Ballot Counting: What You Need To Know

November 10, 2018

We know that most are waiting in anticipation for the final results of Tuesday’s general election to come through. Currently, Coconino County is one of many precincts that has ballots remaining to be counted; as of this morning, there were approximately 10,600 ballots remaining to be tallied in Coconino County alone. So we spoke with Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen this afternoon to get an update on what her office is doing, how the process is going and more.


Many people have been concerned around the country as to how long ballot counting has been taking some precincts, so we asked Ms. Hansen about the process and the time it takes for all the ballots to be counted. Ms. Hansen informed us that accuracy is more important than time, and she and her staff would rather have accurate counts than lose any accuracy due to speed.


The Process and Why It Takes Time


The process of taking time is normal, and it starts well before Election Night. In fact, it can take a few weeks for everything to be processed and counted properly. In her statement to LPNN, Ms. Hansen provided us a perspective on the time it took her office to process the bulk of the early ballots, 33,000 to be exact. In fact, it took her office three weeks to process the 33,000 ballots, including six days to run the ballots through her office’s tabulation equipment, which started on October 31 and continued each day through Election Night.


Issues That Add Time To The Process

Ms. Hansen told us that one of the largest problems the Recorder’s office encounters every election cycle has to do with non-matching signatures. There can be several reasons for this: some of the reasons involve “…spouses voting and signing for the other spouse, or parents voting and signing for children away at school.  These ballots are rejected because the ballot has to be voted by the voter and the envelope signed by the voter.  Proxy voting is not allowed”.


Ms. Hansen did let us know that the process is going faster this year than it has in previous years. She stated that they were able to bring more people in to count and process the ballots, and the entire crew is working 11 to 12 hours per day.


However, another issue that adds to the signature problem is that of Arizona’s online registration and length of time before a person’s driver’s license expires. The signature used on a voter’s registration application is the one on their driver’s license. 


“Because [Arizona] driver’s licenses don’t get updated regularly [due to the] expiration date [not occurring] until the person is in their 60’s the signatures get outdated.  If you got your driver’s license when you were 16 years old and you’re now in your 20’s or older, there’s a good chance that your signature has changed over that time.  That’s why [the Coconino County Recorder’s Office] wants to check with the early voter to see if that is the case.  If it is the case, [the office] accept[s] the early ballot and scan the signature on the envelope, so… a current signature is on file for the future”.


What is a provisional and a conditional provisional ballot?

Many of us have probably heard one or both of these terms, but many do not know what exactly they are, and why they are of import when it comes to elections. Ms. Hansen educated us on this topic.


“Provisional ballots are cast by voters that are currently registered in Coconino County, but their ID address doesn’t match their current address; or by voters that have moved within the county and didn’t update their voter registration; or voters that have had a name change; or by voters that were sent an early ballot but didn’t vote it.”


“Conditional provisional ballots are ballots cast by voters that did not have acceptable ID when they voted at the polling place or a vote center on Election Day.  They have to present acceptable ID by going to a post-election ID verification site within 5 business days after this election before their ballot can be counted.  We have a post-election ID verification site at the Page City Clerk’s office.  The deadline for this election is Nov. 14th at 5 pm.”


This Year’s Mid-Term Voter Turn-Out

According to the Coconino County Recorder’s office, over 50% of the registered voters throughout Coconino County voted. Historically, mid-term elections tend to not receive a high turn-out of voters throughout the country. According to Ms. Hansen, she believes this year the voters throughout Coconino County may have set another record for the number of votes cast during a mid-term election.


According to her numbers, Coconino County’s previous record was set in 2010 when roughly 35,000 voters voted in the General-Election. Percentage-wise, the most recent record was set in 2006 during the General Election when a record 58.67% of registered voters in Coconino County voted.


Naturally, Ms. Hansen is thrilled to have such high voter turnouts throughout Coconino County. “I believe our democracy is the strongest when everyone’s voice is heard, so the more votes the better.  Of course, I’d love to have a 100% turnout, but I’ll happy for a new record.”


Results Updates

Updated results should continue later today, tomorrow, and continue on throughout the week until all the ballots have been counted. The Coconino County Recorder’s office is taking Sunday off, so don’t expect updates then. However, Ms. Hansen does anticipate the ballot count to be concluded by Friday of next week.


Other Information

We asked Ms. Hansen if she would like to share some other information about this election, voting, ballot counts, or anything about her office, this is what she had to say: “We take our job of conducting a fair, honest and accurate election very seriously.  We do everything we can to make sure we count every valid ballot.  Our county is blessed with having such fantastic and hardworking election board members and staff.  We are working 11 to 12 hour days and will be working Saturday and Veterans Day.  Hopefully we will be able to take Sunday off to rest up for next week, but we’ll see tomorrow if that will be the case.”

So the next time we have an election, you now have a better understanding as to how the counting process goes, why it takes time, and that it starts well before Election Day with early ballots.



Thank you to Ms. Patty Hansen and her amazing team at the Coconino County Recorder’s Office and the rest of the elections crew throughout Coconino County for ensuring our votes are counted and properly accounted for.




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