On behalf of election officials statewide, I’d like to apologize to the voters who were frustrated or angry with the election experience last Tuesday.
I’d also like to thank the voters who braved long lines and especially the poll workers who worked incredibly long hours.
Last were, and throughout the weekend, I spent my time starting my review to find ou exactly what happened, and most importantly following up personally with the thousands of voters who contacted our office who were upset.
We have some preliminary finding that I will share with you now. The most obvious being:
Did our office know that there would be only going to be 60 polling places in Maricopa County? Yes.
Did our office at any time, reach out to Maricopa County to advise them that was not enough polling locations? No.
Does our office have the statutory authority to advise or direct the county on polling numbers or locations? No.
Do we agree that polling centers are advantageous to voters? Yes. Yavapai, Yuma, Cochise and Graham Counties and the City of Phoenix have all used polling centers versus specific precinct based polling locations, and it is wildly successful with voters.
One thing we have discovered is that some of these counties carefully eased into the concept of vote centers by doing extensive studies first and adjusting gradually. This was learned from Colorado election officials as well.
Could multiple lines have been formed polling centers when they became long? After speaking with county officials and poll workers, it has been determined that there is not an opportune way to divide the lines outside. They could have split lines up inside the polling places, as they have done in past elections, by separating voters who needed provisional ballots versus those voters who were casting a traditional ballot and in order to accomplish this polling centers would most likely need more ePoll books to check in voters.
That brings me to another area we are looking at. We’ve heard reports of ePoll books working too slowly. We want voter feedback on this. Each county uses different equipment and part of a statewide investigation is determining what equipment such as ePoll books worked well in other counties, and what should be replicated here.
Could additional machines have been brought into polling places at the last minute? Each machine is required to be tested prior to the election, and we have heard no evidence so far that the bottleneck was caused by the machines themselves.
Could emergency polling locations have been opened? The counties could have planned for it as a contingency. A polling place needs to be ADA compliant, added to the county’s insurance certificate and ample parking available. Also, needs to be alternate poll workers recruited and trained in advance for emergency locations. We have seen no evidence as of yet that there were spare poll workers in reserve.
Our office is not leaving anything off the table. All election officials are in this together. And t=if there were things the Secretary of State’s Office could have done better, I want to know about it so we can fix it. And, we have found some things where we think we could have performed better too.
First, one of our polling place locators was not working consistently. We have two sites that have polling place locators. The one on the Secretary of State website was working as planned. The one on a vendor site called, VoterView, was not working. We are working with our vendor to make their system match ours.
Second, if voters tried to confirm their registration status on VoterView, the system could not find them if they entered lowercase letters of their driver license number. It was determined the system was “hard coded.” This is completely unacceptable. The vendor worked all Thursday night to fix this, and we are testing it this week.
Third, for future elections, our office needs a dedicated phone line into the counties. We took over 2,000 phone calls on election day. Many that we were able to serve; however, a few that required county assistance and all we could do was get in queue through the regular county phone line.
Fourth, our election night reporting software on the front page shows a bar graph of the number of precincts statewide reporting that is reflective of the percentage total; however, if one is to go to the breakdown page, it reports it as some of the counties showing as 100 percent reporting. This was completely confusing to voters who, for obvious reasons, were still in line and it looked like all of the votes were already in. There is a very long, detailed legal reason for why the reporting is like this from the counties and we will most likely be explaining that at the 10 a.m. elections committee.
Going forward, I want to continue hearing directly from voters because that’s where we’re getting our best information of what exactly happened. We will be hosting a series of public meetings. The exact times and locations to be announced later this week. We expect bi-partisan meetings. We expect one to be in the Maryvale, one in South Phoenix, one in Tempe and one in Gilbert as those were the areas that experience the heavier voter turnout. We also anticipate having meeting outside Maricopa County to talk about were things went well.
We’ve also launched www.azsos.gov/myelectionstory for people to contact us directly regarding frustrations they experienced.
I’d like to take a couple of quick questions before we head down to the Hearing.