Election Day: Computer problems at polls vex voters in Maricopa County

A voter walks into the polling location at The Citadel Senior Living Community in Mesa. Voters were redirected there after another polling location experienced computer issues Tuesday morning. (Photo by Celisse Jones/Cronkite News)

Check back for updates on the Arizona primary election throughout the day.

Maricopa County will not extend voting hours

Updated at 4:30 p.m.

County officials chose not to petition the Superior Court about extend voting hours at a handful of polling places after widespread delays in the morning. All polling places in Maricopa County will close at 7 p.m.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Chucri said they wanted to avoid confusing voters.

“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,” he 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.”

Chucri said 62 polling places did not have voting equipment set up when polls opened at 6 a.m., and others experienced technical difficulties.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Michele Reagan had called on Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes to ask for the court’s permission to extend polling hours.

By 11:30 a.m., all polling places in Maricopa County were open.

– Chris McCrory reporting

Michele Reagan calls for extended hours for Maricopa County polls

Updated 1:35 p.m.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan said Maricopa County should consider asking the Superior Court to allow selected polling locations to be open past 7 p.m.

Angry voters concerned their votes won’t be counted

Voter complaints about technical difficulties in Maricopa County dominated some local social media channels Tuesday.

Voters were angered about polling stations being closed, computer and printer problems, having to go to different polling locations and being forced to cast provisional ballots.

Taylor Stephens tried to vote at the Burton Barr Central Library polling location in Phoenix just after it opened about 6 a.m. She said the printers were not aligned properly and weren’t reading ballots when workers tried to scan them.

“The staff, while I’m sure we’re doing their best to handle the scenario, seemed a little scrambled and didn’t have a consensus on how to solve the problem for a while,” Stephens said. “We manually deposited the ballots into the bin.”

Stephens is worried her vote won’t be counted because of the difficulties.

“I asked if it would be verified manually, and didn’t really get an answer,” she said.

Brent Kleinman arrived at the Encanto Park Clubhouse polls in central Phoenix on his way to work about 7 a.m., but the location was closed due to computer difficulties, he said.

It still was closed when he returned about 10:30 a.m. Kleinman said he was told the polls may not reopen, and that he could cast a regular ballot at another location.

He went to vote at Burton Barr and had to cast a provisional ballot.

“Obviously, they’re not being told that there is an issue at the closest polling place,” Kleinman said.

Kleinman said he was worried the difficulties and confusion would dissuade people from voting.

“My biggest fear as a voter is that voters won’t go to another location assuming there will be a long line,” he said. “People may think ‘It’s just a primary’ and won’t vote at all.”

On Twitter and the Maricopa County Recorder’s Facebook page, voters were angered by similar problems.

“I’m in Fountain Hills and had a ‘defective’ ballot that would not scan,” Wendy Barnard posted on Facebook. “I was basically bullied into turning it in rather than allowing me to get another ballot.”

Other voters were also told they would have to cast provisional ballots when they were relocated to polls that weren’t their assigned location.

“My polling locations 0055 Bluebird is not setup,” Lynda Wolowicz wrote on Facebook. “I was referred to Paradise Valley Community College. When I arrived to check in I was informed I would be casting a provisional ballot!! I refused to cast my ballot at this location!”

About an hour later, Wolowicz said she cast her vote after the Bluebird location opened.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes responded to many of the comments on Facebook, telling voters that provisional ballots would be counted and that he was working to fix the problems.

Polling inspector: Voters understand

Polling-place inspector Ron Gonyea arrived at Via Linda Senior Center in Scottsdale at 5:30 a.m., expecting the polls to run smoothly when they opened a half-hour later. That wasn’t the case.

“It’s somewhat accepted, not acceptable, but accepted, that equipment doesn’t function,” Gonyea said.

Technicians had the polls operating about 8:30 a.m., Gonyea said – 2½ hours late. Officials at the Via Linda location began redirecting voters to other Scottsdale polls.

“And quite accidentally, they had an issue with getting their equipment up and running, and they were doing this manually operated system so that’s what we adopted until such time the equipment was put into motion,” Gonyea said.

Despite having to switch polling places, he said, most voters were understanding.

“I think there is a misimpression sometimes with voters,” Gonyea said. “Voters are usually pretty friendly people and we got no pushback, not that I was aware of anyway, no pushback from folks having to go somewhere else. Nobody is happy about it, I don’t mean to suggest everybody was happy, but they understood.”

– Edgardo Lozoya reporting

‘Find one thing you care about’

Updated 1:15 p.m.

Jose Ronquillo, 24, of Mesa, voted at the Citadel Assisted Living Center just after noon.

Ronquillo said he has voted in every election since he turned 18.

Jose Ronquillo, 24, of Mesa, said he has been voting since he turned 18. (Photo by Drake Dunaway/Cronkite News)

“I think it’s important even now, especially now with everything going on.”

Ronquillo’s advice to younger people who may not want to vote is to “find one thing that you care about and then find another person that’s running and go and vote for them.”

For Ronquillo, that “one thing” is the school system.

“I came out today to basically vote for Katherine Hoffman for the superintendent of public schools.”

– Drake Dunaway reporting

Contractor had not checked computers, as election officials had said

Updated 12:35 p.m.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, at a news conference, explained what had happened and what voters could do:

What are some of the problems we were having here with voting, polling, et cetera?

Now, the reason of the problems is that one of our contractors that was supposed to set up equipment in a lot of our polling places yesterday didn’t deploy a sufficient resource to make it happen. But we’re dealing with that situation and we should be in good shape by midday.”

What do you recommend for voters who are having a problem right now?

“Well, any of our voters can go to any of our 40 “bonus” vote centers that have been open and operational since last Wednesday. And that’s any voter in Maricopa County can go to any of these bonus vote centers. They can pull their own ballot for their own precinct and they can go ahead and vote that. So that’s an increase in voter access we created this year. So it’s not just one place where you can vote on election day, you can vote at any of those 40.”

What kind of turnout do you expect this year?

“We’ve got a huge early voter turnout. It looks like we may even beat our 2016 presidential year turnout numbers. So we’re well on track to have some great turnout and that’s a fantastic indicator that voters are engaged and they are wanting to come out and participate. And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that our office wants to have a conversation with the public. We want to talk to the public about how they can vote, where they can vote and also help them with any other concerns they have and the challenges that they face so that we can fix those circumstances quickly.”

Matt Robert, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, had said last week that Maricopa County and state authorities completed accuracy tests on all of Arizona’s voting machines and systems.

“The county tests 100 percent of their election equipment,” he said. “All of our counties passed on the first try with 100 percent of their tabulation equipment performing perfectly.”

– Samantha Lomibao reporting

Cronkite News Noon Newscast

Updated 12:30 p.m.

Computer issues started with 250 locations Monday afternoon, officials say

Updated 11:08 a.m.

By 10 a.m. Tuesday, most problems had been taken care of in Maricopa County, election officials said. Five polling locations still were having problems and technical difficulties, according to County Recorder Adrian Fontes.

Related story

Fontes, in a news conference at election headquarters, said his office became aware of the technical difficulties and lack of contractors about 2 p.m. Monday and had worked since then to make sure polls could open.

At the height of the problem Monday evening, Fontes said, his office was worried 250 locations wouldn’t open the next morning – about half of the locations in the county.

The recorder’s office then began training its own staff to work the machines and computers. When the polls opened Tuesday morning, Fontes said, 12 locations still were having problems.

“This has been an exercise in patience, strategy and planning,” he said.

Fontes blamed the problems on a lack of contractor personnel to properly set up and work the machines.

“This is not a hiccup,” he said. “This is a serious concern where a lot of voters in Maricopa County are not able to vote as planned.”

Voters react to computer glitches at some Maricopa County polls

Updated 10:06 a.m.

Portrait of man who was moved to work at a different polling location

Thomas Council, 83, had to vote elsewhere because the person assigned to work the computers at his designated Scottsdale polling place hadn’t shown up. (Photo by Rachel Charlton/Cronkite News)

Thomas Earl Council said had to relocate this morning from his designated polling place, Barnes Elk Lodge, after the person who was supposed to work the computers wasn’t there when Council showed up at 6 a.m. He waited for two hours but the problem wasn’t fixed, he said.

“Two hours later, they should have had it working,” Council said.

Council, who was redirected to Civic Center Library in Scottsdale, worries that if young people have a bad experience at the polls, it may deter them from future voting.

“No one should have to wait to vote,” he said.

A record turnout of 1 million voters is expected, according to state election officials. About 75 percent of voters have already cast their votes with mail-in ballots.

Elections officials are expecting about 250,000 people to vote in person on Election Day.

Previous coverage

Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county, has 500 polling centers, including 40 new “bonus centers” where any registered voter can cast a vote.

Polls will remain open Tuesday until 7 p.m. Voters must bring identification, such as driver’s license or government issued ID card, with them to the polls.

– Celisse Jones, Holly Bernstein and Rachel Charlton reporting

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