Maricopa County Supervisors Ask Fontes: Why Didn’t You Tell Us About Election Troubles?

By Bret Jaspers, Mark Brodie, Lauren Gilger
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - 7:10pm
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2018 - 5:15pm
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Bret Jaspers/KJZZ
Maricopa County Supervisors Bill Gates (third from left) asks County Recorder Adrian Fontes a question during a special meeting on Sept. 5, 2018.

Update on Sept. 6, 2018, 4:39 p.m.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said that on advice of counsel, his office will be turning its internal post-primary report over to county auditors and not releasing it to the public at this time.

A primary election that saw record turnout would be a cause for celebration in most circumstances. But last week’s voting in Maricopa County saw dozens of neighborhood polling locations opening up late, as well as a smattering of other confusions and delays in the early part of the day.

In a special meeting on Wednesday, the County Board of Supervisors certified the election results. The board also approved $200,000 for an audit of the election and grilled County Recorder Adrian Fontes, whose office runs elections.

Fontes repeated what he said last week: the county did not get enough technicians from a key contractor, Tempe-based Insight, a claim the company disputes.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Chucri asked Fontes, “Who was responsible for negotiating and adhering to the contract with Insight?”

In reply, Fontes said he would let the procurement process “work its way through, because this may end up in some kind of litigation at some point in the future.” He said when the final data comes out, his office would be “vindicated.”

The Recorder’s Office is expected to release its own post-mortem on the primary on Thursday.

Chucri and others also wondered why the recorder didn’t ask for help earlier.

“You and your team have collaborated with this board when you were looking for polling places, yet you did not see it important enough to reach out to us when this crisis occurred on Monday afternoon,” Chucri said to Fontes.

The supervisors were also concerned about poll workers who may have received the brunt of the public’s frustration.

“How are we guarding against poor morale of poll workers that have worked several elections and [told me] ‘I’m not going to do this anymore’?” Hickman asked. “That’s abhorrent to me.”

Fontes promised to work with the county and outside auditors in an effort to improve performance in the next election. He also stressed that having 40 vote centers — sites where anyone can cast a ballot — was part of a contingency plan, and that plan was shown to work. Voters whose neighborhood polling location was closed were always able to cast a ballot at a vote center.

“One of  the silver linings in this cloud was that at no point was any voter in Maricopa County unable to vote starting at 6 o’clock in the morning. And that’s why the vote centers were important,” he said.

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