Supervisors approve solution to ballot errors

528
County Attorney Kent Volkmer addresses the Pinal County Board of Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday to determine a solution to the ballots sent to 63,000 voters containing errors. [Pinal County]

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a solution to the ballot snafu that has plagued the county for nearly a week.

Voters who live in one of the seven cities affected by the error, which includes Maricopa, will receive a supplemental municipal ballot that will apply only to their city’s municipal elections. Their original ballot will be counted for federal, statewide and legislative elections.

The process will work in the following way:

  • Voters on the permanent early voting list (PEVL) will have a new ballot mailed to them that will contain only the municipal election. Their original ballot, whether they have already mailed it or will do so in the future, will count for all elections except the municipal races;
  • In-person voters will receive two separate ballots at their polling place – one for federal, statewide, legislative and county races, and another for their municipal election if they live in one of the seven affected cities. Those ballots will be counted on two separate machines;
  • In-person voters who are not in one of the affected cities will receive a single ballot.

County Attorney Kent Volkmer said the in-person voting process will be very familiar to voters.

“The in-person is really going to be pretty standard other than you’re getting two different ballots,” he said. “You’ll have to sign two different books instead of one, there will be two different locations within the same (area) but otherwise it will be the same process that an ordinary voter is used to.”

The supplemental ballots will be visually different from the original ballots to help ensure ballots are not counted twice.

At the suggestion of Vice Chair Jeff Serdy, the board also put into place the ability for any candidate in a contested, municipal election to request a hand count of the ballots to ensure accuracy.

State Rep. Teresa Martinez (R-Casa Grande) said such a provision could be important in the local elections.

“I can see some city council races being very close and some candidates wanting to challenge based on the error,” she said.

The board rejected two other options to fix the situation. The first was to convert all municipal elections to mail-only voting. Volkmer said the affected cities rejected that solution because it would put the county in violation of its Intergovernmental Agreements with the cities to run the municipal elections by unilaterally converting the election to an all-mail election.

“I can tell you based on our communications, none of the cities are supportive of that,” Volkmer said. “It was made abundantly clear that the cities’ preference is not to convert to an all-mail (election). In fact, the overarching message was, ‘we didn’t authorize it, we don’t want that, our people need to be able to go in and vote in person. If we convert to an all-mail, we would eliminate that availability.”

The second option was to create special municipal elections at a later date in the affected cities. This would have meant holding a separate election for city council races.

“When we went back the cities, our clients, they were not happy about that option,” Volkmer said. “Generally, supplemental elections tend to have less voter turnout. So, our cities were expressing, ‘hey we don’t want less people making bigger decisions for us.’”

Pinal County Manager Leo Lew said the county staff will do whatever it takes to ensure the election goes off smoothly and accurately.

“We’re prepared to implement the solution and put all resources and staff necessary to work to do so,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting Elections Director David Frisk took responsibility for the errors.

“Thorough proofing would have prevented this error,” Frisk said. “This was not a system glitch or computer error or anything nefarious. There is no fault of anyone in the Recorder’s Office – it was my mistake. I and my staff are prepared to do whatever we need to do to fix this.”

Maricopa residents who voted early can go to the Pinal County facility at 19955 N. Wilson Ave., Suite 100 next week to pick up their supplemental ballot.

To see the video of the entire Board of Supervisors meeting, click here: Jul 12, 2022 BOS Special Session – Pinal County, AZ (swagit.com).