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Arizona Primary Election Day Brings On Another Day Of Voter Pains

Adrian Fontes
Blake Benard/KJZZ
file | staff
Adrian Fontes.

LAUREN GILGER: Throughout The Show this morning, we've been keeping you up to date on the polls. It's of course primary day and voters across the state are voting in the primary elections. There are some highly anticipated races going on but there are also some reports coming in this morning that voters are encountering some problems as they head to the polls. Joining us now to talk about them and how he's addressing them is Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. Good morning, County Recorder Fontes.

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ADRIAN FONTES: Good morning. It's a mouthful of a title you can just call me Adrian.

GILGER: So tell us, first, there are quite a few reports coming in. What is the root of the problem and what's going on out there this morning?

FONTES: Well first and foremost I want to make sure that voters know that we've got 40 bonus vote centers that are available for every Maricopa County voter. They are all vote anywhere sites. So they've been operational in completely 100 percent running since Wednesday last week. Those 40 vote centers are available for anyone and we haven't had any indications of issues there. So the next question is we want to get the feedback that we've been receiving from voters. This is a dynamic situation and any issues that they might be facing we want to hear about it because we can't solve you know we can't meet these challenges unless we know about them. But so far as what's happened today is really it's a question of logistics. We had a contractor who was supposed to get out and help us set up 460 plus sites yesterday and they didn't deploy sufficient resources and once we got around is trying to help resolve that problem we ended up working through the evening and into this morning and right now we've got almost the whole thing resolved so that's where we're at. And I'm real disappointed that this is where we're at but we're working to resolve the problem.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Adrian, two-part question. One is this an electronic issue? Is this with computers? And secondly, is this something you're going to come back at this contractor and say you didn't live up to this and we paid you a set amount of money we need to get it back?

FONTES: So first of all the system that we're using is a system that we built in-house. We've used it successfully last fall and in February, March, April and May of this year with the various elections and the special election that we had. We don't have any issues that are electronic or that are system based. Really what happened was this was a logistics issue. We had a contractor that did not deploy sufficient resources. We've worked with this contractor before so there will definitely be some debriefing. We will keep all of our options on the table as to whether or not we're going to be moving forward with these folks again in the future. My biggest concern is you know voters that feel like the system is not working. Everything that we've done at the county is working pretty well and we're hoping that we can get some partners on board that are going to be able to help us execute better in the fall.

GILGER:  Is it at all though too late for some of those voters who went in there you know break that they have from work or before work, on their way in and how are you getting the message out to those people that they can still head out and where they should go? I know you've been talking to people and answering concerns on Twitter all morning.

FONTES: Yeah, it's not at all too late. And we've been working overtime to try to communicate with our voters across Maricopa County and we also thank you very much for having us on. It's not too late. We've got till 7:00 p.m. when the polls close. If you've get an early ballot that's in the green envelope that you've signed and sealed you can drop that off anywhere at any of our polling locations. You drop it in the box grab your sticker and go. Those are early voting ballots and we'll accept those. And so far as folks that didn't have a chance this morning, I think that's bad. And I have to apologize to these folks. You know it's the voter experience in security and accountability that we've been working on and our folks didn't do what we contracted them to do. And look I'm accountable for that and we're going to resolve this circumstance one way or another. But again the convenience of these early vote centers means that anyone can go to any of them. You don't just have one option which was the way voting worked in the past. On Election Day you can now go to any of our 40 bonus vote centers and your individual neighborhood polling place. So we really have expanded voter access. Unfortunately we had this circumstance pop up and I think we're almost fully resolved but I haven't gotten the last update yet. Last time we checked we only had a couple of polling sites that were still unavailable.

GOLDSTEIN: Adrian, one of the writing you had your website at least from my perspective is pretty easy to use in terms of whether you want to find one of the 40 polling stations or you want to find out what your polling location is. But some people have been confused on that. And I know you're big on education but do you want to do even more outreach and more education so that everyone can figure this out because there still are some people who seem to have issues especially when it came to going to one of the 40 polling locations or polling stations?

FONTES: Yeah, this year was a hybrid. We have a lot of folks that were very dedicated to being able to get that preprinted ballot and put it into a precinct based tabulator. That system is nearing the end of its life. But there were a lot of folks that just wanted to keep doing that. The alternative was to switch to all vote centers where any voter could go to any vote center get their ballot for their precinct and just vote it. This year, in discussions with the supervisors, we decided to go with a hybrid. This is what the hybrid looks like. And you know what that extra information and I think that for something that a lot of folks only do once every couple of years, it can be a little bit confusing admittedly and that's unfortunate. But that's one of the reasons why we've really increased our outreach. We've got a community relations team that has contacted literally thousands and thousands of voters out there. We've got shareholders and stakeholders meetings. We've got a whole bunch of stuff that we're doing including being accessible. And let me just say this before you ask your next question. We want the feedback that we've been receiving. We want that commentary back towards us. Elections are a partnership between the folks administering them and the voters. This is the voter’s vote it is their voice. We want to promote it we want to amplify it and we want to make it easy. Sometimes circumstances don't allow that to happen 100 percent and we are working towards meeting every single one of those challenges. So we want to continue the dialogue and that's why we've been so available on Facebook and Twitter and other social media. That's why we've been asking for input. We need the public to be engaged with us because that's how we're going to make this better.

GILGER: And that is our last question we have time for. That is Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. Thank you so much for joining us.

FONTES: Thanks for having me. Have a great day.

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.