Elections chief: Behind-the-scenes issues caused primary problems for Arizona voters

Mar 28, 2016, 11:34 AM | Updated: 12:17 pm
(AP Photo/Ryan Van Velzer)...
(AP Photo/Ryan Van Velzer)
(AP Photo/Ryan Van Velzer)

PHOENIX — Several behind-the-scenes issues caused long wait times for voters in Arizona’s presidential preference election, Secretary of State Michele Reagan said Monday.

One issue, a computer error, prevented some voters from confirming their registration during Arizona’s presidential preference election.

“We now know that if voters tried to confirm their registration on Voter View, the system could not find them,” Secretary of State Michele Reagan said. “This was because if they entered lower-case letters on their driver’s license number, the system was hard-coded not to accept lower-cased letters.”

Reagan called the error “completely unacceptable” and said her office is working with the vendor to ensure the system will work in the future.

Voters in Maricopa County waited hours in line to vote in the election, which awarded delegates to presidential candidates. In the fallout, several officials have called for investigations into what went wrong and voters have asked the White House to look into what happened.

“On behalf of election officials statewide, I would like to apologize to the voters who are frustrated or angry with the election experience they had,” Reagan said.

As anger surrounding the issue grows, Reagan said her office wants to hear from voters.

“That’s where we’re getting our best information,” she said.

Her office has launched a website and email address where voters can tell her office what happened. She also plans to host bipartisan meetings in the areas most affected by long wait lines — Maryvale, south Phoenix, Tempe and Gilbert have been mentioned thus far — and those where things went smoothly.

The voter error was discovered during an investigation by Reagan’s office. However, it was far from the only blip on the radar.

As wait times for voters lengthened, Reagan said her office was essentially powerless to contact county election officials. There is no direct phone line between the two, so any communication was conducted through the same line the general public would use.

Her office is working to correct the issue.

Reagan said a map that showed polling locations worked on one part of her website, but was having problems on Voter View.

“We’re working with our vendor to make sure their system matches our system,” she said.

Reagan also said there were software and legal issues that caused a bar graph that showed Maricopa County results, despite voters still standing in line.

Reagan said her office was aware that Maricopa County would only open 60 polling places instead of the typical 200 but did not question the move. However, she said her office does not have the authority to order county officials to open more locations.

The county could have attempted to alleviate long lines by opening emergency polling places, but Reagan said each spot must be vetted by officials, staffed and the machines tested ahead of time before it can be approved.

Reagan said polling places could also have divided voters based on the type of ballot they needed — traditional versus provisional — “as they have done in past elections.”

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Elections chief: Behind-the-scenes issues caused primary problems for Arizona voters