Something is rotten in the state of Arizona. And it stinks of a festering campaign to suppress the growing political power of the state's Latino population.
Because they're still counting nearly 200,000 "provisional" ballots that were handed out in massive numbers because of the large number of first-time voters whose mail-in ballots were not delivered, and others who did not receive their sample ballots, showing up on Election Day with only hats in hand -- even though they had legally registered. From the WSJ:
Arizona elections officials continued chipping away at a mountain of uncounted ballots from the Nov. 6 election, but more than 192,000 uncounted ballots remained Wednesday night, leaving results up in the air and prompting protests from the Latino community.
At least one high-profile contest remains in the balance: the closely watched congressional race between incumbent Democrat Ron Barber—the chosen successor to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords—and Republican Martha McSally. As of Wednesday evening, 943 votes separated the candidates, with Mr. Barber ahead.
Many candidates with large leads—such as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio—have declared victory while their opponents conceded.
But state election officials cautioned that with so many uncounted ballots they couldn't confirm the outcome of any races. The state plans to release its official results Dec. 3, but "that doesn't stop candidates from declaring victory or conceding defeat," said Matthew Roberts, spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State's office, which oversees elections.
More than 163,700 uncounted ballots are provisional ballots—meaning ballots that need to be checked for missing information, such as the voter's identity or to ensure the voter hadn't filled out two ballots, or voted at the wrong polling place. The remaining 28,550 uncounted ballots are early mail ballots.
Voters who couldn't provide identification at their polling place had until the end of Wednesday to provide it so their ballots would be counted. But groups that worked to register Latino voters in the state said they feared that some provisional ballots might not be counted if those voters weren't aware of the requirement.
You read that right: If you were handed one of these provisional ballots, you had until yesterday to get back to the courthouse and prove that you voted legitimately. If not, your vote gets tossed.
And even if you do show up and prove your vote legitimate, there's the nagging suspicion it will end up uncounted anyway:
"I think a lot of Latino votes were left out on purpose," said 18-year-old Nicolas Botello, protesting outside the Maricopa County Recorder's office Thursday night. Mr. Botello said he voted, but said he fears other voters won't be counted because they received provisional ballots that may be disqualified.
Some protesters left hand-written notes on a large cork board propped up on the sidewalk behind a statue of the Virgin Mary. One such note read: "I registered to vote but they made me cast a provisional ballot. Did it count?"
So far, Senate Democratic candidate Richard Carmona has not unconceded his race, though he is being urged to do so, since the heavy Latino count inherent in these ballots could change the outcome of his race as well.
But the Barber-McSally race is attracting the usual Republican vote-suppression tactics, as AlterNet's Laura Gottesdiener reports: