PIMA COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson said most of the ballots left to be counted will be verified and counted by Saturday at the earliest.
The elections department started the process at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
It’s estimated another 450,000 ballots remain uncounted in Maricopa County.
Most of the ballots that need to be counted are early voting ballots which were dropped off at the polling places on election day.
“More and more people are voting by mail and holding on to those ballots until election day,” Nelson said. “So we get a flood of ballots here in Pima County.”
33,000 ballots were dropped off on election day rather than mailed at least six days before the election. Another 20,000 are provisional ballots which need to have their signatures verified.
It’s a painstaking process to verify all the signatures. Each must be done by hand. They are matched by a signature which is on file in the recorders office.
One issue with that is many of the signatures come from the state license database where, oftentimes, the signature is scribbled by hand on an electronic device.
It can be difficult to determine whether the signatures match.
That’s why the voter affidavit sent to voters in an early ballot requires a signature and a day time phone number.
If the signatures don’t quite square up, the recorder’s office will call the voter to determine if they are the person who mailed the ballot.
There were nearly 50 people working the phones and computers on Wednesday, the day after the election, at the county recorder’s office on South Country Club.
“We must talk to the voter,” said F Ann Rodriguez, the Pima County Recorder. “We have some information so we can truly attest it is the voter who signed it.”
However now, the process is coming under scrutiny from the Arizona State Republican Party.
The party sent a letter to all 15 county recorders questioning whether the process is legal and whether the votes should be counted.
You can read the letter here.
The party says pursuing the voters for signature verification after the election is not supported by state law.
Rodriguez says her office “will continue to call them, text them and email them to insure that signature is actually that voter,” she said. “I’m trying to protect the voter.”
The party also argues the five emergency voting sites charging the county is misusing “emergency” early voting.
The GOP says in person voting must end on Friday before the election.
Emergency voting sites are set up so that people who have issues or emergencies, have a place to vote.
The GOP concern is it extends early voting, which would be a violation of state law.
Rodriguez disputes that.
“An emergency is what is in the eyes of the person coming in.” she said “I’m not going to sit there and be the judge and jury of what an emergency is.”
About 900 people voted emergency ballots over the weekend and an unspecified number of voters dropped off early ballots.
The GOP says those ballots must be segregated but Rodriguez says she is not doing that now.
“They want me to just invalidate it,” she said. “They want me not to count it and I said no.”
Whether it makes it to court will likely depend on whether races, such as the McSally/Sinema race tightens up as the early ballots are counted.
But Rodriguez says she’s prepared for the challenge.
“Fine, they can sue me,” she said. “I’ll go argue my case.”