Uncounted ballots leave tight races up in air - East Valley Tribune: News

Uncounted ballots leave tight races up in air

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Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 9:01 pm | Updated: 10:47 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

In what has become a postelection ritual, the fate of several tight contests remained uncertain Wednesday as more than 200,000 Maricopa County votes had yet to be counted.

County Recorder Helen Purcell said about half are early ballots dropped off at polling places or received in the mail Tuesday. The rest are provisional ballots cast by people whose names or addresses didn't match voting rolls or who couldn't produce the required ID.

The real surprise came in the lower-than-expected voter turnout - the lowest since Bill Clinton ran for re-election in 1996.

Calculating the surge of new voter registrations, the draw of a hometown presidential candidate and the excitement generated by Barack Obama's campaign, election officials had predicted that 80 to 85 percent of voters would cast ballots.

But the turnout stood at 64 percent Wednesday, in Maricopa County and statewide. Even if all the outstanding ballots are counted, which is unlikely, it would still boost the turnout to only about 70 percent.

"It's extremely disappointing to me," Purcell said. "We work very hard for this. I think it went smoothly, but I just would have liked to see more people."

Hanging fire for the next several days are three East Valley legislative races, the Scottsdale mayor's race, a Corporation Commission seat, a Chandler City Council seat, the Higley Unified School District budget override and a ballot measure related to health care.

Democrats would pick up two seats in the House if they prevailed in Districts 20 and 21, but the second District 23 House seat - vacated by Democratic Sen. Pete Rios - is a battle between two Republicans. In any case, the state House will remain firmly in GOP control.

No new tallies were released Wednesday. Purcell's office plans to issue updates by 5 p.m. each day, beginning today. The county's machines process about 25,000 ballots a day.

Purcell said election officials, anticipating crowds at the polls, encouraged people to vote early and about half of the county's 1.7 million registered voters did so.

That helped ease lines on Election Day, which were at their worst first thing in the morning.

Early estimates showed that about 110,000 early ballots were dropped off at polling places Tuesday or arrived by mail and up to 100,000 provisional ballots were cast at the polls.

Purcell said she didn't know how many of those provisional ballots were so-called conditional-provisional, which are used when people can't produce the proper ID. Those voters have until Nov. 12 to bring documents to several county locations and have their vote counted, but most people never do.

"The majority don't count," Purcell said, "because they don't come back."

Proposition 101, a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban mandatory universal health care, was losing by about 2,200 votes statewide. Dr. Eric Novack, the measure's chief proponent, was hopeful that the remaining ballots - most of them from Maricopa County, where the measure was winning - would close the gap.

"While I would rather be in their position, we are very hopeful that as the additional ballots are counted things will turn in our favor," Novack said. "We're going to wait it out."

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