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Why is it taking so long for Maricopa County ballots to be counted?

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — The process to count ballots after an election is a long and tedious one — but in a tight race like the U.S. Senate one in Arizona, there can be added pressure to speed up the process.

But Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said residents will have to wait at least one more day for an updated ballot count due to the high volume of ballots — approximately 500,000 — that need to be counted.

“Early votes received — that means those green envelopes with the signatures on them that folks dropped off — we’ve got 195,296 of those,” Fontes told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Wednesday.

“Those include some of the provisionals and a lot of the out of precincts from the vote centers. All of those have to be signature verified and to do that we’ve got to scan them and sort them first.”

Fontes said, before voters knew whether Republican Martha McSally or Democrat Kyrsten Sinema will represent them in the U.S. Senate, elections officials need to start opening and separating those early voting ballots in order to tabulate them. That work continued throughout the day on Wednesday.

“We’ve got early votes in house from before Election Day that we did not get to tabulating because we were concentrating on getting ready for Election Day,” Fontes said.

We have “in the number of just over a quarter million  — 277,104 — (ballots) to be tabulated. Those are going through the machines right now.”

But that is not all: Officials also need to hand sort many of the ballots.

“Every one of those ballots has to be inspected by hand — we’re looking at about 100,000 of those,” he said.

“We have a lot of folks coming down to the warehouse to do all this very tedious hand sorting of ballots so we make sure to catch every single vote possible.”

At around 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Fontes announced that the county had around 472,000 ballots left to process. He said 195,000 of them had been submitted on Election Day, and about 227,000 were early ballots that his department didn’t have a chance to tally before the election.

For voters who are waiting on the edge of their seat for the results of the Senate race, Fontes said his office is expecting to release a “pretty big number” of ballots at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

“We’ve got to keep the process going and going,” Fontes said.

“We’re going to get it done when we get it done and it’s going to be done well.”

Voters who turned in an early ballot can track its status through the Maricopa County Recorder’s office website.

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