Ballot counting won't be finished by Friday - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Ballot counting won't be finished by Friday

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Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2010 4:55 pm | Updated: 3:22 pm, Sat Nov 13, 2010.

Voters won't know the outcome of three ballot measures until next week.

Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said Thursday there are too many ballots left to be counted to get the entire job done as hoped by the end of the day Friday.

She said the last 40,000 provisional ballots - those set aside amid questions about whether the voter was eligible - should be finished today. That is the deadline set by law.

But Osborne said her office has a bunch of early ballots which need work before they can be fed into the automated scanners which tally the votes.

"This is when the people really, really, really, really, really, really want you to know how they feel on something or person and it bleeds right through to the back of the ballot," she explained. That leaves a mark on some issue on which the voter probably never intended to vote at all.

"Those have to be duplicated by a Democratic and Republican board," Osborne said. "And it has to be verified that it's done correctly or they would lose, in many cases, large amounts of their ballot."

Her office started with 60,000 of those ballots; Osborne said the time-consuming work has gotten that down to about 20,000.

And even after those are done, Osborne said, that's not the end: There are about 50,000 ballots where voters wrote in the name of a candidate.

Here, too, it becomes labor intensive.

Osborne said the automated counting equipment picks up only the fact that a ballot has a mark next to the line for write-in candidates. The machinery, though, can't read exactly what name is on that line.

In Arizona, only those people who have signed up ahead of the election as write-in candidates can have their votes tallied. But Osborne said that hasn't stopped voters from inserting other names.

"Maybe they think it's funny," she said.

"But Mickey (Mouse) still has the most," Osborne said. "Big Bird got a lot this time."

Then there is the usual spread of votes for television characters and race car drivers.

"Most of the time, what they do is they put their own name," Osborne said. She said that's not difficult to figure out even though ballots do not identify the voter, as the same name appears for almost every office.

As of midday Thursday, Proposition 112, which would require that initiative petitions be submitted two months earlier than now required, was ahead by fewer than 2,000 votes. Proposition 110 to let the state trade trust lands with the federal government to preserve military bases was behind by about 3,000 votes, as was Proposition 203 to let doctors recommend marijuana to patients.

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