Questions Remain In Pinal County As Maricopa County Looks Toward Canvassing Election Results

Questions Remain In Pinal County As Maricopa County Looks Toward Canvassing Election Results

By Terri Jo Neff |

Maricopa County has reported that more than 855,000 of its nearly 2.5 million voters cast ballots in the Aug. 2, 2022 Primary Election. Roughly 14,000 of those ballots were still in the pre-tabulation process as of Saturday, including 7,500 which were awaiting curing by voters no later than 5 p.m. on Aug. 9.

On Saturday, representatives of the political parties in Maricopa County completed a state-mandated hand count audit of four contests (including governor and U.S. senator) on 5,000 early ballots as well as ballots cast at five randomly selected voting centers.

With the hand count finished, there should be no problem completing the canvass of Maricopa County’s election results by the Aug. 12 statutory deadline. Canvassing is the act of officially certifying the election results, and is expected to be uneventful for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

The same cannot be said for Pinal County, which fired its Elections Director within hours of the polls closing. There is a possibility that legal action stemming from multiple problems could keep Pinal County’s board of supervisors from being able to do its canvass by the deadline.

As AZ Free News previously reported, Pinal County administers municipal elections for its 11 incorporated cities and towns. Due to “human error,” roughly 63,000 of the county’s 275,000 registered voters received incorrect early voting ballots last month.

Elections Director David Frisk accepted responsibility for the fact thousands of voters in Apache Junction, Casa Grande, Eloy, Mammoth, Maricopa, Queen Creek, and Superior received ballots without local races listed. Several thousand other voters who lived in unincorporated communities were incorrectly sent ballots which listing municipal races they were not eligible to vote in.

(Parts of Apache Junction and Queen Creek are in Maricopa County which reported no problems getting the correct ballots to its voters.)

Frisk and Pinal County officials assured the public the mistake could be resolved by not counting votes in mayor and council races if cast by non-municipal residents. The county then sent out supplemental ballots to affected municipal residents to use in additional to their original ballot which included federal, state, and legislative contests.

Yet just when county officials thought they had the early ballot snafu handled, reports began circulating the morning of Election Day that two of Pinal County’s 90+ polling stations did not open at 6 a.m. as required.

Those two locations were finally opened by 10 a.m., but by then Frisk and his staff were overwhelmed with reports that more than two dozen polling stations ran out of preprinted ballots. The ballot supply was also a responsibility which fell on Frisk, who was hired by the board of supervisors earlier this year with no experience in Arizona election laws or procedures

As Frisk was being fired, Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross quit her elected position on Thursday and accepted an appointment as Elections Director, a responsibility she previously had as Recorder from 2013 to 2017 before a new Elections Director position was created going into the 2018 election cycle.

Ross’s shuffling of jobs created a vacancy in the elected office of County Recorder, which the county board of supervisors filled Friday by appointing Deputy County Recorder Dana Lewis to serve out Ross’ term through the end of 2024. Lewis previously worked in the Elections Department before Frisk was hired.

County officials then regrouped with their new leadership and announced plans to update elections results every night around 7:30 p.m. “including over the weekend” until all valid ballots were tabulated. And in a major announcement, the county publicly confirmed rumors of an ongoing problem in trying to process about 10,000 early ballots.

The problem also prevented a large number of voters from being able to track their ballot’s status online. But just hours after taking over their new roles, Ross and Lewis were able to fix the problem with assistance from the Pinal County IT team so those affected ballots could get tabulated.

The only other reported Election Day problem came out of Cochise County, where a few dozen people claimed that when they signed in to vote they were listed as previously signing in.

The problem appears to stem from the fact the poll workers and election observers signed in during a recent training session to understand how the system worked. The voting database was not purged by the Elections Department staff before official in-person voting began.

Some voters reportedly were given provisional ballots to cast while others were allowed to vote once the error was realized.