Arizona is a no-excuse early voting state, and voters have many options on how they can cast a ballot. In Cochise County, almost 70% of the voters vote early or by mail. Once those ballots are received, they are processed and counting begins 14 days prior to the election. They keep being counted as they come in. On election night, after 8 pm, those are the first results you see released. Then, as the vote centers across the county return results, those are also added.
Many voters choose to drop off their early ballot instead of returning it ahead of election day. Those must be processed by hand and the signature verified before they can be counted. That happens the day after the election. Many voters cast a provisional vote, and those also cannot be counted until such time as they are verified. In the 2018 General election, we had approximately 4000 ballots that couldn't be counted on election day because they required special handling. They were processed and counted once verified which can take several days.
Ballots that have write-in candidates must also be counted by hand. Only official write-in candidates are tabulated and when people write-in candidates that are not official candidates, that also slows the process down considerably. All of these processes take a little bit of time and are done to ensure that voters can trust the outcome of their elections.
Another reason it takes time to tabulate the ballots is to ensure the security of our elections. It comes as no surprise that the security of our elections is at the top of everybody's mind right now. Arizona has made it a top priority to make sure that our critical election infrastructure is secure. Some of these new security measures do slow down the ballot tabulation process. The duty of election officials is to timely and accurately tabulate results. Voters must trust the process and the results. While we want to release results quickly, it's more important to verify accuracy, security, and transparency to our voters.