PHOENIX - Voters won't know the outcome of three ballot measures until next week.
Although Pima County, and many others, have completed their tally, Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said Thursday that her office has too many ballots left to be counted to get the entire job done today, as hoped.
As of midday Thursday, Proposition 112, which would require that initiative petitions be submitted two months earlier than now required, was ahead by fewer than 2,000 votes.
Proposition 110, to let the state trade trust lands with the federal government to preserve military bases, was behind by about 3,000 votes, as was Proposition 203, to let doctors recommend marijuana to patients.
Osborne said the last 40,000 provisional ballots - those set aside amid questions about whether the voter was eligible - should be finished today. That is the deadline set by law.
She blamed the continuing delay on a bunch of early ballots that need work before they can be fed into the automated scanners that count the votes.
"This is when the people really, really ... want you to know how they feel on some thing or person, and it bleeds right through to the back of the ballot," she said. That leaves a mark on some issue on which the voter probably never intended to vote at all.
"Those have to be duplicated by a Democratic and Republican board," Osborne said. "And it has to be verified that it's done correctly or they would lose, in many cases, large amounts of their ballot."
Her office started with 60,000 of those ballots; Osborne said the time-consuming work has gotten that down to about 20,000.
And even after those are done, Osborne said, that's not the end: There are about 50,000 ballots where voters wrote in the name of a candidate.
Here, too, it becomes labor-intensive.
Osborne said the automated counting equipment picks up only the fact that a ballot has a mark next to the line for write-in candidates. The machinery can't read exactly what name is on that line.
In Arizona, only those people who have signed up ahead of the election as write-in candidates can have their votes counted. But Osborne said that hasn't stopped voters from inserting other names.
"Maybe they think it's funny," she said.
"But Mickey (Mouse) still has the most," Osborne said. "Big Bird got a lot this time."
Then there is the usual spread of votes for television characters and race-car drivers.
"Most of the time, what they do is they put their own name," Osborne said. She said that's not difficult to figure out even though ballots do not identify the voter, as the same name appears for almost every office.