CREATED Nov 15, 2012
Reporter: Maggie Vespa
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - They call themselves the "real winners" of last week's election, following a historic showing at the polls.
But leaders in the Latino community say it's a victory that was suspiciously hard fought, and Thursday hundreds took to the streets in downtown Phoenix to demand answers.
That protest coincided with another ballot count update. According to the Arizona Secretary of State's office, more than 160,000 ballots -- early and provisional -- sit uncounted.
That's a point that, to hundreds of Latino voters, feels like far too big of a coincidence.
They came in droves.
Hundreds from groups like "Unite Here" and "Promise Arizona in Accion", who -- after casting their ballots more than a week prior -- marched to the Maricopa County Elections Office. They had 40,000 signatures in hand to make sure their voices and votes were not silenced.
One such voice -- 19-year-old Claudette Arvizu -- had to clear some unexpected hurdles the first time she was in the polling place.
"I waited half-an-hour to an hour, but I was so excited," Arvizu said. "When I got up there -- and I wasso excited -- she told me I didn't have my early ballot, which I was supposed to get through the mail, but I didn't."
She was given a provisional ballot and told to wait in another line -- a line that was filled, she said, with Latinos.
"The box that I had to stick it in was over flowing, and I literally had to force it in there," she said.
Arvizu said many of her family and friends came home with similar stories, some even told their ballots may not be counted.
Now, knowing how many provisional ballots are left, organizers here said they're worried valuable votes will be cast aside.
"The community trusted us with their vote," said Dora Luna, organizer with Promise Arizona in Accion. "They trusted us with a reason to vote, and they're trusting us right now to make sure every vote gets counted."
It's an effort they hope will pay off in the future.
"This is not the last election," Luna said. "This is not the last election, and we want to make sure that people in Arizona can trust the democracy that we live in."