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Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell: Voting problems due to lack of money

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — One of the reasons that voters in the Arizona presidential preference election experienced hours-long waits in some parts of the state was due to insufficient funds, according to an Arizona elections official.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell admitted the downsized number of polling places for the state primary on March 22 was the result of a lack of funding.

“As of the time we started planning, there was not sufficient monies to pay us for a full-blown election, so we were trying to downsize if we could,” she said.

Maricopa County, the biggest in Arizona, had just 60 polling locations during this year’s primary, compared to 200 in 2012.

Voters at the resulting locations saw up to a five-hour wait just to cast a ballot, even though the race was called just one hour after polls were scheduled to close.

Elections officials decided to scale back the number of locations also in part to an increased number of mail-in ballots, Purcell said.

“Those people will already be getting a ballot and obviously will not — or should not — be going to the polls on election day,” she said.

As if the cutting back of polling locations was not detrimental enough, the number of voters in this year’s election increased by five percent, with nearly half of all eligible voters county-wide recording their ballots.

According to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, 533,760 votes were cast via early ballot in Maricopa County, while 83,489 went out to the polls.

In the days after the primary, Purcell initially blamed the voters for coming out in waves and causing a massive backup, before eventually apologizing for the debacle.

“The logic that the county employed to decide (on polling locations), it’s not arbitrary,” said Jennifer Marson, executive director of Arizona Association of Counties. “It was based in numbers that by and large it looked like it should have worked, but darn it, it absolutely did not work.”

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan has announced her office will look into what caused the long voting lines, while Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called for a federal investigation to try and see what went wrong.

KTAR News’ Mike Sackley contributed to this report. 

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