Blame Game: Maricopa County, Tempe Vendor At Odds Over AZ Primary Problems

[Image via engageselling]

After a difficult primary Election Day where many voters stood in long lines and a call to extend voting hours was rejected, Maricopa County (Phoenix) and a Tempe-based vendor are pointing fingers at one another for the failure to having equipment ready for the opening of polls. AZCentral has more:

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes and a Tempe-based technology company are trading blame for problems that caused dozens of polling places to fail to open on time Tuesday.

The county hired Insight Enterprises, a global information technology contractor, to set up voter check-in equipment on Monday and provide technical support on Tuesday, the Recorder’s Office and an Insight representative agreed.

But the explanations diverge from there.

The check-in equipment lets poll workers verify the identity of a voter and print a custom ballot. The equipment uses an internet connection to access the voter registration database and connect to the printer. If voters cannot check in or print a ballot, they cannot vote.

The County claims that Insight failed to deliver the promised number of workers and as a result ended up having to program many machines itself – but Insight says it was the County that was unprepared, leaving its technicians unable to do their jobs:

The Recorder’s Office said the contract called for 103 Insight employees to set up polling sites Monday, but only 73 technicians showed up, according to an email the office sent to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and county executives.

Insight begs to differ.

Company spokesman Scott Walters told The Arizona Republic the company was hired to provide 83 employees to set up equipment Monday and 40 technicians on election day to troubleshoot, with additional support as needed. 

The company provided more employees than required — 85 on Monday and 60 on Tuesday — Walters said in an email.

But the Recorder’s Office said technicians were so behind that they missed appointments with building owners to set up polling locations, which are typically at churches, schools and other community buildings, the email to county officials said.

When it became clear the 463 sites would not be ready on schedule, the Recorder’s Office called building owners to reschedule appointments to activate equipment Monday night and Tuesday morning and trained staff how to set up the equipment, the email said.

Staff worked late into the night, Fontes’ chief of staff Keely Varvel wrote…

The reason the voting sites did not open on time was because the Recorder’s Office was unprepared, [Insight] said.

Equipment had not been delivered to some sites when technicians arrived or the sites did not have internet connections.

“Voter validation machines were not fully operational … almost exclusively as a result of lack of site readiness and on-site connectivity issues,” Walters wrote. “Insight’s responsibilities to provide technical support did not extend to those matters.”

Insight shares voters’ frustration and “is committed to working with the county to ensure that disruptions to the voting process do not continue in future elections,” Walters said.

Regardless of fault, the consequence was that many polling places weren’t ready on Election Day – though Maricopa and Insight can’t even agree on that number:

On Tuesday morning, “The contractor again failed to produce the number of staff they had promised, and so many sites were not set up in a timely way,” Varvel wrote.

As of 6 a.m., when polls opened, 62 sites were not operational, the Recorder’s Office said. They were all up and running by 11:30 a.m., they said.

Insight officials said only 43 sites were inoperable by the time polls opened Tuesday morning.

This story is especially interesting because Recorder Fontes was elected in Maricopa in 2016 after widespread problems in the presidential primary that were attributed to his opponent; moreover, since his election he has been moving aggressively to make changes in election administration policy – sometimes against the wishes of state officials and his own county board of supervisors. You can bet there will be considerable fallout from yesterday’s problems – regardless of who gets the blame. Stay tuned…

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