Rejected Provisionals Ballots Could Tilt Contested Attorney General Race

Robert O'Brien and Abe Hamadeh
Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert O'Brien with Republican candidate Abe Hamadeh.

Acclaimed mathematician Martin Gardner once said, “Mathematics is not only real, but it is the only reality.” And for Abe Hamadeh, math is becoming a weapon in his ongoing effort to show he, and not Kris Mayes, received the most votes in the 2022 race for Attorney General.

Hamadeh is currently 280 votes behind Mayes after a statewide recount in the attorney general’s race. He has a May 16 court date in a Mohave County courtroom for his legal team to argue in support of getting more ballots counted.

One issue Hamadeh is focused on is the more than 8,600 Provisional Ballots cast across the state on Election Day that were subsequently rejected. Statewide, Republican candidates typically received a much higher percent of Election Day votes.

If that trend held true with Provisional Ballots, it could be a source of hundreds of new votes for Hamadeh.

A Provisional Ballot is issued to a voter on Election Day in certain circumstances, including the voter is not on the list of registered voter, the voter shows an inactive registration status, and the voter moved within the county but did not update their voter registration.

Roughly 16,500 total Provisional Ballots were cast by voters statewide in the 2022 General Election, of which 53 percent were rejected. Yet data from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) shows the rate of rejection varied greatly among the state’s 15 counties, from 4 percent in Graham County to 63 percent in Pinal County.

And in Pinal County, there remains confusion over just how many Provisional Ballots were really rejected and for what reasons. The county’s 2022 Official General Canvass lists 1,704 Provisional Ballots were received, of which more than 1,000 were rejected for unspecified reasons.

Yet in the same report, a precinct by precinct breakout lists only 1,688 Provisional Ballots being received.

Then there is Maricopa County, which rejected 4,849 Provisional Ballots, of which 2,556 were noted as being from unregistered voters. Hamadeh’s election challenge notes that a “material number of these voters who had their ballots rejected had voted in past Arizona election and had done nothing to invalidate their registration.”


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Other common reasons cited by some counties for rejecting a Provisional Ballot is that the voter purportedly cast the ballot in the wrong county or the wrong precinct within the correct county.

The rate of wrong precinct rejections was not as high in 2022 as in past elections. One reason is that more counties are utilizing voting centers, which allows registered voters to cast a ballot at any of their county’s polling places instead of a specific precinct polling station.

But while voting centers help ensure more voters get their ballots accepted, one type of Provisional Ballot rejection that is attracting attention from Hamadeh’s lawyers involves rejection due to wrong jurisdiction, meaning wrong county.

Nearly 50,000 Provisional Ballots were cast statewide in the 2020 General Election, which went down significantly to about 16,500 in 2022. Yet the number of rejections based on voters who purportedly did not live in county they tried to vote in went up 230 percent.

Hamadeh’s lawyers are also reviewing Provisional Ballot rejections in Pima County, which according to SOS records had only a 12 percent rejection rate in 2020 but nearly a 29 percent rejection in 2022. How in-depth the attorneys can get, and how much of the data can be admitted in Hamadeh’s lawsuit, will be decided by Judge Leo Jantzen next month.