.

  2. Correct. The Recorder’s office screwed up the list of voters and the precincts at which they were to vote. When voters showed up to their polling location, their name was not on the list provided by the Recorder’s Office and they we’re turned away. Clearly, F. Ann is not up to the job.

  3. Pima County has an Elections Division run by Brad Nelson that is responsible for the physical mechanics of running elections, not the County Recorder’s office which only handles voter registration and certification of voter signatures.

  4. I was a poll worker in Pima County and was amazed at how many provisional ballots we had to issue. Our main two problems were precinct polling place changes and people claiming to have never received their early ballot. If we’d been allowed to use a computer to check for their correct polling place the first issue could have been easily solved. The phone help/hotline was tied up with long wait times. I was told that a list with addresses used to be provided to the poll workers. Now there is a big threatening sign warning that your vote won’t count if you vote at the wrong place. Honestly though, it seemed to me that this large number of provisional ballot problems was due more to first time voters and long-inactive voters showing up without the experience of voting in our unnecessarily complicated election system.

  5. I guess we should have voted for Bill Beard after all. Clearly F. Ann is no up to the job as she was not up to the job 4 years ago. According to an article in today’s Daily Star

    “The American Civil Liberties Union named Pima County as the worst offender in disenfranchising voters in 2008, because the county invalidated 18 percent of provisional ballots because voters went to the wrong polling place in that election.”

  6. Agreed! However, Dems need a Secretary of State candidate even more. With the “Hupenthal Rule,” that candidate could have an exploratory committee filed and be running for office in 2014 right now.

  7. I worked as a credentialed poll monitor in Pima County; assigned to a precinct near the university. Mostly students, many without ID, registered in other precincts, counties, or states, or not registered at all, unfortunately. Spotty checks on the rolls; often the voter had to find their own name because the poll worker could not. Many students were turned away. One drove all the way back to Maricopa County to be able to vote in his own precinct, then drove back to Tucson to attend class the next day. We’ve done a substandard job informing students of voter registration requirements. Students move constantly, i.e, ~ every 3-6 months. The instructions are confusing to many, not readily accessible, and inadequate resources are availed through the university. Kudos to those who had the patience to stand in long lines and vote provisionally. It should not have happened that way.
    Closing totals at my precinct:
    Regular “clean” ballots via AccuVote (ironic name) = 236 ballots
    Provisional = 97
    Early ballots = ? a lot
    Voters turned away = I’m guessing ~ half to one third

  8. My sister and I were both poll observers in Maricopa County, (Tempe and Chandler). We do indeed have a huge problem with provisional ballots being cast.

    Ballots at my polling place: 307 regular, 148 provisional

    My sister: 378 regular, 129 provisional

    Proper ID was rarely a problem. People had simply moved (in most cases, nearby).

    Poll workers and observers I spoke with last night all had similar numbers.

    There is no way these huge numbers of provisionals across the state were counted and included in totals last night.

    Our state’s population is highly transient and becoming more so in recent years. (Five of my students moved last year and three new ones enrolled during the last two weeks of school). I lost two boys within three days a couple of weeks ago. I teach at a Title One school; it’s pretty easy to see who is affected the most by this.

  9. The Dems need to start looking for someone to run against Helen Purcell-R in Maricopa County. She runs unopposed and the Rs treat this like a sinecure. The recent debacles with the election dates being printed incorrectly (but only on the Spanish translation) and the HUGE amount of provisional ballots (hmm, mostly in Hispanic precincts) are cause for question if not formal investigation. This is an office at the county level that is too important to ignore. She’s 77 and has been in there since I was a teenager and I’m retired now. . . time for some competence and watchdogging from the Dems.

  10. I agree with the vote-by-mail idea, even with all the reasonable complaints from the election integrity people. I was in Oregon when it went to all mail ballots. I predicted all kinds of problems, and I was wrong. Temporarily at least it boosted voter turnout. I don’t know if the higher numbers remain, but I haven’t heard significant complaints about problems with the system, especially compared with problems associated with going to the polls.

    It may be Arizona has passed the tipping point. So many people vote by mail, polling places will become more consolidated and farther away from people’s homes. Every election people’s polling locations will be shifted around and elections offices will make the kinds of mistakes we’ve seen. It may be time.

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