Recorder, board defend primary election procedures


PHOENIX — Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer told the county’s Board of Supervisors this week that his division accomplished all its major goals in the recent primary election.

However, at least one former poll worker brought issues to the meeting.
Richer concluded many of the Elections Department’s goals were met, such as not having large numbers of people waiting outdoors in August to vote.

“We had a few locations that had a bunch of voters rush in to get in just before 7 p.m. on Election Day, but that was the only point where lines were longer than 15 minutes to vote,” Richer said. “There were few or no lines during early in-person voting. We’ll continue to work on that (in voter education).”

The board voted, at a Monday meeting, unanimously to accept the results of the Aug. 2 primary.

Richer said by the “usual metrics,” the primary was a success. He said there were more than 19,000 ballot styles used by the county’s 2.6 million registered voters, and the county got all of them correct. There were 1.4 million requests for early ballots.

There were ample partisan observers at all stages of the voting process, Richer said.

“We had so many observers,” he said. “Observers on observers. I’m proud of the relationships we’ve built with all three major parties. It was actually a pretty impressive showing by the parties. Party observers were out for all 27 days of voting. They were in our tabulation center. They were in our ballot processing room. They were in our signature verification room. We worked closely with them.”

Richer said partisan observers working side-by-side with election staff and volunteers tend to not be the most critical.

“We have a system where all the observers’ concerns can be addressed quickly,” Richer said.

Board chair and District 3 Supervisor Bill Gates said the turnout was the highest ever in the county for a primary election. There were more than 866,000 Maricopa County ballots cast among Arizona’s 1.46 million ballots.

There were 759,000 ballots submitted early in the county. Turnout was about 53%.

Other board members praised the teams and individual staff for trying to improve the process. However, one aspect Richer tried to address still was a topic of frustration, at least for one public speaker.

Channel Powe, who identified herself as a former District 5 poll worker, spoke at Monday’s meeting. She listed several concerns for poll workers during the primary that could put poll worker safety at stake.

“Safety wasn’t addressed in training,” Powe said. “I want to address the felt-tip pen email guidance. To me, it was an erratic change that was inconsistent with our training. It put poll worker safety at stake three days before the election. We went through training that indicated felt-tip pens were necessary to keep from gumming up the tabulators.”

Powe didn’t specify what part of late-July instructions, updates or directives put workers at risk. The Recorder’s Office issued public explanations  showing why felt-tip pens were provided at each polling location. Many pundits and everyday social media account holders criticized videos such as one produced for voter education, and encouraged everyone to bring ball-point pens to vote in person.

Powe also said a small recent raise for poll workers was appreciated. However, some experienced workers are telling her they can make more in unrelated industries, so an additional raise for poll workers would help keep that experience at the polls.

She also said paid parking is a concern in some parts of the county.
Richer said training for more than 2,000 poll workers was increased in its intensity and detail for 2022. Poll workers will be formally surveyed on what can improve. He also said he met with Powe to hear her concerns.
Some workers were subjected to some of the same vitriol aimed at him, Richer said.

Surveys of voters showed 86% rated their experiences as “excellent” or “very good,” Richer said.

Voter and poll worker safety is a top priority in elections, said Gates, who thanked all those who provided feedback on the primary, saying “This is how we get better.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to petition a court for a recount of the Democratic Party primary in the Justice of the Peace election for the West McDowell Precinct. Teresa Lopez edged Robert Meza, 2,236 votes to 2,233, triggering an automatic recount.

Elections Director Scott Jarrett walked the board through the steps of a recount process. He said each candidate can send observers who can watch through a large window, from a lobby, as ballots are recounted.