Judge rejects GOP request to extend voting hours after tabulation issues in Maricopa County

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(Video by Ashley Engle/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – In a legal push just before the 7 p.m. close of polls, the Republican National Committee and three prominent Arizona Republicans filed a motion to extend voting hours in Maricopa County. But a judge quickly denied the motion and polls closed at 7, with anyone in line at that time legally able to cast their ballot.

According to the complaint against Maricopa County Recorder Steve Richer and other county officials, “at least 36% of all voting centers across Maricopa County have been afflicted with pervasive and systemic malfunction of ballot tabulation devices and printers.”

Plaintiffs in the complaint are the RNC; Blake Masters, candidate for U.S. Senate; Kari Lake, candidate for Arizona governor; former Arizona state Rep. Jill Norgaard of Phoenix; and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

In response, Kelly for Senate – Mark Kelly’s campaign organization – filed a motion to intervene, citing possible extra expenses to ensure that “its affiliated voters and campaign are not unduly disadvantaged by new, extended poll hours for only certain Arizonans.”

Earlier in the day, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said that if a court orders the county to allow people to get in line after 7 p.m., “that’s up to the court,” but officials didn’t plan to move the established 7 p.m. voting deadline.

County officials said about 60 voting centers were affected by tabulation issues Tuesday – and by early afternoon, 17 of those had been fixed.

“There are no locations that I’m aware of that are completely shut down,” Gates said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

“People were still able to vote. It was just a matter of maybe not voting in the way they wanted to.”

The issue, he said, related to a printing issue and came as “a surprise to everyone.”

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer on Tuesday also apologized to voters.

“I am very sorry for any voter who has been frustrated or inconvenienced today in Maricopa County,” he said in a statement. “Every legal vote will be tabulated. I promise.”

Richer’s statement came as Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, addressed the media and called the county’s election process incompetent.

“Do you think what’s happening here in Maricopa County is normal? We have had problems after problems,” she said.

Lake said she had planned to vote in a Republican area today, but she decided to cast her ballot in “the heart of liberal Phoenix” instead.

“I woke up this morning and within minutes of the polls opening up, I started getting people calling, voters in tears calling my personal number, saying, ‘What’s going on? The tabulators aren’t working. They told me to put my ballot in a box, and they would drive it downtown to count it.’ This is not normal stuff.”

Some polling locations reported long lines, but many had no lines at all. At the Burton Barr Central Library polling location in central Phoenix, poll workers told some voters to go the Phoenix Art Museum up the street amid an issue with some machines after polls opened at 6 a.m. The issue was resolved later that morning.

Later in the afternoon, Bob Janes, 72, said he dropped off his mail-in ballot in person in Tempe because he was afraid something would happen to it.

Voters wait in line at the Litchfield Elementary School District Support Services Building to cast their ballots in Litchfield Park. (Photo by Alexia Faith/Cronkite News)

Voters wait in line at the Litchfield Elementary School District Support Services Building to cast their ballots in Litchfield Park. (Photo by Alexia Faith/Cronkite News)

“I went and got a sample (ballot) so I could remember what I put down to take home,” he said.

Although there were no issues while he voted, Janes said it doesn’t shock him that there were problems at other polling stations.

“I’ve been voting 50 years, and the older I get, the less I trust politicians in general,” he said.

Robert Murillo, 68, of Tempe, said he believes Election Day is the safest day to cast his ballot, but he’s still worried it won’t be counted.

“The machines aren’t working in Maricopa County, so I don’t know if that’s by chance or if it was brought on by shenanigans,” he said.

Both voters said their experiences voting in Tempe were quick and efficient.

Lake, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is one of the prominent Republicans who have built their campaigns on denying the results of the 2020 presidential election. No proof of fraud has been provided.

“They’ve got to fix this problem,” Lake said outside the downtown Phoenix post office Tuesday. “This is incompetency. I hope it’s not malice.”

She urged voters to stay in line – all day if they must – to cast their ballots.

Maricopa County tweeted about 3:40 p.m. that wait times were less than 30 minutes at more than 200 voting locations.

Gates tried to temper negative reactions by saying the issues are being resolved, and they have a “strong level of confidence” about the process.

Richer’s statement made it clear his office is responsible for voter registration and early voting, and the Board of Supervisors handles Election Day operations and tabulations.

Both officials, who are Republicans, said voters concerned about issues can place their ballots in “drawer 3,” a secure ballot box that’s retrieved by bipartisan workers at the end of the evening and brought to central tabulators.

Gates said that’s how the majority of counties in Arizona handle the votes.

Or voters can go to other voting locations.

“There are 223 voting locations, and the significant majority of them are unaffected,” Richer’s statement said.

The Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections for the state, directed questions to Maricopa County. Arizona’s secretary of state is Katie Hobbs, Lake’s Democratic opponent in the governor’s race.

Gates said they don’t know how many ballots were affected by the tabulation issues, but he said they do not believe anyone has been disenfranchised. As of early afternoon, he said about 140,000 people had voted in person in Maricopa County.

Richer said the county has received and verified more than 900,000 early ballots, and those results will be ready for release at 8 p.m.

News Reporter, Phoenix
News Reporter, Phoenix

Kaden Kleinschmidt expects to graduate in May 2024 with a master’s degree in journalism. Kleinschmidt has interned as a reporter with The Northern Light in Anchorage, Alaska.

Nathan Collins na-then kahl-ins (he/him/his)
Digital News Aide, Phoenix

Nathan Collins is an investigative journalism graduate student at Arizona State University who graduated from the University of Southern California in 2019 and the Thornton School of Music. Before switching to journalism, Collins, who plays saxophone, toured professionally with John Fogerty. Collins is passionate about public media, audio storytelling and creating meaningful narratives.

Ashley Engle ASH-lee EN-gul
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Ashley Engle expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Engle has been a golf reporter and anchor for Cronkite News Sports.

Alexia Faith uh-lex-see-uh faith (she/her/hers)
News Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Alexia Faith expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. Faith, who has interned as a videographer with Arizona Highways Magazine, has her own videography and photography company.