Working group created to make elections recommendations in Maricopa County

(file photo)

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors directed the county manager to form a working group that may lead to substantial changes in the way elections are run in the fourth most populous county in the country.

The 2018 Primary and General Elections saw massive turnout and the volume of voters once again shined a light on the need to continually study these complicated processes that require large amounts of planning and temporary staff, according to a press release.

There were some polling and ballot counting issues in both elections but by working together, the Board believes, a release states, these can be solved.

Maricopa County has a fast-growing population and the high level of voter engagement requires 21st century solutions in the form of technology and human capital.

“We have directed our county manager to form a working group that can make recommendations regarding structure, staffing and technology,” Chairman Bill Gates, Supervisor in District 3, said in a prepared statement.

“We want them to look at how we have divided our responsibilities with the Recorder’s Office in the past and what that structure looks like moving forward.”

The Board of Supervisors assigned responsibility for election day activities to the Recorder’s Office in 1955 and has operated under that agreement ever since. It is one of three counties in Arizona with this structure.

“This is not just about the next election. This is about how we run elections long-term, so we have the right technology, the right resources, and the right people in place to be best in class,” Supervisor Steve Gallardo, District 5, said in a prepared statement.

“This working group is just a first step, but it sends a message to voters and to those at the Legislature that we are actively working on solutions that improve outcomes.”

The Board expects the working group to recommend structural changes within 60 days after organizing. It will also explore personnel needs and technology options that make it easier for people to vote and generate faster election results, according to a release.

“Today’s vote comes after many months of discussion about how the Maricopa County Elections Department can best serve the voters of our community,” Recorder Adrian Fontes said in a prepared statement.

“In conjunction with the Board of Supervisors and the leadership of Chairman Gates, I look forward to a top-to-bottom review of the needs of the department, including a state-of-the-art tabulation system to better process ballots.

“Only through a complete assessment of all options for administration of elections, and well formulated recommendations by the committee, will Maricopa County pave the way for the future of this vital function of government.”

The Arizona Presidential Preference Election will be March 17, 2020 with the General Election on Nov. 3, 2020. Reports from the working group will be provided to the public on Maricopa.gov.

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