Early voting systems crash in Pima County

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As people stood in line to vote on Friday, the network computer system used to connect the early voting locations was "inadvertently" disconnected at the Pima County Recorder's office.

It sent the process into chaos and left thousands standing in line unable to vote.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez says this has never happened before.

In a contentious election, with both national and local elections being contested, early voting in Pima County has never been higher.

But at 4:45 p.m., Rodriguez says the network was disconnected and no one could vote.

"This shut-down was caused by human error when one of our IT (information technology) staff rebooted the server that handles our dial-in connection. This IT staff member was attemping to correct an unrelated problem on the same server," she said in a news release.

All the early voting sites use dial-up access to the main Recorder's system.

Many have ballots mailed to their homes where they can vote and simply return the ballots by mail.

Others can go to any of eight early voting locations.

Lines were long at all of those locations today as the election neared. At one location at the Memorial Union on the University of Arizona campus, a 3-hour wait was reported. Other locations reported similar situations. Today was the last day the UA location would be open. Most others will be closed after Saturday. Early voting will continue through Monday at the main Recorder's office in the Old Pima County Courthouse in downtown Tucson.

"On behalf of the Pima County Recorder's office, I wish to apologize to the voters who were inconvenienced by this disruption. It was an extremely unfortunate event that has never happened before in the history of early voting in Pima County. I will take all appropriate steps to prevent this type of accident in the future. Our system should be fully functional tomorrow for voting," Rodriguez said.

Anyone standing in line and unable to vote on Friday was given a number. They were asked to take that number to the main downtown office of the Recorder's office on Saturday. Rodriguez said when they present the number the voters will be moved to the head of the line for immediate service.

Friday's disruption is just the latest problem related to voting in Pima County. There is still legal wrangling underway over a May, 2006, election in which voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike and created the Regional Transportation Authority. Some claim the results of that election were reversed. They continue to demand the ballots be recounted. The Arizona Attorney General's office is investigating.

Lawsuits from the Pima County Democratic Party over ballot security caused the results of the September 2nd primary election to be reported days after the election. Officials warn a similar situation will occur Tuesday as the county refuses to utilize electronic modems to report results from individual precincts to a central location. Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer harshly criticized the county in a letter this week to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.