The Pima County Board of Supervisors denied a request from its Election Integrity Commission to sort early ballots by precinct for a special hand audit for this election.

The board spent about an hour Tuesday listening to commissioners and activists describe the need for an improved ballot-counting process.

Pima County is the only county in the state that doesn't sort ballots by precinct, said commissioner Michael Duniho.

"Resisting improvement in vote count auditing has earned Pima County a reputation for suspect elections," he told the board.

A precinct-level hand count would confirm the accuracy of the machine count, Duniho said.

In a unanimous vote, the supervisors denied the request for a special audit.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry opposed the hand-count audit, calling it "an impossible task" that would take 300 staff hours, and the Board of Supervisors must canvass the election results on Monday.

Huckelberry said Maricopa County spends nearly $1 per ballot to have a contractor sort early ballots by legislative district.

For Pima County, a similar contract would cost $256,000, he said. He also cited security concerns.

Duniho said the special audit could be done in-house for $2,000.

The regular audit of early ballots was conducted as usual, but Duniho said that process is "worthless."

The supervisors did take steps to change the audit process for future elections. The board unanimously supported the commission's requests to look at ways to improve the process and to ask the Arizona secretary of state to OK a pilot project that would use scanners to audit ballots.

If Secretary of State Ken Bennett approves the project, a request for proposals would be issued and the scanners could be used next year.

Huckelberry supports the scanning project, he said in a memo to the board.

"I think we all probably agree it's too late for this election cycle," said Supervisor Ann Day, "but as Pima County moves forward with trying to ensure the integrity of future elections, we have to keep in mind that the secretary of state is calling for a complete overhaul of the election system after the voting problems that occurred."

New guidelines from Bennett could make today's decisions moot, she warned.

Voter turnout and provisional ballots

• With the ballot counting finished, we now know voter turnout in Pima County was 78 percent, down a little from the 79.7 percent turnout in the 2008 election.

• Of the 27,610 provisional ballots that were evaluated in the two weeks after Election Day, 23,526 of them - 85 percent - were verified and counted toward the final results. That's a little better than in 2008, when around 85 percent of provisional ballots were verified and counted.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at