Maricopa County Recorder on Election Problems



TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. A NEW POLL SHOWS REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR DOUG DUCEY AHEAD OF DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER, DAVID GARCIA. THE PHOENIX-BASED DATA ORBITAL SURVEY SHOWS DUCEY LEADING GARCIA 48 TO 41% WITH JUST 8% UNDECIDED. THE POLL WAS CONDUCTED FROM SEPTEMBER 4TH THROUGH THE 6TH- THAT’S WITH A LIVE SURVEY WITH THE MAJORITY OF PHONE CALLS MADE TO LAND LINES.
AND THE EXTREME HEAT IN PHOENIX KILLED MORE PEOPLE LAST YEAR THAN ORIGINALLY THOUGHT. THE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT HAD INITIALLY REPORTED 155 HEAT-RELATED DEATHS FOR 2017, THAT NUMBER WAS REVISED TO 172 FATALITIES. IT'S A SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR FOR HEAT-RELATED DEATHS, AND AN 11% INCREASE FROM 2016.
WHILE CLOSE TO 100 MARICOPA COUNTY POLLING PLACES EXPERIENCED PROBLEMS DURING LAST-WEEK’S PRIMARY ELECTION DAY. SOME LOCATIONS WEREN’T OPEN WHEN VOTING STARTED AT SIX AM AND THERE WERE OTHER PROBLEMS REPORTED. JOINING US NOW IS THE MAN IN CHARGE OF ELECTIONS IN MARICOPA COUNTY, RECORDER ADRIAN FONTES. THANKS FOR COMING ON. GOOD TO SEE YOU.

ADRIAN FONTES: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

TED SIMONS: WHAT HAPPENED ON ELECTION DAY?

ADRIAN FONTES: A LOT OF THINGS HAPPENED ON PRIMARY ELECTION DAY, AND WE'RE WORKING REAL HARD TO FIX THEM BEFORE NOVEMBER. WE HAD SOME COMMITMENTS THAT FELL THROUGH AND THAT COMPOUNDED THE ENTIRE CIRCUMSTANCE AS WE GOT MORE AND MORE CALLS AS THE MORNING WENT ON. SO A LOT OF -- YOU KNOW, THERE'S NEVER A PERFECT ELECTION. THERE ARE ALWAYS SOME SORTS OF THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THE MORNING, BUT UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAD TO STRUGGLE THROUGH. BUT THE GOOD THINGS IS, AS THE DAY WENT ON, WE GOT BETTER AND BETTER, AND BY THE TIME WE GOT TO AROUND MIDDAY, WE WERE DOING WELL.

TED SIMONS: DOZENS OF POLLING PLACES WERE NOT OPEN ON TIME. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?

ADRIAN FONTES: WELL, THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS A LOT MORE OFTEN THAN PEOPLE WILL CONSIDER. YOU GET FOLKS WHO ARE SET TO OPEN THE PLACE THAT AREN'T THERE, AND POLL WORKERS THAT MAY NOT SHOW UP, THINGS OF THIS NATURE. AND SOME OF THAT ENDS UP HAPPENING YEAR AND YEAR OUT, BUT USUALLY THEY ARE NOT AS MUCH AS WE HAD THIS TIME. IN THIS CIRCUMSTANCE, WE HAD A CONTRACTOR WHO WAS SET TO ESTABLISH TO SET UP A BUNCH OF THE NEW EQUIPMENT WE HAD THE DAY BEFORE AND EARLY THAT MORNING. UNFORTUNATELY THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN, SO WE ENDED UP NOT BEING ABLE TO OPEN A LOT OF PLACES.

TED SIMONS: WHY DIDN'T THAT HAPPEN?

ADRIAN FONTES: YOU'LL HAVE TO ASK THEM THAT PARTICULAR QUESTION, BUT THE REALITY IS AS PART OF OUR CONTINGENCY PLAN, AND FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS YEAR, MARICOPA COUNTY VOTERS DIDN'T ONLY HAVE ONE PLACE TO VOTE AT. THEY HAD 40 VOTING CENTERS ALL OVER MARICOPA COUNTY THAT THEY COULD CAST A BALLOT AND A BALLOT THAT WOULD COUNT- IN ADDITION TO THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD POLLING PLACES. SO THAT PART OF THE SYSTEM WORKED, AND WORKED VERY WELL FOR A LOT OF VOTERS.

TED SIMONS: DID YOU ASK THEM WHY THIS HAPPENED?

ADRIAN FONTES: WE WORKED THROUGH THE PROBLEM ON MONDAY, THE DAY BEFORE THE ELECTION. AS WE PUSHED FORWARD, WE WERE GIVEN SEVERAL ASSURANCES THAT THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO GET US THE RESOURCES THAT WE NEEDED EARLY ON TUESDAY MORNING. AND EARLY ON TUESDAY MORNING, THEY DIDN'T COME THROUGH AT THAT POINT EITHER. SO WE'RE GOING TO LEAVE ALL OF OUR OPTIONS ON THE TABLE. WORK THROUGH THE PROCUREMENT PROCESS, THERE IS SOME POTENTIAL FOR OTHER ACTION THAT MIGHT BE HAPPENING… AND AT THIS TIME OUR COMMUNICATION WITH THAT COMPANY IS GOING TO REMAIN WITHIN THE PROCUREMENT PROCESS.

TED SIMONS: SOME POLL WORKERS REPORTEDLY NOT SURE WHAT TO DO, BALLOTS NOT SECURED, PROPER BALLOTS NOT AVAILABLE, AGAIN, HOW DO THOSE THINGS HAPPEN?

ADRIAN FONTES: WELL, LIKE I SAID, EVERY ELECTION HAS THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES. I WILL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE OF SOME BALLOTS NOT AVAILABLE IN ONE OF OUR LOCATIONS. THE FOLKS WHO SAW THAT THAT HAPPENED CALLED US EARLY IN THE MORNING BEFORE THE POLLS WERE OPEN, BUT BECAUSE WE HAD SUCH A VOLUME OF OTHER CALLS, WE WEREN'T ABLE TO DO WHAT WE NORMALLY DO- OR WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO- AND THAT IS GET THEM SOME BALLOTS RIGHT AWAY.. SO A LOT OF THE REGULAR PROBLEMS THAT ELECTIONS HAVE YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT ENDED UP HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME. BUT WE ALSO HAD THIS MAJOR CIRCUMSTANCE, AND LOOK I'M REALLY ANGRY, BECAUSE THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I CAMPAIGNED AGAINST. RIGHT? I'M ANGRY THAT WE DIDN'T HAVE THE FORESIGHT AND WHEREWITHAL TO SERVE EVERY VOTER. AND WE CAN “WOULDA COULDA SHOULDA” ALL THE WAY THROUGH THIS, BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY HAVING BORN THEW RESPONSIBILITY AND HAVING TO APOLOGIZE TO THOSE VOTERS OUR FOCUS IS ON MOVING TOWARDS NOVEMBER.

TED SIMONS: YOU ARE ANGRY, AND THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS SAID THEY DIDN'T FIND OUT ABOUT THIS UNTIL ELECTION DAY AND THEY WERE ESPECIALLY CONCERNED THAT YOU KNEW ABOUT SOME OF THIS THE DAY OR NIGHT BEFORE. WHY DID YOU NOT TELL THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS WHAT WAS GOING ON?

ADRIAN FONTES: WELL, THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS IS OUR POLICY-SETTING GROUP. THEY HAVE A STATUTORY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ELECTION DAY, I HAVE A STATUTORY RESPONSIBILITY FOR EARLY VOTING, AND DURING THE COURSE OF THE DAY ON MONDAY, WE HAD CONFIDENCE THAT WE WOULD BE ABLE TO WORK WITH THIS COMPANY THROUGH MONDAY AND THEN INTO EARLY TUESDAY MOURNING TO GET THIS SOLVED. NOW, REMEMBER THIS COMPANY PERFORMED VERY WELL FOR US IN THE SPRING. THEY HELPED US WITH BOTH THE THE SPECIAL PRIMARY AND THE GENERAL, SO WE DIDN'T HAVE ANY REASON TO THINK THAT THEY WEREN'T GOING TO FOLLOW THROUGH BY THE END OF THE DAY OR AT LEAST BY 6:00 AM TUESDAY. WE, AGAIN HAD WORKED WITH THEM IN THE PAST, AND THEY PERFORMED WELL FOR US. THIS WAS JUST A DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCE AND I THINK WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, AND EVERYBODY HAS LOOKED AT THIS -- BOTH IN THE -- YOU KNOW, THE -- THE WORK THAT THEY ARE WORKING ON OVER WITH THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AND THAT ASSESSMENT, AND SOME OF THE STUFF WE HAVE TAKEN CARE OF AND LOOKED AT, WE'LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS THEN, AND I THINK FOLKS WILL RECOGNIZE WE DID EVERYTHING WE COULD.

TED SIMONS: IT HAS BEEN REPORTED THERE IS A REPORT ON THIS, BUT YOUR ATTORNEYS TOLD YOU NOT TO RELEASE THE REPORT.

ADRIAN FONTES: THAT'S CORRECT.

TED SIMONS: IS THAT BECAUSE OF PERHAPS POSSIBLE FUTURE ACTIONS?

ADRIAN FONTES: YES, THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT. WE DID CREATE A REPORT. I DID TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT I WAS HOPING TO BE ABLE TO RELEASE THIS REPORT, AND THAT CAME OUT, BECAUSE WE WERE ASKING QUESTIONS. “WHAT’S GOING ON OVER HERE?” “WHAT’S GOING ON OVER THERE?” “WHAT’S GOING ON OVER HERE?” WE STARTED COMPILING THAT INFORMATION AND -- AND RIGHT -- SOON I WAS LIKE, LET'S PUT A REPORT OUT THERE, AND OF COURSE BEFORE WE PUT A REPORT OUT THERE, WE HAVE OUR ATTORNEYS LOOK AT IT. AND FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS, THEY ADVISED ME A CERTAIN WAY AND I TOOK THAT ADVICE.

TED SIMONS: THE CONTRACTOR'S OFFICE SAID YOUR OFFICE WAS UNPREPARED.

ADRIAN FONTES: SURE, THEY ARE LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL OF THE MARICOPA COUNTY SHOTGUN, OF COURSE THEY ARE GOING TO SAY THAT. AND ONCE WE GET ALL OF THE INFORMATION IS OUT, IF IT HAS TO GO THROUGH DISCOVERY AND LITIGATION, OR IF WE JUST GO WITH THE REGULAR INVESTIGATION THAT’S HAPPENING BECAUSE OF THE AUDIT, THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT IN THE END.

TED SIMONS: SO THE REPORT COULD BE PART OF THE AUDIT, CORRECT?

ADRIAN FONTES: I ANTICIPATE IT WILL BE. I THINK ALL OF THAT INFORMATION THAT WE GATHERED TO PUT TOGETHER THIS REPORT WILL BE IN THERE.

TED SIMONS: WILL YOU SUPPORT CORRECTIVE ACTION THAT THE AUDIT RECOMMENDS?

ADRIAN FONTES: YES, ABSOLUTELY. THEY ARE TALKING DIRECTLY TO OUR FOLKS TO PUT THIS TOGETHER, AND I THINK THAT THEY ARE OPERATING, OF COURSE, IN GOOD FAITH. PART OF IT IS THE INTERNAL AUDIT TEAM FROM MARICOPA COUNTY, AND PART OF IT, AS I UNDERSTAND, WILL BE FOLKS FROM OUTSIDE. THESE ARE ALL EYES AND EARS ON THE CIRCUMSTANCE THAT WE WELCOME. WE WANT TO CREATE A BETTER PRODUCT FOR OUR VOTERS, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE SOMETHING LIKE THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN AGAIN. SO I'M EXCITED ABOUT LEANING INTO THE PROBLEM, INSTEAD OF SITTING BACK AND HOPING THEY SOLVE IT FOR US.

TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND, HOW MUCH RESPONSIBILITY TO DO YOU TAKE FOR THIS?

ADRIAN FONTES: LOOK, THE BUCK STOPS HERE. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN, I ACT AS AN AGENT FOR THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ON ELECTION DAY, AND AT THE END OF THE DAY IT FALLS TO ME. SO WHETHER I TAKE HITS IN THE MEDIA AND HEADLINE HITS AND POLITICAL HITS, THAT'S OKAY. I HAVE BROAD SHOULDERS. I KNOW WE HAVE NOVEMBER COMING UP, AND WE ARE FOCUSED ON MAKING SURE THAT HAPPENS WELL.

TED SIMONS: YOU DO UNDERSTAND THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ARE UPSET THAT THE FIRST THEY LEARNED ABOUT THIS, WAS WHEN THEY WERE ASKED TO EXTEND VOTING HOURS?

ADRIAN FONTES: WELL, AT THE END OF THE DAY I DON'T THINK ANYBODY IS MORE UPSET ABOUT THIS THAN I AM, BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT I CAMPAIGNED AGAINST. AND THIS ENDED UP HAPPENING ON MY WATCH WITH MY TROOPS, SO I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS MORE THAN ANYBODY ELSE, INCLUDING THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. THEIR CONCERNS ARE MY CONCERNS, BUT WE'RE THE ONES THAT ARE GOING TO MAKE SURE THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN IN NOVEMBER.

TED SIMONS: AND VOTERS WANT TO BE ASSURED THAT THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN IN NOVEMBER. CAN YOU MAKE THOSE ASSURANCES?

ADRIAN FONTES: WE'RE GOING TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN- AND GOD WILLING THE CREEK DOESN’T RISE WE WILL GET THERE.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT. MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER, ADRIAN FONTES. THANKS FOR COMING ON.

ADRIAN FONTES: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

TED SIMONS: LATER ON THE SHOW HEAR FROM A LOCAL ARTIST WHO PERSONALLY DELIVERED HIS WORK OF ART TO LEBRON JAMES'S SCHOOL IN OHIO.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes discusses problems that occurred during the primary election in the county.

Sponsor message:

In this segment:

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes

Sponsor message:

Sign up to receive the Arizona PBS Insider

Get up-to-the-minute information about your favorite programs and learn more about Arizona PBS news and events.

Summer of Space: Arizona PBS brings you the universe

This summer, Arizona PBS is featuring a celestial programming spectacle sure to excite any space enthusiast in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

See how our ancestors understood the 'Ancient Skies'

Discover how centuries of knowledge, experimentation and engineering helped our ancestors understand the mysteries of space in this three-part series airing Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

Arizona talent brings new kids’ show to life

Molly of Denali

“Molly of Denali” follows feisty 10-year-old Molly Mabrary and her adventures while living with her family in the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska. The series premieres July 15 on Arizona PBS.