Provisional ballots raise concerns

Arizona’s elections aren’t over yet.

On Tuesday, there were 324,362 early and provisional ballots statewide that hadn’t been counted, according to Secretary of State Ken Bennet’s website.

These uncounted ballots could still have profound impact on state races that continue to narrow.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber led Republican challenger Martha McSally by only 709 votes in the 2nd Congressional District, where tens of thousands of ballots had yet to be counted.

The remaining votes have led McSally to block 130 ballots from being counted on the grounds that they had been tampered with.

A record number of Latinos came out to vote in Arizona, with a 28 percent turnout increase from 2008. The alleged record number of provisional ballots cast, the majority of which are said to be in Latino-dominated precincts, has raised concerns over attempts at voter suppression.

Randy Parrazz, president of Citizens for a Better Arizona, has been the loudest critic in demanding an investigation.

In a Huffington Post article, Parazz said there are reports of “newly naturalized citizens who registered to vote only to find out a few days before the election that they were not on the voter list” and that “many citizens who requested a ballot in the mail … never received it.”

In fact, numerous stories of Latinos being turned away from the polls or being asked to cast provisional ballots on questionable grounds have emerged.

However, Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said there were no problems out of the ordinary, according to azfamily.com.

Voters who showed up at polling centers outside their precinct, who had improper forms of ID or had previously requested early ballots, were issued provisional ballots, according to Purcell.

The past few months have been wrought with tension over whether the election would remain fair for Latinos, especially after Maricopa County listed the wrong election date on Spanish registration cards.

With government officials and activists giving conflicting accounts on whether voting centers were improperly conducted, can allegations of attempts at voter suppression be fairly made?

For some, claiming that widespread, systemic corruption of our democratic voting process has taken place in Arizona is nothing short of a conspiracy theory.

But for others, this is simply how our state politicians do business. The idea that Maricopa county would take illegal steps to thwart what was predicted to be the highest turnout of Latino voters in state history is not surprising.

After all, this is a state with a sheriff whose administration was said to contain a “culture of bias” against Latinos by the Department of Justice.

I have no worry that the uncounted ballots will be processed. What I doubt, however, is that our state politicians will have to answer to a thorough investigation into whether any wrongdoing took place.

That is, if there’s an investigation at all.

 

Reach the columnist at Damills3@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter at @Dan_iel_Mills.