Pinal County primary ballots mailed to voters without municipal races

Pinal County Officials said friday that they will send out additional ballots with town and village races after around 63,000 early ballots with errors were sent to voters ahead of the Aug. 2 primary election.

Ballots in Superior, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy and Mammoth, as well as the Pinal County parts of Apache Junction and Queen Creek, were sent out this week with no town and city contests printed on them, according to the Pinal County spokesman James Daniels. The contests erroneously appeared on ballots sent to voters in nearby unincorporated areas who are not eligible to vote in municipal races, he said.

Pinal County extends south and east of the valley and has a population of some 450,000.

Daniels said officials initially heard about the issue Thursday afternoon. After hours of meetings between the county election department and the Arizona secretary of state’s office, officials announced late Friday that they would mail additional ballots to affected voters.

Daniels said it was “too early to tell” how soon these would come out. “We are working on it as quickly as possible,” he said.

Here’s how county officials say it will work: Voters who received a missing ballot at municipal races must complete and return that initial ballot to vote in federal, state and legislative contests. Once they have received the additional ballot with only the races from their city or town, they can also vote.

For voters in unincorporated areas of the county who mistakenly had municipal contests on their ballot, officials said to go ahead and vote on federal, state and legislative contests. Officials said any ineligible votes for town or city contests from those ballots would not be counted.

The issues come amid scrutiny by election officials following unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in Arizona during the 2020 presidential election. Those claims were denied in dozens of courtrooms across Arizona and in all the countries. A Republican-ordered ballot review in the Arizona Senate and a manual recount in Maricopa County attempted to raise questions about election security but found no widespread fraud.

“It seems like it was just simple human error,” Daniels said. “There’s nothing to suggest anything untoward, or anything tech-related or anything like that.”

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Officials across the county said their phones have been ringing since the voting issues were discovered Thursday afternoon.

Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland said he and other city leaders were “pretty upset” by the errors and “this is not a good situation.”

Apache Junction Mayor Chip Wilson said he spoke with several candidates for local office who were “unhappy.”

“It’s not just kinda screwed up; it’s mostly screwed up,” Wilson said.

He said he knew people who had already returned their ballots.

“They filled them out immediately and mailed them out right away,” Wilson said.

Although the county now has a remedy for the problem, McFarland said “the perception is terrible.”

He said the “terrible timing” of the errors “will fuel controversies in Arizona” that have emerged in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

County officials sought to reassure voters Friday night.

“Here in Pinal County, we strive for excellence, trust and transparency, especially when it comes to elections, and we recognize the significance of these mistakes,” officials said in a statement. “We want to reassure voters and candidates that election integrity is our top priority and as such we are taking immediate corrective action for voters in affected areas.”

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City officials blamed the county for errors in the ballots.

“I’m not going to point fingers at anyone, but it’s the county’s responsibility to make sure ballots are identified for the correct residents,” McFarland said.

City officials typically review lists of races that will be on the ballot for their cities and a list of candidates for each contest before the ballots are mailed out. But the county election department is responsible for printing the ballots and sending them to the first voters. For the upcoming elections, officials have been tasked with printing over 900 styles of ballots.

“Cities and towns have other responsibilities, but in terms of printing ballots, mailing out early ballots and on election day, they take on part of that,” the clerk said. of Casa Grande Gloria Leija.

Even before the ballots were sent, Wilson said Apache Junction officials had to ask the county election department to correct several errors in the race and candidate lists sent to the city before the first ones were printed. ballot papers. After several rounds back and forth, the issues were resolved, and Wilson thought “the city’s polling party was going to be okay.”

“(The clerk) had to work with the county to fix some issues, including the misspelling of my opponents’ names,” Wilson said. “They had to correct him three times to get it correct, and once they sent him the fourth it was correct.”

Leija said his office hasn’t encountered issues similar to those described by Wilson in Apache Junction.

The county has a new chief electoral officer.

The county was without an electoral officer after Michele Forney left in late 2020 for a job in the state of Nevada.

To lead election planning, voting and tabulation, the county hired its current director, David Frisk, from Kitsap County in Washington, where he was program manager for the Division of Elections.

Contact journalist Sasha Hupka at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @SashaHupka.

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Melissa C. Keyes