Maricopa County Board of Supervisors makes election adjustments

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors recently made adjustments to the way elections are run in the county. (Submitted photo)

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors recently made adjustments to the way elections are run in the county.

The vote to approve the final, amended recommendations of a county-wide election work group follows high-level, bipartisan conversations over the past several months.

It also signals, according to a press release, a unified effort between the board, the recorder, the Elections Department and executive county leadership to ensure integrity at all levels of voting in the 2020 elections and beyond.

“Today is an important day for voters in Maricopa County,” Chairman Bill Gates, District 3, said in a prepared statement.

“The board has authorized new technology to improve the way ballots are counted; a study of the staffing needed to support expected record voter participation; and a new organizational structure that gives the Board of Supervisors an active role in elections activities. Taken together, these steps will improve accountability and service to voters.

“I’m grateful to the elections work group, Recorder Fontes, and my colleagues on the Board for their collaboration on this, especially Supervisor Gallardo whose past experience helping to run elections has been invaluable.”

The Board’s unanimous action include:

  • Better vote tabulation: Maricopa County will acquire new vote tabulation machines that protect the integrity and security of each ballot while also counting ballots more quickly.
  • Additional elections staff: The county is in the process of completing an independent, staffing analysis to determine additional Elections Department personnel required to support a successful election season.
  • New executive structure: The Elections Director position will become two director-level positions so both the recorder and the Board will have a “point person” inside the Elections Department. One director will have oversight of the assigned statutory responsibilities of the Recorder. The other director will have oversight of the assigned statutory responsibilities of the board.

“We’re excited that these two directors will work in tandem to ensure people can vote when and how they want to, be that mailing in their ballots, visiting an Early Voting Center, or voting in person on Election Day at their precinct,” Supervisor Steve Gallardo, District 5, said in a prepared statement.

“Combined with new technology and appropriate staffing, this structure ensures both the Board and Recorder have adequate oversight of the responsibilities given to them under state law.”

Vice Chairman Clint Hickman of District 4 pointed out how Maricopa County has made national news because of long lines, slow vote counts and other issues.

“Now the board is taking a more active role in elections, beyond budget oversight,” he said in a prepared statement.

“This new director-level position will be one of only four positions countywide that report directly to the Board, which signifies the importance of successful elections to all of us.”

In January, the board directed the county manager to form a work group made up of Recorder’s Office leadership and county administrative leadership to look at county-wide election processes and other recommendations regarding three specific areas: staffing, technology, and organizational structure.

The 10-member work group focused on how to improve outcomes for voters while maintaining the efficiencies of the current system. They also were mindful of how any recommended changes would impact the 2020 elections calendar, a release states.

In Arizona, counties run most elections, including elections for national offices such as president and congress. State law divides responsibilities between each county’s recorder, Board of Supervisors and, to a lesser extent, clerk of the board.

The recorder has responsibility for voter registration and early voting, among other things. The Board of Supervisors has a responsibility for much of what happens on Election Day, including the location and number of polling places, the equipment to count votes, and the training and assigning of poll workers.

“This is about moving away from the past—from old technology and a decades-old charter that gave outsized responsibility to one partisan, elected official — and running elections in a way befitting the Maricopa County of tomorrow,” Supervisor Steve Chucri, District 2, said in a prepared statement.

“We’re the fourth-largest county in America; people expect us to get it right. These changes are designed to ensure we have the proper checks and balances to serve all voters in 2020 and beyond.”

Supervisor Jack Sellers of District 1 said the ability to vote needs to be nonpartisan.

“I’ve been impressed with the efforts of all the parties involved to find consensus in moving us forward with technology and a structure, focused on the voter, to ensure that our elections are efficient, transparent and fair,” he said.

At its June 26 meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved the contract for the new tabulation equipment and approved the creation of the second Elections Director position that reports to the Board. The staffing study should be completed later in the summer.

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