Maricopa County struggles with glitches on Election Day

Posted at 5:48 PM, Aug 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 01:53:57-04

More than 700 polling places were open for voters on this primary Election Day in Maricopa County.

County Recorder Helen Purcell said law required every precinct to have a designated polling place for the primary election—and Maricopa County had 724 precincts. Some locations had two side-by-side polling locations if the precincts were close to each other.

After 28 years in office, and hundreds of elections under her belt, Purcell said things were running pretty smoothly on this Election Day, although they had encountered a few glitches. 

About six polling locations opened about an hour late because poll workers failed to show up on time.

"We've had poll workers that didn't show up at the proper time, custodians that didn't show up to open the place, and one trouble shooter who got into a car accident," Purcell said.

Later in the day, more problems surfaced after the Recorders Office received about a dozen complaints from at least two polling locations about people getting the wrong ballot and not being able to vote again.

A spokeswoman for the office called it a "poll worker" error and said the mistake involved a small number of "federal election only" ballots.

She explained those ballots were for people who were residents of Arizona, but declined to give their social security or driver's license numbers when they registered to vote. Meaning, their citizenship was unable to be proven.

Those voters were only eligible for a federal election ballot. Those ballots were supposed to be in a separate pile but somehow got mixed up with regular ballots and were handed out to some voters accidentally. 

Most people caught this mistake immediately and were able to get a replacement ballot.  However, some had already voted and didn't realize the error until later on. Those people were unable to cast another ballot.

The county had hired more about 2,800 poll workers to man the polling places, and about 100 troubleshooters.

John Valenzuela, who had been involved in local elections for more than 20 years said troubleshooters were the eyes, ears and boots on the ground for the Recorder's office.

Each troubleshooter was armed with a long checklist of questions and spent their day traveling to polling sites to make sure proper election procedures were being followed.  From technical troubleshooting, to checking the signage and making sure poll workers were doing their job, it was a position you had to be recruited for.

Purcell predicted voter turnout to be in between 25-30 percent. As of Monday night, only 40 percent of mail-in ballots were sent back.