Contractor Left Maricopa County, Ariz., in an Election Day Lurch, Officials Say

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said county election staff needed to be quickly trained and deployed to open polling sites that had been neglected by contracted technicians.

by / August 28, 2018
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes addresses the media Aug. 28 following reports that the county's contractor had not set up voting machines at many state primary election polling sites. Courtesy of the Maricopa County Recorder
An unidentified contractor is being blamed for problems that delayed the opening of polling sites across Arizona’s most populous county during the state’s closely watched primary Aug. 28.
 
The problems first presented themselves a day ahead of the election, when reports began to come in about technicians not showing up to set up voting machines. The high-profile primary included the contest to decide the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.
 
During a media briefing Tuesday morning, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said county election staff needed to be quickly trained and deployed to open sites that had been neglected by the contractor. 
 
Though as many as 103 of the company technicians were supposed to be on hand to set up the more than 500 polling sites, Fontes said only 73 were made available, forcing staff to fill the gap.
 
“We had individuals that were to be deployed yesterday to the individual polling sites to go set up our new technology… that didn’t happen the way it was promised,” Fontes told media.
 
 
Initially county staff believed as many as 250 polling places could be affected by the closures and delays, though at around 10 a.m., Fontes said only four sites had not opened, and by 11:30 a.m. all sites were operational.
 
An additional 40 so-called bonus voting sites had been made available for voters to cast their ballot early and throughout the day of the primary, the recorder said.
   
Fontes would later ask the Board of Supervisors to petition the Superior Court to extend voting hours, but the request was ultimately denied in a statement by Chairman Steve Chucri.
 
“Today we learned 62 polling places were not ready at the start of the day. Members of the Board were not told of any concerns yesterday, when the Recorder first became aware of issues, nor were members notified prior to the polls opening this morning,” Chucri wrote. “Now the Board is being asked to step in and take unprecedented action that may confuse voters, delay returns and have other unintended consequences.”
 
Fontes emphasized that his office worked diligently throughout the morning to bring all of the sites online in spite of the situation with the county contractor.  
 
“If it wasn’t for my staff, we would have a much bigger problem. Our people have been not only changing what they’ve been doing but working with voters diligently to make sure we get these challenges resolved,” he said. “I’m very proud of the work that our folks have done to fill in the gaps and do the job that we had contracted someone else to do and we will be dealing with that circumstance as necessary.” 
 
Asked by reporters whether the contractor had supplied an explanation for the situation, Fontes simply said, “We’ll worry about explanations later.”
Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.