ARIZONA NEWS

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

Nov 7, 2018, 12:33 PM | Updated: 9:02 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(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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Rep.-elect Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., celebrates his win at an election night gathering for Democrats Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. Stanton defeated Republican Steve Ferrara in Arizona's 9th Congressional District. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York) Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, embraces Cindy McCain, wife of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, while speaking to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated Democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York) U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., holds his daughter Olivia as he speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) (KTAR News/Jim Cross) (KTAR News/Jim Cross) (KTAR News/Jim Cross) (KTAR News/Kathy Cline) (KTAR News/Kathy Cline) (KTAR News/Kathy Cline) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) An elections official counts ballots at the Tabulation and Election Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona Republican senatorial candidate Martha McSally, speaks with voters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Chase's diner in Chandler, Ariz. McSally and Democratic challenger Kirsten Sinema are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January. (AP Photo/Matt York) Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at a relocated polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Chandler, Ariz. The new polling station opened four hours late after the original location did not open due to the buildings' foreclosure overnight. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

A volunteer moves supplies to a relocated polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Chandler, Ariz. The new polling station opened four hours late after the original location did not open due to the buildings' foreclosure overnight. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

A notice sign is seen at a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Chandler, Ariz. A new polling station opened four hours late after the original location did not open due to the buildings' foreclosure overnight. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Marcicopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes holds an Election Day press conference, Nov. 6, 2018. (KTAR Photo/Ali Vetnar) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, arrives to cast his ballot early Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 in Paradise Valley, Ariz. Ducey is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger David Garcia. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia serves coffee at a local cafe, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. Garcia is challenging Republican incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Voters head into Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix to cast their ballots on Nov. 6, 2018. (KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross) Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins places a "vote" sign outside a polling station prior to it's opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins hangs "vote" signs outside a polling station prior to it's opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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