Yuma County will open more voting centers in future elections as one way to avoid a repeat of the congestion and frustration seen here last November. Instead of 11 voting centers, there will be 15, and all voting centers may have more staffing. In addition, the county hopes to do on-site printer tests, set up in bigger facilities, keep more people on hand to troubleshoot technical difficulties and whittle the wait times from as high as four hours to no more than one. “We all know we had some pretty significant challenges we dealt with,” Yuma County Administrator Robert Pickels said Wednesday as he presented the board of supervisors with an after-action review of Election Day 2012, detailing problems and solutions.
He addressed primarily issues of equipment, staffing and facilities, including:
• Ballot printers: The printers that turned out ballots on demand “presented, by far, the most significant delays,” Pickels wrote.
Printers started malfunctioning as soon as the voting centers opened, with connectivity problems with the electronic election books that contained voter information. The printers also had mechanical problems all day because of the volume of ballots being requested. In some cases, components — input trays, unengaged paper guide locks and the paper — weren’t lining up.
Then, there were paper jams. Dry, hot air caused static buildup that led to the snarls, as printers tried to pull in several pieces of paper that had stuck together. In addition, some paper was damaged during shipping.
Only two technicians from the printer vendor were in Yuma on Election Day. County staff admitted that they could have had more of them in town but did not, in an attempt to save money and because the smooth primaries created a sense of security.
The county wants to bring in more technicians next time, and municipal staffs around the county have tentatively agreed to train and make available members of their own IT teams on Election Day.