Why Don’t You Go My Way

They’re still counting votes in Arizona, with a whopping 103,000 provisional ballots yet to be “verified” (Did a Mexican vote this? Throw it away!) in Maricopa county. Even though the provisional ballots are, unsurprisingly, breaking for Democrats, it looks like Sheriff Joe and the ginger prince are going to win. But Ron Barber, who won the special for Gabby Giffords’ seat, who was trailing on election night, is now ahead by 923 votes on the strength of provisional ballots. He’ll probably continue to gain as the 27,000 remaining provisional ballots in Pima County are counted.

I don’t claim to understand Arizona’s voter suppression ritual in full, because part of that provisional ballot count is some even lesser form of ballot called a “conditional provisional” ballot where the voter must come back to show ID:

Wednesday was the last day for people to present proper ID at county offices so that their “conditional provisional” ballot could be counted. That’s a ballot cast by someone lacking the necessary identification under state law.
“We had 1,035 conditional provisional ballots and 55 voters came in with proper identification,” [Maricopa County Spokesperson] Reed explained.

Almost 1,000 voters disenfranchised is a good start, but Arizona Republicans clearly have a lot of work to do.

24 replies
  1. 1
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Its seems like we need election monitors from other countries, like we are some banana republic or Putin’s Russia and not the cradle of democracy, does GOP realize how bad this makes us look?

  2. 2
    liberal says:

    What’s the history of this provisional ballot idiocy? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think there was such a thing a few decades ago.

  3. 3
    NonyNony says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    does GOP realize how bad this makes us look?

    If Republicans cared about what other people thought of them, they wouldn’t be Republicans.

    Also too – if Republicans cared about what people in other countries thought of them, they also wouldn’t be Republicans.

    American Exceptionalism Bay-bee! To a Republican, that means that if there’s a rule, America is always an exception.

  4. 4
    Handy says:

    Poor Arizona so full of BS and we still can win seats. It is a start.

  5. 5
    NonyNony says:


    What’s the history of this provisional ballot idiocy?

    Dunno about the accuracy, but Wikipedia’s entry on provisional ballots says:

    A guarantee that a voter could cast a provisional ballot if he or she believes that they are entitled to vote was one of the guarantees of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

    So such things didn’t exist a decade ago. At least not in a national sense.

  6. 6
    blondie says:

    My mom has been a volunteer poll worker for about three years, and works in the east valley (Russell Pierce territory). She said that this year, although the training video instructs workers to offer Spanish language ballots to voters, they were orally told only to give the ballots in spanish if they were requested. There are many ways in which Arizona attempts to suppress minority vote. This is but one of them….

  7. 7
    Punchy says:

    He’ll probably continue to gain as the 27,000 remaining provisional ballots in Pima County are counted.

    Expect every single ballot to be contested in court, so Ron takes his seat sometime in April of 2014. Just in time to start campaigning.

  8. 8
    waratah says:

    Thank you,I had not heard anything and was wondering if they finished counting.
    I guess the the senate race did not change for Carmona.

  9. 9
    rikyrah says:

    these evil racists never stop.

    they are who we thought they were

  10. 10
    calugg says:

    I call this the legacy of William Rehnquist, who was gleefully administering literacy tests to people of color back in the early 1960s. It’s a fine AZ tradition, alas.

  11. 11
    aimai says:


    So its a placebo–it gives the voter a false sense that they have been permitted to vote, but there is no strict formula for that vote being counted. It probably decreases the crisis on election day, from the point of view of the poll worker who is confronting an angry would be voter, it decreases the pressure on state and county headquarters who are fielding complaints from people who should be allowed to vote a regular ballot, but it does nothing to guarantee the voter an actual, counted, vote. It just time shifts the control over the count.

    I just read the amazing new Atlantic article about the team that ran the computer side of the Obama machine–thanks to valdiva who linked to it in an earlier thread. What I wouldn’t give for Congress to hire the computer wizards to construct a national regisltration and voting database that would be uniform throughout all states and enable everyone to register online and check and re-up their registration in real time every two years, as well as an uncrashable database of voters in each state updated throughout the day so that we could actually have a national discussion about who is being prevented from voting and why.

    I want to see names and faces put to the rejected votes–most people will never know if their vote was counted or not and that, again, decreases pressure on local authorities.


  12. 12
    RSA says:


    Also too – if Republicans cared about what people in other countries thought of them, they also wouldn’t be Republicans.

    And if Republicans who talk about efficient government saw this situation as an inefficiency that they could do something about… they wouldn’t be Republicans.

  13. 13
    Cacti says:

    If you live in AZ, I can’t emphasize this enough…

    Get on the permanent early voting list.

    You can then vote by mail or drop your sealed ballot off at the County Recorder’s office and don’t have to worry about groups like Screw the Vote.

  14. 14

    a “conditional provisional” ballot

    They should just call it “double secret probation” and get it over with.

  15. 15
    Punchy says:

    I knew a girl once who was a pole worker.

  16. 16
    jon says:

    @Cacti: That’s exactly what I did, though mine and the other early ballots turned in on Election Day caused part of the counting problem. I waited until my only choice was to turn it in at ANY POLLING PLACE on that day. (Had to figure out some votes for school boards before I turned it in, and didn’t have much information early as it’s not something I usually pay too much attention to.) Flexibility for me, no big worries since my ballot was valid, but those ballots can’t be counted before Election Day. So they have to be counted after, and that caused delays as I figure more people voted in my way than in traditional ways.

    As for the provisional ballots, I heard about a lot of Election Day hassles from Republicans on the local AM radio concerning their inability to find the correct polling place and their inclusion on the rolls. Seems what goes around comes around, and the voter ID and other rules caught some of their own in the web of nonsense that pissed me off six years ago and made me ensure I wouldn’t ever have to put in a provisional ballot (that was a minor primary, but still made me angry enough that I’m glad I didn’t have a gun with me.)

  17. 17
    Ken says:

    The GOP should just cut to the chase and mandate that non-whilte voters shall henceforth account for 3/5 of a vote.It would save them a lot of trouble. Or a lot of non-effort.

  18. 18
    max says:

    @aimai: What I wouldn’t give for Congress to hire the computer wizards to construct a national regisltration and voting database that would be uniform throughout all states and enable everyone to register online and check and re-up their registration in real time every two years, as well as an uncrashable database of voters in each state updated throughout the day so that we could actually have a national discussion about who is being prevented from voting and why.

    Amen. It can be done, but we need the D’s to demand it.

    Even though the provisional ballots are, unsurprisingly, breaking for Democrats, it looks like Sheriff Joe and the ginger prince are going to win.

    Probably but not certainly. There are counting those babies slow. If they manage to keep Carmona out it’ll be on the basis of all that piddly vote-discarding crap, I think.


  19. 19
    r€nato says:


    Arizona (Maricopa Cty) poll worker here.

    Let me tell you what happened in my polling place on Election Day.

    Predominately white precinct, though we did get some minorities. A LOT of provisional ballots were voted. For every 3 standard ballots voted, we had 1 provisional ballot. That’s a LOT of work for the poll workers at the provisional ballot table.

    Roughly half, at most 60%, of those provisionals were simply people who had been sent an early ballot. I was very surprised at the number of people who said they never received it. It was far more than I could reasonably chalk up to people who don’t look closely enough at their mail. Certainly far more than can be chalked up to the post office losing mail every so often. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that there was so much election-related mail that people mistakenly threw it away. Perhaps the county should put it in a day-glo orange envelope with really big, bold letters that say “EARLY BALLOT – DO NOT DISCARD”.

    Anyway, those provisionals are nothing to worry about – so long as the poll worker correctly filled out the form and remembered to sign it. What concerns me is all the other provisionals, whether they were regular provisional ballot or conditional provisional ballots. Allow me to explicate:

    1) First of all, it added to the crush of voters at the provisional ballot table. We handed out 150 total provisional ballots. That’s a lot of paperwork that must be done correctly while people are waiting in line, some of them grumpy about it. We’re trying to get them in and out as quickly as we can while being accurate. I caught a provisional ballot right before it was put in the ballot box – the poll worker neglected to sign the form. That right there would have been a reason not to count that ballot. I pulled that poll worker and put another one in her place.

    2) We had two poll workers at the provisional table, that’s how busy it was. This meant I had to sit at the first table, the table where the voters arrive, where we have the signature rosters and the poll list. We had two signature rosters, A-L and M-Z. So we needed a poll worker for each roster plus an additional one with the poll list. That’s the book where you write in the name of the voter; it’s an audit check against the number of standard ballots actually voted. So we had three poll workers at that table. That left us just one other poll worker, who was stationed at the Insight machine, the machine that actually counts the ballots.

    I was unable to supervise the provisional ballot table and I really should have been free to do that because even though we had good, smart, dedicated poll workers there they found the provisional ballot process a bit daunting. You still have to ask the voter for ID, but you don’t actually check the address. You just mark whether they had at least one valid photo ID or two valid non-photo ID or one of each of those. If so, you mark YES and continue filling out the form. If you mark NO, THAT is a conditional provisional ballot of which only 50 of roughly 1050 voters bothered to go down to the county to show additional ID. See below about that. There are also all sorts of various special cases that show up at the provisional ballot table and the poll worker has to make on-the-spot decisions about to handle those. People whose last name has changed, people who are unsure if they are in the right precinct.

    3) Speaking of that, you have to ascertain if the voter who has been asked to vote a provisional ballot, is in the right precinct. If they had already received an early ballot, yes they are. No problem there. If they were sent there for any other reason – their name was not in the signature roster, it was in the roster but the address listed differed from their ID , and so on – you have to look up their current address and tell them if they need to go to another precinct to vote.

    BUT you *still* have to offer them a provisional ballot. That’s required by HAVA and it’s drilled into us in training. NEVER NEVER NEVER send away a voter without offering them a provisional ballot. HOWEVER, you *should* tell them it may not count unless they go to the correct precinct. I am not at all confident that this protocol was followed across the county. In some precincts, I know that people were sent away, told to vote in another precinct, without being offered a provisional ballot. I heard second-hand that in other precincts, the poll workers were not bothering to ascertain if voters were in the right precinct before voting a provisional ballot.

    Looking up the voter’s precinct is more difficult than you think. Our best poll worker was a real smart guy who confessed repeatedly that he sucked at reading maps. So it mostly fell to me to do that. You need someone who’s good at reading maps and ideally has a smartphone maps app. (There’s also a webpage at the county recorder site that can look up a voter’s address and give the correct precinct, I had forgotten about that). In a really really busy polling place, I can see where poll workers may not have had the time to assist so many voters in finding their correct precinct.

    4) How many voters were correctly told that they were voting a conditional provisional ballot and needed to go down to the county elections department within five days to show ID? How many were correctly told that they had until Wednesday of this week, not Tuesday, due to the Veterans Day holiday on Monday? There was a lot of misinformation about the deadline! I heard “Tuesday” quite a bit, people forgot about the Monday holiday since it’s not a ‘real’ holiday in that some gov’t offices are open, some not.

    The ‘receipt’ form of the provisional ballot (which is FILLED with tiny, fine print) lists only three locations where a voter can go to show their ID. Two of those locations are in downtown Phoenix, the other is out on the east side. Maricopa County is HUGE. Plus, you’re asking people to do this sometime in the next five days during the hours when most people are at work. How many people are going to take the time to do this, especially when they’ve been told who won the presidential election? Especially when, even if they care about the down-ticket races, they’ve been told by the media who won all of those even if some of them haven’t actually been decided like the Ron Barber race? What if the voter has difficulty with transportation, are they going to go down to the county? What if they have out-of-town travel already planned for those days?

    We completely forgot that there is an additional list of more convenient locations where voters can go to show their ID if they’ve been given a conditional provisional ballot. There is SO MUCH paperwork associated with a polling place and we were overwhelmed and undermanned.

    5) Once someone has been sent to the provisional ballot table, the risk of their ballot not being counted rises significantly. If the poll worker forgets to sign the form, it doesn’t count. If the voter is not told that theirs is a conditional provisional ballot and so they don’t know to go to the county within five business days to show ID, it doesn’t count. If they lose their ‘receipt’ which contains the affidavit # they need to reference their ballot, it may not count. There is language on this receipt which leads one to believe that one can look up the status of one’s ballot at the county elections website and see whether they need to show ID. NO, that will only show the status of the ballot after the deadline. The poll worker MUST correctly inform the voter at the time of giving them the provisional ballot, that they need to go to the county to show ID. Finally, you have to have good, smart people who can work fast and accurately at the provisional ballot table. That isn’t always the case with poll workers, some of them are elderly people who, frankly, aren’t as sharp as they used to be and are there partly just for the $100.


    In closing… are you getting the idea about the additional level of complication and work layered onto the voting process by voter ID? I am confident we did not prevent a single case of vote fraud, but we definitely put a number of ballots at risk of not being counted due to all this unnecessary red tape. I would like to see more media who are reporting on the slow process of counting ballots in Arizona/Maricopa County, take it one step farther because it’s really Voter ID (Prop 200) that the voters approved in 2004, that’s the root of the problem.

  20. 20
    xian says:

    @max: really? wouldn’t Carmona have to win about 100% of the uncounted ballots to even tie?

  21. 21
    Don says:

    We had two signature rosters, A-L and M-Z.

    Looking up the voter’s precinct is more difficult than you think.

    It’s astonishing this persists. Here in Arlington VA we have what I think is one of the best bits of electronic add-on technology in voting (and I say that as someone who loathes the touch screen technology): electronic pollbooks.

    They’re tablet-like devices for the voter lookup that actually store the entire county’s voter database, though they default to only showing our precinct for purposes of check-in. If someone comes in and presents and they aren’t in our precinct I can press a button and see if they’re in another precinct. I can’t let them vote other than a provisional (which we strongly discourage since VA law doesn’t let us count it if that assignment turns out to be correct) but I can tell them EXACTLY where to go vote properly.

    They connect via a simple network cable and mark off people as we issue them a ballot, meaning we don’t need to segregate lines by letter. The precinct captain has one that’s disconnected and for lookup purposes only, so we can also go out and walk the checkin line and do lookups for anyone concerned they might not be in the right place. Otherwise is stays in his/her control and used for lookups when special-circumstances folks are sent his/her way (the rare ID issues).

  22. 22
    kofu says:

    After you’ve registered to vote, the first time you do vote you have to show valid ID. That’s true everywhere, one way or another. So a conditional provisional ballot is for those who (supposedly) didn’t bring sufficient ID with them when they came to vote.

    There are lots of ways to mess people up, but the basic principle is legitimate.

  23. 23
    Woodrowfan says:

    @Don: We have the same thing in Fairfax. But our laptops didn’t work so we had to use paper pollbooks… I noticed that the Democratic officers worked a lot faster than the Republicans. One woman got very upset if a voter said his name out loud but neglected their middle initial…

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:


    This happened to my friend’s sister in Mississippi — she had registered to vote there, but didn’t have a new driver’s license or other ID when she went to the polls, only her California ID.

    I can’t help thinking that it didn’t help that she was a white girl with a black boyfriend trying to vote in a majority-black neighborhood, which would make her automatically suspicious to the crackers running the polls, but I could be misjudging them.

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