Monday November 23rd, 2020 11:58AM

Some polling places open hours late for Arizona primary

By The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — Voters faced more problems at Phoenix-area polling places during Arizona's primary election, with several locations opening hours behind schedule Tuesday because voting machines had not been set up on time.

It comes after voters waited in long lines for hours during the 2016 presidential primary because of drastically reduced voting centers, which have since been restored.

The office of Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who unseated the longtime elections chief over the 2016 uproar in the state's most populous county, said all polling sites were open by 11 a.m., five hours late.

No problems were reported in other areas of Arizona.

A contractor hired to set up voting machines didn't send enough technicians to get them going on time, Fontes said, and his office quickly trained and deployed workers once it learned of the issue Monday afternoon.

"This is not a hiccup, this is a serious concern where lots of voters in Maricopa County are not able to get voting," Fontes said.

A spokeswoman for the recorder, Sophia Solis, she was not releasing the contractor's name. The head of elections in Arizona called on Fontes to seek a court order to keep the polls open later.

Dozens of people reported showing up to cast a ballot and getting turned away. Fontes made no mention of the troubles during a Facebook Live video he recorded with a voter shortly before polling places opened at 6 a.m.

"We are excited about opening up our polling places in a couple of minutes," Fontes said.

He said in the video that voters could go to their usual polling places or to any of 40 voting centers that anyone can use regardless of where they live.

His office estimated Monday that some 250 polling locations would not open on time, but it's unclear how many were down by the time polls opened at 6 a.m.

Fontes said he learned of the issue around 2 p.m. Monday and realized by the evening that it "was going to be a real problem." He said only about 70 of the 103 technicians contracted to set up the machines at individual polling sites showed up.

Phoenix voter Brent Kleinman said he went to his local polling place twice — at 7 a.m. and at 10:30 a.m. — but was turned away both times. He ended up at a library having to cast a provisional ballot, which are given out when a person's eligibility to vote is unknown.

Kleinman was one of the hundreds of voters who waited in long lines two years ago.

"That was a heck of a day. Nothing like voting and then ending up with a sunburn," he said.

Kleinman said he voted for Fontes in 2016 in the hope a new leader would reform the elections system but was also skeptical.

"You would think after the bad things that happened in that 2016 that the county and state would create processes that would prevent things like this from happening," Kleinman said.

Tyler Knecht said he was frustrated after he first went to a polling station in downtown Phoenix that anyone can use regardless of where they live only to be told to go to his specific polling place. He then was sent back to the first location and was told he could only cast a provisional ballot.

"They made me cast a provisional ballot, and I didn't want to after what happened in 2016," Knecht said.

A large number of provisional ballots were thrown out statewide in the 2016 presidential primary.

Such ballots are kept separate until after the election, and they are counted if officials determine voters were eligible to cast them. It's unclear how many people got provisional ballots in the Phoenix area Tuesday.

Ben Saylor said he arrived at his polling place in north Phoenix and was told the equipment would not be set up until lunchtime. He was directed to a vote-anywhere polling station and also was told he would have to cast a provisional ballot.

"If you're a registered citizen, and you have the right to vote, there should be no such thing as a provisional ballot," Saylor said.


Associated Press reporters Paul Davenport and Annika Wolters contributed.

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