Pinal County officials apologize for running out of ballots during Tuesday’s primary

Pinal County officials are vowing to fix election procedures after a shortage of ballots was reported at nearly two dozen voting sites.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 9:47 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2022 at 2:35 PM MST
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FLORENCE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Pinal County officials are apologizing for what they are calling several mistakes made during the primary election on Tuesday. Serious questions were raised after residents and political leaders alike scoffed at county-wide ballot problems.

“There is nothing sinister,” said Country Attorney Kurt Volkmer “It was just simply a mistake.”

The main concern is that a number of people who wanted to cast ballots on Election day might not have been able to do so. Arizona’s Family started receiving calls and emails from frustrated voters on Tuesday afternoon, many of whom were told their polling place had simply run out of ballots. Some said they were told to wait while others were told to come back later.

The Secretary of State’s office confirms there were out of 95 locations, about a dozen locations in Pinal County experienced ballot shortages, including cities like San Tan Valley, Apache Junction, Eloy, Casa Grande, and Coolidge. During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, county leaders explained how limited resources and the inability to print out new ballots quickly fueled problems at voting sites throughout many communities.

“When we got a call for help, we initiated our EOC command,” said Volkmer. EOC responds when voting locations run out or are running out of ballots, ”That happened a little over 20 times.”

In one example, county officials explained that the printer could only print out about one ballot every three minutes and therefore only had the ability to print every three minutes. That means that while most sites had two printers, they only had the capacity to print out about 40 ballots per hour. In response to the printing issues, the use of express voting machines, typically reserved for those who require disability accommodations, was authorized for the general public. The county says that helped alleviate some of the stress at polling sites.

Some county politicians are calling out election officials after the reported shortage. “How can we trust any of the numbers that are out there? Because we don’t know, you don’t know how many people didn’t vote in the city elections,” said Bryan Soller, who is running for Apache Junction City Council.

Another politician also weighed in on the matter. “If it means that we have to go do it in the court, do the injunction, so that you can then make a different pathway then that’s what we’ll do,” said Sen. Kelly Townsend (R).

Pinal County officials say the demand for in-person ballots was “unprecedented.” This latest issue comes after “human error” led to 60,000 misprinted ballots being mailed out to roughly 60,000 Pinal County residents in early July.

Kathy Nowak, district chair for the Republican party, addressed county officials saying, “We’re angry. We listened when you said the ballot box, misprint, and soforth was human error...the elections department is the problem. They have no ability to upgrade and renew the poll worker list.” Nowak said that the problem was that not enough ballots were printed, and that change needs to happen in order for appropriate county representation.

Another resident said that he found the lack of ballots “inexcusable” and that he doesn’t see how the county can move forward with the leadership over the Elections Department. District 5 Resident Belinda Rodriguez addressed the committee and said, “Somebody missed the research on the amount of ballots needed. There’s gotta be better design or assignment of tasks and responsibilities. Someone is not communicating, and all I urge you to do is, there are steps people have to take in project management. You’ve gotta plan. You’ve gotta execute.”

Meanwhile, Councilmember Rich Vitello said, “Heads need to roll. I spent a lot of money, a lot of time. Probably thirty or forty hours a week campaigning. Everything that everybody said is 100% true, but we want to know who’s going to be held accountable for this. If there’s no accountability, this is gonna be another issue you have to look at.”

Volkmer was apologetic and said Pinal County would prevent future mistakes. “It can’t happen. It’s happened once, it’s happened twice, it cannot happen a third time. I know the Chair and I are united on this. It will not happen a third time,” he said.