Why is vote counting so slow?

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 7:26 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In 2002, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano had to wait a full week to find out if she was going to be the Arizona governor. She won but narrowly.

Since then, the state has been in the forefront of challenges that it’s system is a “mess” because it can take a week or sometimes more to count the votes.

It can seem confusing unless a voter understands the process.

“I heard somebody say ‘it’s a mess in Arizona'," said Adam Kinsey, a partner in the political strategy firm of Saguaro Strategies. “It’s not a mess at all.”

Kinsey says that it’s working the way it’s supposed to work- to count all the votes.

Arizona adopted a mail in voting system a couple of decades ago which allows more people to vote but also takes longer to count.

The mail in system begins 30 days from election day, where voters who are on the permanent early voting list receive a ballot in the mail unsolicited.

Others can request an early ballot.

Most of those ballots are mailed back. Some are dropped off at early voting sites, but some voters wait until election day and drop them off.

That’s where the first delay happens.

“If you have 400 thousand, 300 thousand early ballots dropped off- each of them needs to be signature verified,” said Sam Almy, a data analyst for Saguaro Strategies. “And that’s not a quick process.”

Each one can take a minute or more to verify depending on what the signature looks like.

“The signature that they look at is not the one you used to register,” Almy said. “They also look at the last few signatures in your return ballot so if our signature does change over time, they can see that.”

And how many people’s signatures change over time. Lots.

Which is why the recorder’s office, if they can’t really be sure, will also call the voter. If no answer, they will text. If ‘no’ answer, they will send a letter asking the voter to call. It can be painstaking and take a while, but every effort is made to make sure the vote is counted.

Besides that, there are also provisional ballots. Voters can, for a variety of reasons, vote a provisional ballot, but it must again be verified. They need to check to see if the person has not already voted, and need to check residency among other things.

There are others, such as absentee ballots- but they all have one thing in common.

It takes time to make sure they are verified and can be counted.

Also, if a voter, while reading the voter pamphlet sets their coffee cup on the ballot and stains it, then it needs to be duplicated.

“This is not a new process and it’s going to be this way while we have this system and it’s a great system,” Kinsey said. “It just means we don’t get the election night results, you just have to let them trickle in a little bit.”

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