Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is proposing a wholesale overhaul of the state's vote-counting system in the wake of embarrassing delays counting more than 630,000 ballots statewide from the Nov. 6 general election.
The delays kept voters from knowing the outcome of two of the state's three major congressional races until at least a week after the polls closed, and the last wasn't decided until Saturday. Bennett said if the presidential election had been in the balance, the state would have been the focus of nationwide derision.
Bennett said in an interview with The Associated Press that by 2014, he hopes to completely revamp the way early ballots dropped off at polling places are counted; cut the number of provisional ballots issued by 90 percent; and ensure the vast majority of votes have been counted within hours of poll closings.
"I want 98 percent of all the ballots to have been scanned into the system and counted by election night," Bennett said Saturday. "And the next morning, as an election family statewide, we're dealing with 10,000 to 15,000 ballots, and we're done in two days."
Thirteen of the state's 15 counties didn't complete their vote counts for a full eight days after the election, while Pima and Maricopa county election officials continued slogging through piles of ballots Sunday.
While cautioning that he had not yet approached Gov. Jan Brewer, legislative leaders or county leaders who run and fund elections with the proposal, Bennett said he hopes to secure millions in state and county funding to add to more than $10 million in available federal cash to pay for the overhaul. He'll need counties on board to get anything done because they run local elections.