County approves funding for audit on Arizona election issues

PHOENIX - Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said he was angry with himself over the issues surrounding last week's primary election in the first occasion that he's publicly answered questions from top officials about what went wrong.

Fontes spoke before the county board of supervisors on Wednesday. The board approved $200,000 in funding for an independent audit of the recorder's office and its handling of the Aug. 28 elections, when 62 polling locations failed to open on time.

Dozens of people reported showing up to cast a ballot and getting turned away. Fontes made no mention of the troubles during a Facebook Live video he recorded with a voter shortly before polling places opened at 6 a.m., nor did he bring up the issue to any of the supervisors.

"I am angry. I am angry. I'm angry that I didn't deliver for all of Maricopa County. We should have done better," Fontes said Wednesday.

Fontes said he learned of the issue in the early afternoon one day before the election and realized by the evening that it "was going to be a real problem." He said only about 70 of the 103 technicians contracted to set up the machines at individual polling sites showed up.

Fontes on Wednesday continued to blame a contractor hired to send technicians out, saying it didn't send enough. The contractor has denied that and said they sent more than requested.

The recorder faced pointed questions from members of the board who said they were concerned about the recorder's lack of communication on the issues and hoped everything would be resolved by the November general election.

"When we talk about disenfranchising the voters, to be sent to multiple locations, there's no better way to disenfranchise than that," said chairman Steve Chucri.

Fontes previously unseated the former longtime recorder over her handling of the 2016 presidential primary election, when she drastically reduced the number of polling sites, resulting in long lines. That caused a massive uproar, and Fontes beat her in the 2016 election.

He apologized but also said that documents will vindicate his claim that the contractor failed to send enough techs to set up equipment.

"Now that I've seen the fog of war on how these things actually work throughout the course of election day and beyond, I think we're gonna be focusing a lot more on these processes," Fontes said.

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