Twenty-four percent more Pima County voters had to cast provisional ballots in this presidential election than in 2008 despite the fact significantly fewer voters went to the polls this year.
The County Recorder's Office reported 27 phone lines were jammed nonstop all day Election Day from callers complaining about polling place problems.
Several factors contributed to the big number of provisional ballots, including problems with voter rosters at polling places, County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said.
It will take about a week to count them all, turning close races into prolonged nail-biters.
Rodriguez described a number of contributing factors in an extended statement issued Friday.
One problem was the names of voters who registered on the last possible day - Oct. 9 - appeared on the roster, but they weren't placed in alphabetical order. They were listed at the top of the roster.
That meant poll workers who looked up voters alphabetically to sign them in couldn't find them, and therefore assigned them a provisional ballot.
Also, voters who changed their address on the last day appeared on the roster at their old polling place, according to a news release from the Pima County Recorder.
Rodriguez said those problems were found on rosters in 80 percent of polling places.
She issued an apology Friday, in the last two sentences of a five-page statement, saying she "apologizes to any voter that was impacted on Election Day due to these issues." Rodriguez said she is "taking steps to ensure this does not happen again."
She won't know how many voters' names were listed incorrectly until all 26,194 provisional ballots have been counted. The deadline for counting the ballots is Friday.
In 2008, around 21,000 voters cast provisional ballots, out of a total of more than 397,000 voters. Ultimately, 17,884 of them were verified and counted.
Turnout this year is expected to be about 370,000, when all ballots are verified and counted.
People are asked to use a provisional ballot for a few different reasons.
Most of the provisional ballots were given to voters who signed up to receive an early ballot in the mail but then showed up to vote at the polls. They use provisional ballots so officials can make sure they didn't vote twice. That problem was compounded by the record 256,713 early ballots the Recorder's Office received in this election.
Provisional ballots are also given to "voters who moved and did not update their voter registration address, voters who registered after the registration cut-off date, voters who failed to show proper identification and voters who went to the wrong polling place."
On StarNet: Get the latest numbers on all the races at azstarnet.com/elections
Here's status of the ballots uncounted on election night.
• Now counted: 40,235 early ballots
• Yet to be counted: About 14,300 early ballots and about 26,200 provisional ballots
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.