County ballot fiasco continues on Election Day

564
People chat Tuesday outside the polling place at Maricopa Library and Cultural Center. [Bryan Mordt]

Pinal County is printing additional ballots for today’s election at the last minute due to a shortage in some voting precincts.

In a release from the Pinal County Office of Emergency Management at 5:50 p.m., the county said, “Due to unprecedented demand for in-person ballots, Pinal County has experienced a ballot shortage in certain, limited precincts. Pinal County is continuing to print additional ballots and distributing them to each affected precinct polling place.”

The county is advising voters who experience an issue that they may use the express vote device at their polling place. If not, the county said, “as long as you are physically in line at 7 p.m. today, you will be permitted to cast a ballot. Voters who arrive after 7 p.m. are not permitted to cast a vote.”

There were unconfirmed reports from around the city of voters being refused their supplemental ballot by poll workers, rendering them unable to vote in Maricopa’s City Council election. One such location was a Province poll, where supplemental ballots were not handed out until 5:30 p.m. Polls opened at 6 a.m.

Maricopa City Councilmember Nancy Smith said she was unhappy with the circumstances.

“It is really disappointing because we thought all eyes were on these processes since the original issue a month ago,” Smith said. “And to find out all the teams don’t have the right information and have denied the opportunity to citizens to vote for council is really a letdown. Every voter needs to have right to vote in all cases and they were denied that right today.”

Smith said her information was that the issue was confined to one polling place, at the Veterans Center in Province and was rectified about 5:30 p.m.

“It’s pretty obvious we need to figure out some new processes,” she said.

Asked if she thought the issues could lead to candidates contesting the election results, Smith said, “It depends on the outcome and how close different elections are. If it’s really close, that could happen. If the margins are wide, I wouldn’t think so.”

Interim Mayor Vincent Manfredi was not pleased with the situation, especially after the original printing issues with the Pinal County ballots that left City Council candidates off many ballots. Manfredi is seeking reelection to the council.

“It is ridiculous that with a month to fix this situation, we had workers at our polling stations not handing out supplemental ballots,” Manfredi said.

InMaricopa reached out to multiple sources within Pinal County government and the elections office but did not receive calls back by press time. It also appeared neither department put out notice on social media about the ballot shortage.

Last month, the Pinal County Elections Department discovered problems with its primary election ballots.

In seven municipalities, including the city of Maricopa, early mail ballots were sent out with errors related to local election contests. Voters in Maricopa, for example, received ballots that omitted the contested City Council election. In some precincts in unincorporated Pinal County, some voters received municipal contests on their ballots in which they were not eligible to vote.

To fix the human error, supplemental ballots were printed up, meaning whether voting early or in person at the polls, meaning two ballots had to be submitted: one for federal, state, legislative and county elections, and a separate one for the municipal election only.

David Frisk, the county elections director hired in March, is schedule to address Pinal supervisors on Wednesday morning on general election-related agenda items.

The third elections director in the past two years, he came from Washington state to a department with a staff of one — that should have five full-time workers.

Editor’s note – Vincent Manfredi is a co-owner of InMaricopa.