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Maricopa County election officials seek to avoid 2012 delay

PHOENIX -- Arizona's most populous county will try to cut down on provisional ballots and speed up election results in this year's races, officials said.

The Maricopa County Elections Department is seeking to avoid a repeat of 2012, when provisional ballots prolonged an official count by nearly two weeks.

County Recorder Helen Purcell said last week many voters used provisional ballots two years ago because they didn't vote with an early ballot, the Arizona Capitol Times reported. Voters thought the early ballots were samples and threw them out, Purcell said.

In an effort to prevent confusion, early ballots will be packaged in yellow envelopes. The ballots for the August primary are due to go out in less than two weeks.

``Maybe (the ballots) will stand out this time and not just get thrown in the trash,'' Purcell said.

Provisional ballots often take longer to be verified and counted.

In 2012, the number of provisional ballots cast is seen as the reason it took an additional 14 days to get results in the last statewide election. That meant there were substantial delays in calling several of Arizona's congressional district races. Concerned citizens turned voting-rights activists staged a sit-in at the county elections office.

Elections officials also hope to whittle down provisional ballots by channeling voters to the right polling places. To help with that, the county has purchased new electronic poll books. Voters can swipe a driver's license or voter ID card to check which polling place is their assigned one, Purcell said. Otherwise, voters who end up in the wrong place must cast a provisional ballot.

Poll books in 2012 were on paper. So, poll volunteers would have to find the voter's house on a map and then figure out the closest site.

Purcell also has about $100,000 in funding for voter education.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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