Today, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors took action to enhance the way county elections are run in the nation’s fastest-growing county. The vote to approve the final, amended recommendations of a countywide election work group—following high-level, bipartisan conversations over the past several months—signals a unified effort between the Board, the Recorder, the Elections Department, and executive county leadership to ensure integrity at all levels of voting in the 2020 elections and beyond.
“Today is an important day for voters in Maricopa County,” said Chairman Bill Gates, District 3. “The Board has authorized new technology to improve the way ballots are counted; a study of the staffing needed to support expected record voter participation; and a new organizational structure that gives the Board of Supervisors an active role in elections activities. Taken together, these steps will improve accountability and service to voters. I’m grateful to the elections work group, Recorder Fontes, and my colleagues on the Board for their collaboration on this, especially Supervisor Gallardo whose past experience helping to run elections has been invaluable.”
The Board’s unanimous action means:
- BETTER VOTE TABULATION: Maricopa County will acquire new vote tabulation machines that protect the integrity and security of each ballot while also counting ballots more quickly.
- ADDITIONAL ELECTIONS STAFF: The County is in the process of completing an independent, staffing analysis to determine additional Elections Department personnel required to support a successful election season.
- NEW EXECUTIVE STRUCTURE: The Elections Director position will become two director-level positions so both the Recorder and the Board will have a “point person” inside the Elections Department. One director will have oversight of the assigned statutory responsibilities of the Recorder. The other director will have oversight of the assigned statutory responsibilities of the Board.
“We’re excited that these two directors will work in tandem to ensure people can vote when and how they want to, be that mailing in their ballots, visiting an Early Voting Center, or voting in person on Election Day at their precinct,” said Supervisor Steve Gallardo, District 5. “Combined with new technology and appropriate staffing, this structure ensures both the Board and Recorder have adequate oversight of the responsibilities given to them under state law.”
“Elections in Maricopa County have made national news in the past couple of election cycles because of long lines, slow vote counts, and other issues,” said Vice Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4. “Now the Board is taking a more active role in elections, beyond budget oversight. This new director-level position will be one of only four positions countywide that report directly to the Board, which signifies the importance of successful elections to all of us.”
In January, the Board of Supervisors directed the county manager to form a work group made up of Recorder’s Office leadership and county administrative leadership to look at countywide election processes and other recommendations regarding three specific areas: staffing, technology, and organizational structure. The 10-member work group focused on how to improve outcomes for voters while maintaining the efficiencies of the current system. They also were mindful of how any recommended changes would impact the 2020 elections calendar. You can read their final list of recommendations on the county’s 2019 Elections Review Project website.
In Arizona, counties run most elections, including elections for national offices such as President and Congress. State law divides responsibilities between each county’s Recorder, Board of Supervisors, and to a lesser extent, Clerk of the Board. The Recorder has responsibility for voter registration and early voting, among other things. The Board of Supervisors has responsibility for much of what happens on Election Day, including the location and number of polling places, the equipment to count votes, and the training and assigning of poll workers.
“This is about moving away from the past—from old technology and a decades-old charter that gave outsized responsibility to one partisan, elected official—and running elections in a way befitting the Maricopa County of tomorrow,” said Supervisor Steve Chucri, District 2. “We’re the 4th largest county in America; people expect us to get it right. These changes are designed to ensure we have the proper checks and balances to serve all voters in 2020 and beyond.”
“Our ability to vote needs to be non-partisan; it’s a right and responsibility for all of us,” said Supervisor Jack Sellers, District 1. “I’ve been impressed with the efforts of all the parties involved to find consensus in moving us forward with technology and a structure, focused on the voter, to ensure that our elections are efficient, transparent, and fair.”
At today’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved the contract for the new tabulation equipment and approved the creation of the second Elections Director position that reports to the Board. The staffing study should be completed later in the summer.
You may learn more about the election work group and the countywide election review process by visiting the project website.