Move over, Ohio.
Despite record early voting ranks among Latinos, Arizona took a giant step ahead of the nation into the quagmire of provisional and early ballot mayhem, as outraged Latino voters and allies converged on the Maricopa County Tabulation Election Center in Phoenix today, demanding clarification and proper counting of unprecedentedly massive numbers of uncounted ballots that could potentially affect the outcome of the high profile races of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona, among others.
Winning 465, 249 votes from nearly 96 percent of precincts reporting last night, Arpaio reportedly defeated challenger Paul Penzone by nearly 10 percent. With 99.76 percent of the precincts reporting, Republican Jeff Flake reportedly defeated Carmona for the U.S. Senate, 809,283 votes to 725,831.
But that's not the end of the story.
While estimates of uncounted provisional and returned early ballots vary wildly -- from 150,00 to more than 400,000 in Maricopa County alone, and thousands more across the state -- many Arizonans are now questioning the extraordinary levels of provisional ballots issued, and numerous voters have emerged with stories of undue barriers and difficulties at the polls for Latino voters.
"We have examples of newly naturalized citizens who registered to vote only to find out a few days before the election that they were not on the voter list," Randy Parraz, President of Citizens for a Better Arizona, noted. "We have examples of others who were deemed to be age ineligible and left off the voter list but who were in fact 18 and over. We have many citizens who requested a ballot in the mail and never received it."
"This is a travesty, not just for the Latino community in Maricopa County," Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona in Action, said in a statement, "but for every voter in Arizona, and for every American who believes in democracy."
"Everything we believe in as Americans depends on having a fair election system we can all trust and believe in," added Falcon. "The County Recorder is right in declaring this election undecided. We promise Arizona and the country that we will do everything to make sure that all eyes are on the County Recorder as every vote is counted."
"This is about guarding our protected right to vote," said Parraz,
While the Maricopa County Recorder has posted November 16 as the date for Provisional Ballot Status information, the various groups vowed to remain at the election office's until every vote is counted.
Follow Jeff Biggers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeffrbiggers