116 Vote Centers Approved For Upcoming Special Election, But Traditional Sites Back For August, November

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 4:41pm
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(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
Voters line up to cast votes in the March 22, 2016, Presidential Prefence Election at the Salt River Pima Community Center polling place.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved 116 vote centers to be used in the upcoming May 17 special election, up from 60 in last month’s presidential preference election.

Voters will be asked to weigh in on Proposition 123, which is Governor Doug Ducey’s proposal for education financing that uses funding from the state land trust, and Proposition 124, which would make changes to the retirement program for public safety employees.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved the disastrous plan for 60 vote centers that led to long lines and voters voting past midnight on March 22. After that debacle, county elections officials told the board they would try and double the number of vote centers for May 17.

In a 4-1 vote the Board approved the plan for 116 polling sites, but also left open the possibility to add additional polling sites.

The only Democrat on the Board, Steve Gallardo, said county election officials had not done enough to get feedback from the public on the plan. He said if the portion of the Voting Rights Act were still in effect that required Arizona to get preclearance for election changes from the U.S. Department of Justice the federal government would have asked if there had been public comment before approving a change.

Gallardo said he heard some concerns already about gaps in North Phoenix and South Scottsdale.

His colleagues on the board tried to persuade him to approve the plan and introduced the possibility of adding more polling places. But Gallardo reiterated the importance of soliciting public comment and voted against the plan.

The March 22 presidential preference election was the first time Maricopa County used vote centers, which are larger polling places that any voter can visit. But since there are fewer locations, voters have to travel farther to get to them.

In the August primary election and November general election, Maricopa County voters will go back to having more than 700 polling locations at the precinct level. In those elections, voters will have to go to their designated polling place in order for their vote to count.

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