Experts warn new technology intended to make voting on Election Day faster and easier also comes with new risks that could contribute to the problems it was intended to solve. And some of those experts say the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office hasn’t demonstrated it’s prepared for the myriad things that can go wrong. “Every other jurisdiction that I know of, except for Maricopa it sounds like, has a backup plan … to make sure you’re not just turning voters away or making them stand in line until you figure out what the technical problem is,” said Joe Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “It sounds like (the recorder’s office) isn’t doing the right kind of contingency planning.” The recorder’s office has come under scrutiny since August’s primary election when 62 voting centers failed to open on time because the machines used to check in voters at the polling sites, known as electronic “SiteBooks,” hadn’t been set up.
County Recorder Adrian Fontes has said there was a backup plan to address the situation, but it wasn’t properly communicated to poll workers and blamed a Tempe-based contractor, Insight Enterprises, for not adequately staffing to assist with the set-up. The company said it had difficulty accessing polling sites and couldn’t connect some machines to the internet.
The SiteBooks were key to efforts to address the long lines that plagued the 2016 presidential preference election under former County Recorder Helen Purcell.
SiteBooks used to check voter information against a registration database, along with machines that print the appropriate ballot allowed the opening of 40 “bonus” voting centers during the primary, where voters could go if their neighborhood polling site had long lines.