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Primary election voters report issues at Maricopa County polling sites

(KTAR Photo/Jim Cross)

PHOENIX — Some voters in metro Phoenix faced technical issues at various polling places during Tuesday’s primary election, problems that county officials were aware of beforehand.

At around 2 p.m., Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes tweeted that “all sites were functional by 11:30 a.m.”

In a statement late Tuesday, Fontes took full responsibility for the issues that caused the 62 polling locations to not open on time.

“I take responsibility for what happened and I will make sure that it does not happen again,” Fontes said.

“The company we were working with assured us that they could get more technicians out this morning. That clearly was not the case,” he added. “We sent folks out to every site that was affected, as fast as we could.”

Earlier, Fontes admitted that his office had been told that technicians didn’t show up at some voting sites to try the equipment the previous day as scheduled.

“I am absolutely not happy that some voters don’t feel like they’ve been served properly,” Fontes told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes.

Voters from Avondale, Gilbert, north Phoenix, Peoria, Chandler and Mesa said in texts to KTAR News 92.3 FM that problems varied from the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website sending them to the wrong polling place and being turned away once they arrived to locked doors or computers malfunctioning and Wi-Fi not working.

Walk-up voters reported having to fill out provisional ballots at some locations. Polls opened at 6 a.m. and were scheduled to close at 7 p.m.

At noon, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan suggested on Twitter that the polls should remain open later than scheduled, although extending hours isn’t in her power.

Fontes did petition the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to have hours extended, but the board ruled against taking the matter to Arizona Superior Court.

“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,” Chairman Steve Chucri said in a statement.

“Now the board is being asked to step in and take unprecedented action that may confuse voters, delay returns, and have other unintended consequences.”

Reagan told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes that polling machines are the responsibility of counties, not the state, and that aging equipment is a problem nationwide, not just in Arizona.

Fontes gave an update during a Facebook Live video a few hours after the problems surfaced.

“We have individuals that were to be deployed (Monday) to the individual polling sites to go set up our new technology,” he said.

“(Set-up) didn’t happen the way it was promised,” he said, explaining some of the problems.

Frustrated voter Ben Saylor said he arrived at his polling place in north Phoenix and was told the equipment would not be set up until lunchtime.

He was directed to one of the county’s 40 bonus polling station and also was told he would have to cast a provisional ballot.

“If you’re a registered citizen, and you have the right to vote, there should be no such thing as a provisional ballot,” Saylor said.

There are about 750 polling locations in the state’s most populous county, which includes metro Phoenix.

The bonus voting centers weren’t affected by the problems, Fontes said. Those centers offer any registered voter the opportunity to pull a customized ballot from their precinct, choose their party and cast their ballot, no matter what part of the Valley they are in. Those locations can be found on Maricopa.vote.

A record turnout of more than 1 million votes was anticipated for the primary, most of which was completed during early voting.

The recorder’s office was given $3.9 million for new technology last fiscal year and appropriated almost $20 million for elections this fiscal year, according to Chucri.

For results and reaction, listen to KTAR News 92.3 FM’s primary roundtable program Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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