Fearing another botched election, Arizona’s most populous county opened twice as many polling spots for a special election this week than for the March presidential primary. This go-round cost about $1 million more, even though Maricopa County election officials knew far fewer voters would turn out to vote on education funding and pension overhaul plans. But those officials say the extra spending was necessary to rebuild lost confidence after some people waited as long as five hours to cast their vote for the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. The county cut the number of polling places from 200 in 2012 to just 60 in March to save money. Tuesday, there were 116 places to vote, county elections department spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew said Thursday.
… County officials sought additional polling places in areas that had the longest lines in March, Bartholomew said. They also took into consideration an added 730,000 independent voters eligible to vote in this election, which was open to anyone registered, regardless of party affiliation. “We did end up spending an additional million but just to kind of make up for our errors in the past,” she said. “While money is obviously still an issue, we want to ensure that voters don’t have to wait in line for four or five hours.”
Political fallout from primary planning failures continues. The U.S. Justice Department is looking at its elections practices, and a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party alleging voting rights violations statewide is awaiting its first court hearing. The Arizona Democratic Party declined to comment Thursday on Maricopa County’s efforts to improve voter access to the polls.
Maricopa County spent $2.97 million on the presidential preference election and estimates it will cost close to $4 million for the special election. Bartholomew called it a no-win situation but said it was more important this time to err on the side of overspending to make sure everyone had a chance vote.