Maricopa County Election Day Was Not ‘Great’ Despite Board Chairman’s Claim

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Maricopa County’s election day operations got off to a very rough start Tuesday morning, and the ripple effects were felt throughout the day and evening, with an emergency lawsuit thrown into the mix.

It is the Board of Supervisors, not County Recorder Stephen Richer, who are responsible for the in-person voting process. Yet despite confirmed equipment problems across the county well before 9 a.m., Board Chairman Bill Gates took to social media to say, “things are going great out there.”

Read more by Terri Jo Neff >>

Those problems, which eventually impacted 60 or so of Maricopa County’s 223 voting centers, involved tabulation machines which rejected some of the ballots cast by in-person voters. County IT officials were perplexed for several hours, as not every tabulator (there are two at each voting center) had problems reading ballots.

The culprit was finally identified as a setting utilized on some of the printers at voting centers to print ballots for in-person voting. The improper setting caused what was to be solid black boxes to appear spotty.

This made it impossible for the tabulator trying to read that ballot to properly line up the timing marks which are necessary for ensuring each race is correctly counted. The faulty printing specifications apparently did not come to light during pre-election Logic & Accuracy testing required by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

It is not clear if Gates knew at 9 a.m. what the problem was, but he suggested two questionable solutions for voters who could not wait around for the problem to be fixed.

One solution Gates proposed was for voters to simply put their completed ballot in “Drawer 3” of the tabulation machine at the voting center. This would send the untabulated ballot to the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MTEC) to be tabulated at a later time.

Many election observers found Gates’ comment about being able to run all the Drawer 3 ballots through MTEC’s tabulator as disingenuous, as the MTEC machines would be expected to have the same timing mark specifications as the tabulators located in each voting center.

The result is that any ballot which still cannot be tabulated at MTEC will have to have every race reviewed by human eyes as part of a time-consuming “duplication process” in which the original ballot is copies onto new ballot paper. The duplicated or copied ballot is then used for tabulation.

With estimates of affected ballots in the thousands, potentially tens of thousands, that additional review could add days to Maricopa County’s tabulation schedule.

Another option Gates provided was for voters to go to another of the county’s 223 voting centers if they did not want to use the Drawer 3 option.

However, his 9 a.m. statement did not warn voters who were already checked in at a voting center that they needed to formally check out before going to another voting center.

Otherwise, the county’s voter files would show that voter had already voted Tuesday.

A lawsuit filed late Tuesday afternoon by several Republican candidates and Republican political committees sought a court order to extend voting hours until 10 p.m., three hours past the statutory deadline for voters to get in line at a voting center.

The extension was requested as an option for affected voters to get back to a voting center and deal with their earlier check-in status. It would also have allowed voters to get to a voting center if they had been unable to wait in line to get their in-person ballot due to delays earlier in the day.

Judge Timothy Ryan of the Maricopa County Superior Court conducted a hearing at 6:30 p.m. to hear oral arguments about the extension request. One of the first things Ryan did was grant attorneys for Sen. Mark Kelly permission to intervene in opposition of extending voting center hours.

Ryan denied the extension request, ruling the Arizona Legislature had found a benefit in a mandated closing time of 7 p.m.

“The Court does not have any evidence to the contrary that there were 223 voting centers open and that no one that showed up between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. have been precluded from turning in a ballot, whether it is an actual ballot or provisional ballot,” the judge ruled.

Ryan added that while there “might have been some difficulties” at a various voting centers, the information provided to the court suggested voters were given the opportunity to cast either a provisional or direct ballot.

The judge also pointed to the fact the plaintiffs did not file the lawsuit until the afternoon, when according to court filing the problems caused by the printer / tabulator problem “was known in the morning.”

MORE ABOUT LAWSUIT:

RNC, Masters And Lake Campaigns Sue Maricopa County For Extension On Polling Hours Amid Voting Chaos

Adding further frustration for Maricopa County voters is the fact Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer emailed a non-official “notice” via his political action committee explaining the printer problem. The email, sent in the middle of the day, included a “Contribute” button for donation to his PAC.

MORE ABOUT RICHER EMAIL:

Richer Throws Maricopa County Supervisors Under The Bus, Asks For Contributions To Campaign