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Mock Elections See Technical Issues in Pima County, Ariz.

A practice run using newly approved election technology ran into technical issues last week. Election officials say another mock vote will likely be scheduled to test adjustments made to the technology.

(TNS) — A trial run-through of the new voting process for Pima County's elections experienced some issues Friday morning as voters participated in a mock election using new technology.

The mock election served as a test of the new voting system the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved in February, which replaces the paper rosters and series of logs and forms used to manually check in a voter with an e-pollbook that stores the latest voter registration data.

In the new process, poll workers check in voters with an iPad, or e-pollbook, that scans voters' IDs and confirms their eligibility to vote. The e-pollbook then sends a ballot specific to each voter to a ballot-on-demand printer.

Participants of the mock election were given pretend voter identification cards to cast votes on ballots from 2018 as part of the practice run. Most of the first tranche of voters, however, were sent to a table marked "special situations" to cast provisional ballots as some of the identification cards weren't showing up on the e-pollbooks' test voter registration list.

Staff running the mock election quickly pivoted to have participants use their own IDs to vote, which fixed the problem in most cases.

"The intent here was never to have real voters use real registrations, it was to use test registrations that we created to use for the system," said Mark Evans, Pima County's communications director.

Since the mock election used data from 2018, some participants had trouble voting using their IDs, as their up-to-date voter registration didn't match data from four years ago.

Evans said the county hopes to do a similar trial run as soon as next week. The Aug. 2 primaries are quickly approaching, but the e-pollbook process will be used across 15 vote centers when in-person early voting starts July 6.

"That's why we have training exercises. We've learned a big lesson here, and so we're going to redo this again as soon as possible," Evans said. "Because there were hiccups today, we need to have full confidence in the electorate that this system works and works well."

The new voting model also replaces the precinct-based polling system where voters were required to vote at the location assigned to them based on their residence. Now, all voters can show up at any of 129 vote centers across the county to cast a ballot, regardless of the precinct they live in.

While Pima County Elections Director Constance Hargrove previously expressed concerns about the ballot printers not arriving on time, Evans said 245 printers are set to arrive next week. The county has received all of the e-pollbooks and the cradle point wireless devices that provide secure Internet service to the iPads.


While Friday's mock election saw several technical challenges, participants expressed differing levels of confidence in the new voting system.

Brad Cowan said his ballot would not print when the e-pollbook first scanned his ID but was able to get a ballot after help from staff.

"Do I have a concern with the technology? I do to some extent," he said. "Technology is a wonderful thing until it doesn't work right."

Bill Beard, who has run in several Pima County elections and previously served as chair of the Pima County Republican Party, said he had issues casting a ballot because he lives in a new precinct that didn't exist in 2018 due to the new district lines the board adopted in May.

"They had to basically finesse the system in order to get a ballot to print out," Beard said, later adding, "I would say they have a problem fundamentally, from a PR standpoint, regardless of whatever inconsistencies are discovered from today."

Ben Brookhart experienced a similar challenge in getting his mock election ballot, as he lives in a precinct the 2018 ballot data doesn't account for.

"We're a little over a week away from the first vote being cast. These systems needed to be in place and tested six months to a year in advance of an election," he said. "Yet, these systems are not fully in place. So what's the integrity of that?"

Several voters, however, reported seamless experiences.

Rebecca DuPree said she came to the mock election "to see how it works" and was able to vote after the e-pollbook scanned her driver's license.

"I've always done mail-in balloting. And I prefer that because I don't drive, so it's hard for me to get anywhere," she said. "But should there come a time when we are not allowed to do that anymore, this is an amazing system to use."

Longtime county poll worker Michael Bortle said he wanted to familiarize himself with the new technology he'll be using in the upcoming election. He will attend a class on July 18 to get more in-depth training on the new processes.

"It looks like it's gonna make it easier and more efficient," Bortle said. "It's also a new system, so there might be a little tweaks, but that's with anything when you make a change. A lot of it's going to be easier."

According to Dave Wiseley, program specialist for the county's elections department, vote centers will have backup plans in place, such as hard copies of ballots and extra printers if any technical failures occur on Election Day.

Furthermore, election day e-pollbooks will be equipped with voter registration data that will correspond to the 2022 ballot.

"As long as (voters) get the opportunity to mark a ballot, and they're a legitimate voter, we will count their ballot," Wiseley said. "But by doing things like today, and if we do any more, it exposes where our weaknesses are, and we can be better prepared the next time. When we actually get to Election Day, which will be soon, we will be ready."

Key 2022 primary election dates:

  • July 5: Last day to register to vote in the primary election
  • July 6: Early ballots mailed
  • July 6-29: In-person early voting
  • July 22: Last day to submit a request for a ballot-by-mail
  • July 26: Recommended last day to mail in ballot
  • Aug. 2: Primary Election

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