By Valeria Fernandez
The agency that administers elections in Maricopa County confirmed Wednesday evening that it had more than 400,000 ballots yet to be counted. The announcement confirmed claims by activists here who had been protesting outside the Maricopa County Recorders Office, saying Latino voters in the county had had trouble casting their ballots on Tuesday.
Opponents of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the controversial figure known for his hard stance on illegal immigration, who is running for his sixth term as sheriff, are hoping that the uncounted ballots could swing the election in their favor. As of Wednesday evening, election results showed Arpaio leading his Democratic challenger Paul Penzone by more than 88,000 votes.
Of the 400,000 ballots yet to be counted, about 300,000 are early ballots that could have been turned in on Election Day or a few days before; and more than 115,000 are provisional ballots, according to a press release issued by the recorders office late Wednesday.
Statewide, the number of uncounted ballots is 600,000 according to the Arizona Secretary of State. That means that two-thirds of these are in Maricopa County.
The high number of uncounted ballots surpassed the expectations of county officials based on past presidential elections and has caused an uproar from voter mobilization groups that are part of a campaign to oust Arpaio.
“We want to make sure that every vote is counted,” said Petra Falcón, director of the organization Promise Arizona that together with the Campaign for Arizona’s Future spearheaded the Adios Arpaio initiative.
The initiative registered more than 35,000 new Latino voters, many of them into a Permanent Early Voting List.
On Election Day, volunteers from the Adios Arpaio initiative reported a number of problems, including that voters did not get their ballots to vote by mail and decided to do it in person, casting a provisional ballot.
“I don’t pretend to know what the reason is for this. This is an election in which the county recorder gave on multiple occasions the wrong date,” said Brendan Walsh, political director with Unite Here and part of the Adios Arpaio campaign.