Special to the Tribune
In at least two Yavapai County races on Nov. 6, candidates went to bed thinking they had won. By the next morning, at least one race, for the Central Yavapai Fire District board, had changed winners, and another, the Mayer Domestic Water Improvement Board, had new results within the week.
By late night on election day, it appeared three challengers for the Central Yavapai Fire District had ousted two incumbents, Bob Page and Mike Generalli. Debbie Horton, Darlene Packard and Steve Rutherford ran together for the three available spaces on the board. As of Tuesday night, Rutherford was the top vote getter with 10,637. Horton received 9,343 votes and Packard was third with 8,301. Page had received 7,971 votes, and Generalli 6,655.
By the next morning, Page had edged past Packard, and as of Tuesday afternoon, with all early ballots counted and only 4,000 provisional ballots remaining countywide, Rutherford was still the top vote getter with 13,168, Horton had 11,538, and Page 10,277, edging out Packard's 10,261 by just 16 votes. Generalli ended with 8,816.
The Mayer water board race was even closer. On election night, with both precincts reporting, incumbents Kevin Jones with 221 votes and board chair Joe Mish with 206 appeared to have regained two of three available seats on the board, and challenger Margie Good, with 207, was ahead of incumbent Pat Champion by 2 votes. Challenger Kathy King was right behind with 201.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Jones was still the leading vote getter with 267, Champion had solidly regained her seat with 260, and Mish was back in with 255. Good ended with 250 and King with 243.
Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman said the large number of votes coming in after precincts had reported were early ballots. The county finished counting them on Monday, easily within the 10-day limit required by law.
Hoffman said many people did not mail their early ballots, but rather dropped them off at the county administration building or other county drop box locations either close to voting day or on Nov. 6. Voters had until 7 p.m. on election day to drop the ballots.
"For two days (in Prescott) we had a line out to Fair Street. Every envelope is looked at, and every signature verified before it goes to the central count," she said.
Hoffman said she doesn't think the county's change to voting centers made any difference in the numbers that changed through the week. Early ballots, however, have changed the face of Arizona elections.
"This is the most (early ballots) we've ever had, and it's a statewide phenomenon, growing by leaps and bounds, since the early voter list went into effect in 2008," she said.
This year, the county mailed out more than 80,000 early ballots, and only 24,000 people went physically to the polls, Hoffman said.
"It's going on everywhere. There's nothing more convenient than the mailbox at the end of your driveway," she said.
Hoffman said that countywide, 4,000 provisional ballots have yet to be counted. The county designates provisional ballots for people who received an early ballot but didn't cast it, and then brought it to a polling place. The county then checks that ballot to ensure the person didn't vote twice.
The county also allows unregistered voters to cast a provisional ballot at polling places, but by Arizona law, that vote will not count if the county finds no evidence of registration.
Another reason for a provisional ballot is if a voter has changed their name or address but has not updated the information with the county, or does not have proper ID at the polling location. Those voters have until today to bring the information to the county administration department for verification. Hoffman added that she expects the county will find as many as 20-30 percent of the 4,000 remaining provisional ballots to be invalid.
The county will canvass and make the election results official on Nov. 19 and the state is expected to canvass results on Dec. 3.