Arizona county that saw Snafu elected to waive city costs

By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona county where the Aug. 2 primary election was plagued by multiple issues that led to the firing of its election chief will waive fees for running municipal elections in 11 cities and towns and plans to hire an outside election expert to review what went wrong.

The five-member Pinal County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Wednesday to waive more than $100,000 in costs it planned to charge cities and towns for running local elections.

Seven cities and towns had local races dropped in the first ballots that required the county to send out about 63,000 extra ballots. And County Attorney Kent Volkmer told the board that four other municipalities were hit by Election Day missteps that led to ballot shortages at about 20 of the county’s 95 polling places.

“As the county manager made clear, we fell short of our customers’ expectations,” Volkmer told the board. “So I believe if this council is so inclined, I think there’s good reason to back out for all of the different entities that we serve municipal and mayoral elections for.”

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“I think it’s a good idea given the current issues,” said board chairman Jeffrey McClure. Last week, McClure called the election problems a “big mess” and Chief Electoral Officer David Frisk was fired the next day. He had just been hired in March.

Volkmer also said he was about to hire an outside election expert to conduct a review. He said there were no signs of a criminal offense so far, but bringing in someone from the outside would ensure an unbiased assessment was quickly carried out. He said if any signs of criminal activity were found, the county sheriff would be called to investigate.

“What we plan to come out of this is what went wrong, why did it go wrong, and then what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Volkmer said. He said he wanted the job done within 60 days, before the general election in November.

The expert, whom Volkmer has not publicly identified, has nearly 30 years as an election administrator, has performed similar reviews, and is known to both new Chief Electoral Officer Virginia Ross and New County Dana. Lewis.

Ross was the secretary-elect until she stepped down last week to take over the elections department. Lewis was his assistant. The council named her on Friday to take over, which manages the voter rolls and mail-in ballots, but is not involved in voting or counting ballots.

The council will certify the election “poll” on Friday, although more than one council member expressed heartburn at having to do so given the problems of the past week. Board member Jeff Serdy said his first reaction the day after the election was that he didn’t want to accept the results.

It’s not an option, Volkmer said. Accepting and certifying the results is an act that the law requires. Municipal races will be run by localities, while county, state and federal races are under the council.

“I’ll tell this council, and it’s still not a comfortable conversation, but our legal analysis is that you have no choice but to solicit,” Volkmer said. “That’s what’s considered a ministerial duty, which means you have to do it. It is a “must”.

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