Processing Ballots

More from this show

With key primary election races too close to call, election workers continue to process and tabulate thousands of early and provisional ballots. Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell discusses the painstaking process.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Ballots have all been cast but Arizona's primary election is not over in at least a couple of key races. Tom Horn leads Andrew Thomas by 364 votes in the run for Republican nomination for attorney general. There are early and provisional ballots to be counted. That one could swing either way. Apt other is between Felecia Rotellini and David Lujan. Rotellini leaded by a little over 1200 votes. Here to tell me us about the painstaking process of counting ballots is Maricopa County recorder Helen Purcell. How many ballots still need to be counted?

Helen Purcell: Well, we had -- this morning, about 94,000, but we have counted 57,000 ballots today. We're a little bit -- under that, we have about 25,000 early ballots left to count and 12,000 provisional's and as you know we don't count all the provisional's. About 75%.

Ted Simons: What goes into processing early ballots?

Helen Purcell: When a ballot -- early ballot comes in, you have a signature and date on the outside and if you've got the signature, then you have to make sure the signature match was the signature on the original voter registration. So every single one of those, like we've had, I think, 380,000 of them, every one has to be matched with that signature before it can go to a processing board to look at it.
Ted Simons: When you say they have to match, how do they match those signatures?

Helen Purcell: Because of the technology that we have, it's scanned, the ballot envelope is scanned in, the signature is captured and goes up on the screen and you also on the screen is the signature of the person when they sign the original registration.

Helen Pucell: We're watching that right now. What happens if the signature doesn't look quite right. We put those aside and have a senior supervisor like at those to see if we have matches our staff has been trained to do that so we have a senior manager to look at it to see if the signature might be the same. Sometimes we call the people. We have something that doesn't match and if we hear that -- oh, I broke my arm or had a stroke or something like that, then we can certainly use that signature. But if it doesn't match it, doesn't get counted.

Ted Simons: What about damaged ballots? What happens to those?

Helen Purcell: Any damaged ballots are taken to a citizen board, a dupe board that duplicates the ballot as much as we can and we have to have two people of opposite parties that sit in that dupe board and match that ballot.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask you about these groups because for conspiracists, there's a problem everywhere. Both parties represented. How do you figure out who gets to represent it?

Helen Purcell: Well, we have people we hire to do that and we have to make sure we put them together with two different parties. It could be a Republican and democrat. It could be a democrat and independent, a libertarian, but two different parties in that group.

Ted Simons: We talked about provisional's early on. What is a provisional ballot?

Helen Purcell: Well, let's say, Ted, you go into the polling place and your name is not on the poll list. But you swear, I live in this precinct and I'm a registered vote and I should be allowed to vote. You're allowed to vote a provisional ballot. Are or you come in and don't have sufficient I.D. Then you also vote a provisional ballot. Maybe you're in the wrong precinct. We can move that registration to the new precinct but we have to have you vote a provisional and we'll move that in the process.

Ted Simons: That's interesting. As far as conditional provisional ballots, are those different than regular provisional ballots?

Helen Purcell: Yes.

Ted Simons: How?

Helen Purcell: Because you came in without any identification at all and you're given until 5:00 on Friday to come no one of my offices and provide us with the identification we can count that ballot. But without the identification, we can't count it.
Ted Simons: You can't come in today and tomorrow and say I want to vote a provisional ballot. It must have been cast on election day and then the next three days, everyone tries to figure out if you're on the up and up.

Helen Purcell: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: What turnout did we have this election?

Helen Purcell: Well, it looks like we're going to have 25% in Maricopa County. That's kind of at the high end of what we've seen in the primaries. We usually average between 17% and 22%. So this is a little bit higher and I anticipated it would be. I thought it would be higher than this. Because as you mentioned, we have some very tight races. We had a lot of candidates in some of the races so I thought we'd see more interest. Particularly by independents and we did not see that.
Ted Simons: Let's break it down. What did you have see? Can you break them down.
Helen Purcell: We can break it down a little bit. Of there are more Republicans that took part in Maricopa County that ordered early ballots and on election day. We won't have the final figures how many independents went to the polls and picked what ballot. Until we do our final tally.

Ted Simons: That would strike me as -- I don't know if it would strike me as independents. You have both sides with interesting races and who knows? It seems like the turnout for the Republican ballots seemed awful strong.

Helen Purcell: Yes, about 60-some odd percent. That was strong. What concerns me, we have 576,000 people who are not registered with a party. And only 30,000 of them requested a ballot.

Ted Simons: Why is that? Even on the show, a couple programs, we described here's what do you if you're a independent. I think folks any if they ask for a democrat or Republican ballot, they're going to be considered a Republican or democrat like they just reregistered and that's not the case.

Helen Purcell: We send out information to that effect. Every television and radio station, I try to reiterate that. It doesn't change their status. They merely for that date pick that ballot.

Ted Simons: We've got close races. What triggers a recount?

Helen Purcell: The trigger is in statute and for a statewide race, 200 votes. For a legislative race it would be 50. For a local race it, would be 10. It's one half of one percent or that number. Whichever is less and usually turns out to be the 200 and the 50.
Ted Simons: Yeah.

Helen Purcell: We have a legislative race that's quite close as well. So the attorney general's race in both the Republican and Democratic Party that could be -- could fall in that group. I know all of the other counties are doing their processing and trying to finish up. We hope to finish up on Saturday.
Ted Simons: Ok. Let's say it's a statewide race and I've lost by 201 votes, can I demand a recount?

Helen Purcell: I think you would have to go to the court. The secretary of state is the one who calls for a recount with the automatic 200. If the person went to court, whether or not a judge would consider that, I don't know.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Helen Purcell: I think that's something we haven't seen and have to see what happens.

Ted Simons: The -- I was looking around and seeing stories regarding -- it was interesting that some of the responses that I saw, is it true that more men than women go to the wrong polling place?

Helen Purcell: Think in some of the studies we've done in the past, that's the case.

Ted Simons: What's going on?

Helen Purcell: We try to do little things after to figure out. I don't know. I don't know. You went to the same polling place and you want to go to the same one you've gone to but that may not be your precinct anymore. I don't know. You would have to ask.

Helen Purcell: You're right. Oldest and youngest most likely to go to the wrong polling place and actually be involved in provisional ballots if they did so.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Ted Simons: Ok.

Helen Purcell: And we try to convince them to show them where their polling place is where they want to go. If they insist they want to vote right there, we have to give them the provisional ballot. We try to tell them that.

Ted Simons: Last question, we should get all questions answered by Saturday, do you think?

Helen Purcell: I hope so. That we're finished by Saturday.

Ted Simons: Always a pleasure, thanks for joining us.

Helen Purcell: Thank you.

Helen Purcell:Maricopa County Recorder;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
aired May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: