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.

Pinal County Officials: Secretary of State Partly to Blame For Ballot Shortage

Pinal County Officials: Secretary of State Partly to Blame For Ballot Shortage

By Corinne Murdock |

 In a press conference on Wednesday, Pinal County shared that the secretary of state’s office supplied them with a faulty formula that led to Tuesday’s ballot shortage across about 25 voting precincts. The county implied that unique voter behavior phenomena exacerbated weaknesses in the formula that caused the shortage. 

Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McClure and Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer spoke on behalf of the county to address the issue.

Volkmer said that the secretary of state’s office attempts to help counties with a formula to project in-person voter turnout. However, he said that didn’t help in this election due to reports of a substantial number of voters spoiling their mail-in ballots in order to vote in-person, an increased number of “independent” voters requesting Republican ballots rather than Democrat ballots, and a 10 percent population increase since the last election.

“Quite frankly, we underestimated. That’s what happened. There were more people that showed up than we thought were going to show up,” said Volkmer. 

Volkmer added that the process of estimating in-person ballots was guesswork, attributing the election night fiasco to “human error” and “training errors.”

“Every elected official is embarrassed about what happened,” said Volkmer.

Unlike Volkmer, McClure couldn’t speak to why the ballot shortage occurred.

McClure said that he wasn’t “entirely sure” how the ballot shortage happened. The county’s elections director, David Frisk, is tasked with ordering the proper number of ballots. McClure relayed that Frisk would likely be removed from his position over this “major screw-up.” However, as one reporter pointed out, Frisk was still overseeing primary election ballot counting, which continued after Tuesday. McClure assured the reporter that the county has “lots of eyes,” implying that they were watching Frisk at work. 

Volkmer said that approximately 2.5 percent of ballots were impacted potentially, or about 750 votes. However, the county attorney said that was an estimated guess at best. Of the over 900 ballot types at 95 active polling locations, there were 25 types that either ran low or ran out. Volkmer added that the county’s reporting system for election issues doesn’t allow for differentiation between shortages and total depletion. 

“We can’t tell you the exact number [of precincts] that ran out,” said Volkmer. “The actual number of people impacted, we have no way to purely assess. It would be speculation for us to guess the number of people, we can only base it on feedback.”

The county attorney said that just under 300,000 voters were notified of these shortages through their notification systems. Volkmer said a redo of the election wasn’t possible without court intervention.

2022 PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS

State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) informed McClure and Volkmer that ballots never came for a number of constituents attempting to vote for her. Townsend, who lost Tuesday to State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) by about 5,000 votes, clarified that she was at peace with the election results. 

Townsend asserted that her voters were disenfranchised because they came in the afternoon rather than the morning. She suggested an injunction for those who never got to cast their votes.

“This election has been so flawed and has Fourteenth Amendment issues. How can we proceed forward and say, ‘Oh well, sorry guys’?” asked Townsend.

Volkmer said there was nothing they could do, but reiterated that voters who remained in line were given the opportunity to vote. 

State Representative Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek) notified Volkmer and McClure that he attempted to file an injunction on Tuesday as soon as he heard about the ballot shortage. The court system is still processing the injunction. 

Volkmer assured Carter that the county attempted to print ballots at a faster pace, but that their machinery was too antiquated to print quickly. 

On Thursday, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs issued an indirect response to Volkmer’s press conference remarks. Hobbs made it clear that counties hold sole responsibility for determining ballot numbers.

“Counties are responsible for calculating how many ballots to order. Under Arizona law, counties should review their voter registration statistics by precinct and party (for the Primary) to determine how many ballots to order,” tweeted Hobbs. “The Secretary of State determines which candidates and issues qualify for the ballot at the federal, state, and legislative level.”

While Pinal County was struggling with their ballot shortage, Hobbs attended her victory party for her gubernatorial campaign. 

On the night of the election, the county attributed the shortage to “unprecedented demand.” They assured voters that they would be eligible to vote so long as they were physically in line by 7 pm. 

Pinal County encountered a serious issue with its elections last month as well. The county mailed about 63,000 erroneous ballots, which they resolved by sending supplemental, or “Municipal Only,” ballots. Voters were required to use their original ballot to vote on federal, state, and legislative contests, then use the supplemental ballot to vote on races absent from the original ballot.

Similar to the county’s apologies about the ballot shortage, Frisk attributed the tens of thousands of erroneous ballots to “human errors.” 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Pinal County Officials: Secretary of State Partly to Blame For Ballot Shortage

Pinal County Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Voting in 2020 Election

By Corinne Murdock |

Last week, a Pinal County man pleaded guilty to falsely attesting to his felon status when registering to vote. It’s the latest case investigated and prosecuted by the attorney general office’s Election Integrity Unit (EIU). 

35-year-old San Tan Valley resident Roberto Garcia voted in the 2020 general election, despite having six previous felony convictions. Garcia was indicted in the Pinal County Superior Court in March. 

Garcia faces a minimum of six months and a maximum of 2.5 years. He will receive his sentencing on August 22 by Judge Jason Holmberg. Probation wasn’t made available. 

Public court records reveal that one of Garcia’s previous felony convictions concerned theft in 2006.

Another EIU case was convicted last month. As AZ Free News reported, a Scottsdale woman voted for her dead mother in the 2020 election. The court revoked the voter registration of that woman, 56-year-old Krista Michelle Conner of Cochise County. Conner’s fraudulent ballot wasn’t counted, according to Cochise County Recorder David Stevens. 

Prior to that, another Scottsdale woman that also cast a ballot in her dead mother’s name in the 2020 election — 64-year-old Tracey Kay McKee — was sentenced to two years’ probation.

Other recent convictions of voter fraud concerned several elections over the past decade. Those were 70-year-old Marcia Johnson of Lake Havasu City, who cast a ballot in her dead father’s name in 2018, and 62-year-old Joseph John Marak of Surprise, who voted as a felon six times since 2016.

The EIU was formed in 2019 and launched its online complaint form in the summer of 2020. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Pinal County Officials: Secretary of State Partly to Blame For Ballot Shortage

Pinal County Election Leaders Issue Plan to Fix About 63k Erroneous Ballots

By Corinne Murdock |

During a special session on Tuesday, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to fix incorrect early ballots mailed to about 63,000 voters last week. The ballots were missing city and town contests from seven municipalities: Casa Grande, Eloy, Mammoth, Maricopa, and Superior, along with the Pinal County portions of Apache Junction and Queen Creek.

Pinal County agreed with the secretary of state’s office to send supplemental ballots, or “Municipal Only” ballots, to all voters in the seven municipalities. However, those voters must also use their original ballot for all federal, state, and legislative contests — the supplemental ballots will only account for the races absent from the original, erroneous ballots. 

The county will also have in-person voting at Election Day polling sites for municipal contests in the seven impacted cities and towns. As for voters with ballots including races outside their jurisdiction, the county assured reporters that the election tabulation system would invalidate and not count them. 

As the Arizona Daily Independent noted, Elections Director David Frisk acknowledged that the county officials bore full responsibility, namely himself. 

“Due to human errors made by myself and staff under my direct supervision, ballots were produced and mailed to voters within seven municipalities without the appropriate local races and measures,” said Frisk. “I missed the crucial step of ensuring that each ballot style produced had appropriate races on it […] It was my mistake.”

READ PINAL COUNTY’S PLAN HERE

The plan comes after AZ Free News reported about one Pinal County resident — attorney general candidate Tiffany Shedd — who petitioned her election officials repeatedly about address errors on her and her family’s voter ID cards. Several weeks before the county mailed the 63,000 erroneous ballots, a deputy county attorney informed Shedd — after alleged hostility from the recorder’s office — that she could no longer contact election officials about her issue.

“Our driver’s licenses don’t match our voter ID cards and it was unacceptable to me that any elections official thought it was okay that we might be forced to cast a provisional ballot,” remarked Shedd at the time. “It is a huge problem to receive a ballot for an election that we are not qualified to vote in, and to be denied the opportunity to vote in your own city’s elections. Is it any wonder people are questioning whether our elections are free and fair?”

Shedd also reported that her son received a ballot including a city council race, despite living outside city limits. This was one issue that affected thousands of other Pinal County voters. 

Shedd wondered how many other residents’ concerns were dismissed by the county. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Incorrect Ballots Sent To Pinal County Voters Weeks After Officials Ignored AG Candidate’s Concerns

Incorrect Ballots Sent To Pinal County Voters Weeks After Officials Ignored AG Candidate’s Concerns

By Terri Jo Neff |

Unintended mistakes happen in our daily lives, in the workplace, and even in government. But one thing Arizonans dislike is when bureaucracy tries to shut up someone who wants answers to why a mistake isn’t being addressed.

Such is the situation for Tiffany Shedd, a longtime Pinal County resident and candidate for Arizona Attorney General who could not get a straight answer for why the new county-issued voter ID cards listed her and her family’s address as Casa Grande instead of Eloy.

A deputy county attorney recently told Shedd she could no longer contact county elections officials about the problem. And now county officials have admitted that the voter ID card problem was just the tip of the iceberg.

Shedd spoke with AZ Free News about her experience and her frustration that the county has now acknowledged it sent about 63,000 voters in some Pinal County cities and towns incomplete ballots due to issues with precinct address coding.

And an undisclosed number of voters in unincorporated areas of the county community received ballots listing municipal races the voters are not eligible to cast a vote for.

“This is an absolute disaster which is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this hurts everyone,” Shedd says. “It is a huge problem to receive a ballot for an election that we are not qualified to vote in, and to be denied the opportunity to vote in your own city’s elections Is it any wonder people are questioning whether our elections are free and fair?”

For Shedd, concerns about the 2022 Primary Election started several weeks ago with the receipt of their voter ID cards.

“My family and I have been trying to get our address corrected for weeks after we noticed our town was changed on our voter ID cards from Eloy to Casa Grande,” said Shedd, adding that she was concerned their ballots would be challenged due to the incorrect address issue.

However, she says the Pinal County Recorder’s Office “was hostile” toward her queries and then a deputy county attorney told Shedd to stop calling election officials about the discrepancy.

“We didn’t swear, we weren’t disrespectful, but we were pushy because we knew this was going to create problems,” Shedd said. “Our driver’s licenses don’t match our voter ID cards and it was unacceptable to me that any elections official thought it was okay that we might be forced to cast a provisional ballot.”     

Just as bad, says Shedd, is the fact county officials provided contradictory excuses for why no one would change their address back to Eloy. Among the excuses were that the County Assessor changed their legal address, that the Arizona Secretary of State did it, and that redistricting altered their property address.

One of the most head-scratching reasons given was that 9-1-1- services were somehow responsible for changing their voter registration data, Shedd said.

The deputy county attorney who told Shedd to stop her inquiries also told her not to worry about the address issue because the family would receive the correct ballots. Shedd responded by filing an online complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

“The election integrity unit did take it seriously and was helpful within the bounds of what legal powers they have,” Shedd said, although she fears nothing will come of any investigation given the fact the AGO has no civil subpoena power in such cases.

Shedd also complained to the Arizona Republican Party and the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office before hiring a private attorney to represent her family in the event Pinal County interferes with their ability to vote. (Shedd intends to vote in-person next week.)

Then on Friday, Shedd’s frustration turned to disbelief when her son received a ballot which included the Casa Grande City Council race even though the family home is not within the city limits. She soon learned thousands of voters in Apache Junction, Casa Grande, Eloy, Mammoth, Maricopa, Queen Creek, and Superior got ballots without the municipal races.

Pinal County spokesman James Daniels blamed the ballot problem on human errors.

However, Shedd wonders whether election officials could have caught the ballot issue weeks ago if someone had taken the time to research how or why the voter registration system changed people’s addresses.

Shedd also told AZ Free News she is concerned with the loss of confidence citizens will have in the local elections process, especially for concerned voters like her who hit a brick wall trying to address their incorrect voter registration data.

“How many people who aren’t an attorney or running for attorney general called someone at Pinal County to report address issues but were dismissed?” Shedd asks. “Election integrity cannot just be a talking point to get elected or raise money. It is the basis of our Republic.”

Pinal County in agreement with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office will send supplemental ballots to those 63,000 or so voters whose original ballots were missing one or more municipal races. But the new ballot will only list the missing races, so voters must also use their original ballot for all the federal, state, and legislative contests.

In the meantime, voters in unincorporated areas of the county who have municipal races included on their ballots should complete the portions for the federal, state, and legislative contests. They can simply ignore the municipal races, but Daniels says even if someone casts a vote for one of those races the tabulation system will not count anything from illegible voters.   

Read Pinal County’s Statement Here