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Maricopa County Recorder under armed security during ballot counting

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A week after the election, protestors continue to march outside the ballot tabulation facility in downtown Phoenix. Inside, workers poured over thousands of votes cast, but not yet counted.

"We have 237,000 left to count (early votes) and we are looking at what we think is approximately 121, possibly 122,000 provisional ballots," said Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell.

Purcell said the entire process is being done behind closed doors because of protests that started Wednesday. In fact, CBS 5 had to speak with Purcell by phone since she is under armed guard.

"Are you concerned for your safety?" asked CBS 5 Reporter Greg Argos.

"I think I am. Yes. Yes," she responded.

Purcell said she's also concerned for her workers, which is why she has ordered the building to be locked down.

"I'm not going to have (elections workers) intimidated in any way, shape or form, and that's the reason we shut this facility down."

Only county recorder employees and  party observers are allowed inside the building.

"Each party has observers that are in here all the time, and they are authorized by the political parties. They can certainly report back to their political parties if there is anything that they think that we are doing (incorrectly)," she explained.

Purcell said this is the first election in her 24 years as County Recorder where she has felt threatened and uncomfortable.

"I have guards with me that go out with me out to my car every night," she said.

Protective Services is a county controlled security agency, consisting of permanent county employees, according to Maricopa County spokesman Richard De Uriarte.

"They are assigned to and protect buildings, our facilities and our county sponsored events," he said. "They are the ones who are assigned at the security entrances of Superior Court, for example."

Despite the circumstances, Purcell knows just how important the counting process is.

"It can be stressful but we know we have a job to do, and my people are very good at doing that job. And I'm not going to let anybody stand in the way of us doing our job."

Purcell said workers begin counting votes at 7 in the morning and end around 10 at night.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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