ARIZONA ELECTION

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell concedes election, out of office

Nov 15, 2016, 12:16 PM | Updated: 1:37 pm
(AP Photo/Ryan VanVelzer, File)...
(AP Photo/Ryan VanVelzer, File)
(AP Photo/Ryan VanVelzer, File)

PHOENIX — The ballots have been counted and the voters have spoken: The head of Maricopa County elections has been ousted from her position.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell announced her concession in an email on Tuesday.

“I want to congratulate Adrian Fontes on a hard fought race and give my word that I will do everything I can to make this a seamless transition,” she said.

Purcell also thanked voters for participating in elections and the people who worked in her office.

“I’m forever grateful to have served alongside this team, and I’m eternally indebted to the residents and voters of Maricopa County for affording me the opportunity,” she said.

Purcell was unseated by Democratic challenger Fontes, a lawyer who has run for public office only one other time.

“In this ball game we call politics, I don’t enter the stadium to compete on the field, but instead I enter as an umpire, I am here to call balls and strikes – my job – this job – is to call balls and strikes with integrity, with accountability and with a full-throttle effort to make sure every eligible citizen is able to register and to vote,” Fontes said in a release.

Purcell had been in office since 1988.

Her defeat comes at the end of numerous voting controversies in the county.

In March, Maricopa County made national headlines after voters waited hours in line to cast a ballot in the presidential preference election.

Voters waited in lines for as long as five hours and faced other difficulties. They held Purcell responsible — the number of polling places was cut to 60 save money.

As the March election night dragged on, Purcell initially said that voters could have mailed in early ballots instead of standing of line on election day.

“Well, the voters (are to blame) for getting in line, maybe us for not having enough polling places, or as many as we usually have,” Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said in an interview with Fox 10 on Tuesday night.

“I’m sorry they had to wait that long but I’m glad they went out to vote,” she said.

She later walked those comments back.

Purcell said low turnout in previous elections played a part in the decision to reduce sites.

The secretary of state’s office launched an investigation, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton demanded a federal investigation and the Democractic Party planned a lawsuit. The latter two said the excessive wait times unfairly targeted minorities.

The Justice Department also looked into the trouble.

But that wasn’t the end. Long voting lines returned as early voting began for November’s general election, with voters again waiting hours to cast ballots.

Those woes were topped by an announcement on election night that 350,000 Maricopa County early ballots would be counted another day, though Purcell said that delay had more to do with a large number of ballots received and the process used to count them than errors by officials.

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Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell concedes election, out of office