The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has rejected what it termed an “unprecedented” request by County Recorder Adrian Fontes to keep polls open an extra two hours today Tuesday.
Fontes, the top elections official in Arizona’s most populous county, said he would petition to extend voting hours in the primary election Tuesday after a contractor failed to set up voting machines across the county’s more than 500 precincts, delaying voting at several dozen polling locations.
“We want to make sure every voter has access,” Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes told CNN. Maricopa includes the city of Phoenix.
In response, Steve Chucri, the Maricopa County supervisor, released on a statement on Twitter saying, “Today we learned 62 polling places were not ready at the start of the day. Members of the Board were not told of any concerns yesterday, when the Recorder first became aware of issues, nor were members notified prior to the polls opening this morning.
“Now the Board is being asked to step in and take unprecedented action that may confuse voters, delay returns, and have other unintended consequences. We encourage any voter who wants to cast their ballot to be in line at any of your designated polling places by 7 pm and their vote will be counted.”
Voters are casting ballots Tuesday in Arizona’s primary election, including a closely watched contest to decide the Republican nominee in the state’s US Senate race. But voting initially hit a snag when a contractor hired to bring voting machines online in Maricopa County did not show up, the county recorder’s office said Tuesday.
“This wasn’t a problem of the machines. Our technology works well,” said Fontes. “The problem was the actual setup of the technology in the polling places.”
Officials declined to disclose the name of the contractor, whom they said they had used previously without issue. Fontes said he first learned of the issue Monday afternoon but decided not to publicize it so as not to risk suppressing voter turnout.
Instead, county officials rushed to bring the machines online in time for polls to open Tuesday morning. He said the county did not prioritize certain precincts, but was “pushing folks in whatever direction they were closest to.”
“It was all hands on deck all morning long,” Fontes said. “We’re really proud of our team for stepping up and stepping into the void that this contractor left.”
At those polling locations where machines were not online this morning – several dozen, Fontes estimates, although the county does not have an exact count – voters were able to turn in early-voting ballots and poll workers were instructed to inform Election Day voters that they could cast their ballots at one of 40 voting centers across the county, Fontes said.
As of noon local time, the county’s voting machines were “100 percent” online, he added, “but we have some issues to make up for with voters.”
The majority of voters were expected to cast their ballots early, Fontes said. However, because turnout has exceeded the county’s projections thus far, “we really cannot tell” how many voters might have been affected by the issues, he added.
“A negative impact on one voter is too much,” said Fontes. “I really do feel terrible that we couldn’t be there for every single voter.”