There are instructions for how to fill out your ballot: Use black or blue ink (not red, the scanner can’t see that), sign the affidavit envelope and get it there on time. Unfortunately, people don’t always notice those instructions, and that’s when the Yavapai County Election team tries to help out.
Obviously, by law, they can’t do anything about when it arrives. That’s why they warn people to be sure to allow plenty of time for mailing, or else drop it off in person. If it comes in past the legal deadline, they can’t count it.
When it does arrive at their office, they have to verify the signatures - which they do by hand. Their staff gets handwriting analysis training so they’re equipped to do the job.
But, if the ballot is written in green ink or is damaged when it arrives, they have a 3-person panel that creates a duplicate ballot, which can be read by the machine. If the signature is missing, or looks a bit wonky, they attempt to contact the person to come correct it. The machine can’t read write-ins either, so any ballot with a write-in candidate has to be independently counted and verified.
“We want to make sure that people have every opportunity to vote, and that every vote is counted,” explained County Recorder Leslie Hoffman.
Speaking of counting ballots, what’s happening with the 11,100 ballots in Yavapai County that are still outstanding?
Those ballots are mainly early ballots that came in after last Friday, mainly the ones that were dropped into the ballot boxes. There are also about 100 provisional ballots that have to be verified. Once that’s done, they can be tabulated.
While the signature verification is taking place, Lynn Constabile, the County Elections Director and her staff are working with representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties to do a hand count audit of vote samples. This procedure is also a legal requirement and has to be started within 24 hours of the polls closing. Precincts and races are drawn at random for the audit. That is expected to finish up today (Wednesday). Once that’s completed, they can start tabulating those 11,100 ballots.
Q: Do you have to do the hand-count audit every election?
A: No, the only requirement is to offer this for state and federal elections when there are vote centers. Mail-in ballots; local city and county elections do not have to go through this process.
Q: Why is it taking so long this time around?
A: There are a variety of reasons that it seems to be taking longer. For one thing, the recent Consolidated Elections law combines the local elections with the state and federal elections, so there are more choices and the ballot is longer. Plus, there were a lot of “late early” ballots this time around. And finally, it’s more noticeable because a couple of the races are extremely close.
Q: When will we have updated results?
A: After the hand count audit is complete, the hope is to start tabulating ballots right away. It is possible new results will be posted as early as this evening.
Q: When is the deadline for completing the election results?
A: The Board of Supervisors have to canvass the results next Wednesday. So, the results must be finalized before then. To accomplish that, however, Constabile expects that her team will have to work through the weekend.
Want to know more? Constabile and Hoffman took a few minutes to explain the process in more detail Thursday morning.