Maricopa County approves updates to vote-counting system to avoid snafus

PHOENIX – Months after glitches at the polls led to long waits for voters, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a $6.1 million contract to update the vote-counting system and establish an executive position they said will smooth future balloting.

“One’s right to vote is sacrosanct,” Supervisor Steve Chucri said. “I think that is something that is so sacred to each one of us – and what this country stands for when it comes to your right to vote.”

Maricopa County voters faced problems at polling sites in the August 2018 primary election, from counting malfunctions to dozens of sites being closed for several hours on Election Day.

The board approved the $6.1 million contract over three years with Dominion Voting Systems and set aside money for tabulation equipment.

The board, working on the recommendations of a work group it appointed to recommend election reforms, also unanimously approved a new executive director of elections, Scott Jarrett, who will report to the board and the County Recorder’s Office, which oversees elections.

County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who had blamed the primary difficulties on county contractors hired to prepare the voting equipment, could not be reached for comment.

Supervisors said Jarrett would help improve communication and collaboration between the board and the recorder’s office.

“We have had decades of a one partisan official being over all the elections, and with these items we can envision a new future where the recorder and the five of us on the board of supervisors work in partnership … to ensure that elections are best-in-class,” board Chairman Bill Gates said.

Several of the supervisors said the tabulation, or vote-counting equipment, has not been updated for more than 60 years. Businesses regularly upgrade technology, and the county should do the same for elections.

The board also referred to the county’s rapid growth and said people need to feel confident that their vote counts.

“When you go and vote, you should feel as though your vote was counted, and that it was secure and that it was done so in an effective way,” Chucri said.

In January, the board of supervisors appointed a work group to analyze elections process and recommend improvements. The supervisors also approved a report outlining the group’s findings and recommendations in a May report.

They also will analyze staffing to make sure it has appropriate level of numbers and experience with elections, the supervisors said.

Gates said supervisors want to change the voter experience to avoid complications.

Correction: This story has been updated to show Adrian Fontes could not be reached for comment.

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