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Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chairman nixes idea to keep polls open

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Maricopa County won’t seek to keep the polls open late tonight despite problems getting some of them open this morning.

Steve Churci, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, nixed a proposal being considered by County Recorder Adrian Fontes to extend voting until 9 p.m. to ensure that those who did not get to vote early were given another chance. And Chucri, in a prepared statement, blasted how the operation was being run.

“The Recorder’s Office received $3.9 million for new technology last fiscal year and appropriated almost $20 million for elections this fiscal year, so there is no shortage of resources to run a successful election,” he wrote.

Chucri also said board members were not told until today of the problems that County Recorder Adrian Fontes said developed when a private firm contracted to set up equipment “didn’t come through.” Nor were supervisors kept in the loop before the polls opened.

The result was several polling locations that did not open at 6 a.m. as scheduled, with a handful not being operational until after 10 a.m.

Fontes told Capitol Media Services that the most logical step appeared to be keeping several “voting centers” open for an additional two hours, beyond the normal 7 p.m. close, to ensure that everyone had a chance to cast a ballot. Those voting centers would accept the ballots of anyone, regardless of where they are normally assigned to vote.

Chucri said that’s not an option.

“Now the board is being asked to step in and take unprecedented action that may confuse voters, delay returns, and have other unintended consequences,” he said.

The chairman said there is an answer to keep voters from being disenfranchised: Show up at the designated polling place by 7 p.m., as Arizona law spells out that anyone in line at that hour gets to vote, no matter how long it takes.

Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said that should not delay election results — at least as they are reported to his office.

Roberts said state law prohibits the announcing of results until an hour after the polls are closed. But he said that’s based on the official closing time, not what time people are still casting ballots.

He acknowledged that means some people still in line after 8 p.m. could learn whether a candidate for whom they planned to vote already has won.

Fontes acknowledged that he became aware there would be a problem on Monday.

“By the time we realized they were not distributing their workforce the way we had contracted them to do, or in the amount we contracted them to do, we started scrambling up and getting our staff trained up so that we could do their job for them,” he told Capitol Media Services.

That, however, didn’t solve the problem.

“This morning we found out that people weren’t sending their folks out to the places that they had promised yesterday,” he said, like technicians who were supposed to be on site at 5 a.m. today.

“We’re going to have a nice long conversation with this contractor after the election is over,” Fontes said, declining to identify the company at this point.

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