Board of Supervisors Takes More Active Role in Maricopa County Elections

By Bill Gates
Chairman, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors
June 26, 2019

Today, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors took action to enhance the way county elections are run in the nation’s fastest-growing county. The vote to approve the final, amended recommendations of a countywide election work group—following high-level, bipartisan conversations over the past several months—signals a unified effort between the Board, the Recorder, the Elections Department, and executive county leadership to ensure integrity at all levels of voting in the 2020 elections and beyond.

“Today is an important day for voters in Maricopa County,” said Chairman Bill Gates, District 3. “The Board has authorized new technology to improve the way ballots are counted; a study of the staffing needed to support expected record voter participation; and a new organizational structure that gives the Board of Supervisors an active role in elections activities. Taken together, these steps will improve accountability and service to voters. I’m grateful to the elections work group, Recorder Fontes, and my colleagues on the Board for their collaboration on this, especially Supervisor Gallardo whose past experience helping to run elections has been invaluable.”

The Board’s unanimous action means:

  • BETTER VOTE TABULATION: Maricopa County will acquire new vote tabulation machines that protect the integrity and security of each ballot while also counting ballots more quickly.
  • ADDITIONAL ELECTIONS STAFF: The County is in the process of completing an independent, staffing analysis to determine additional Elections Department personnel required to support a successful election season.
  • NEW EXECUTIVE STRUCTURE: The Elections Director position will become two director-level positions so both the Recorder and the Board will have a “point person” inside the Elections Department. One director will have oversight of the assigned statutory responsibilities of the Recorder. The other director will have oversight of the assigned statutory responsibilities of the Board.

In January, the Board of Supervisors directed the county manager to form a work group made up of Recorder’s Office leadership and county administrative leadership to look at countywide election processes and other recommendations regarding three specific areas: staffing, technology, and organizational structure. The 10-member work group focused on how to improve outcomes for voters while maintaining the efficiencies of the current system. They also were mindful of how any recommended changes would impact the 2020 elections calendar. You can read their final list of recommendations on the county’s 2019 Elections Review Project website.

In Arizona, counties run most elections, including elections for national offices such as President and Congress. State law divides responsibilities between each county’s Recorder, Board of Supervisors, and to a lesser extent, Clerk of the Board. The Recorder has responsibility for voter registration and early voting, among other things. The Board of Supervisors has responsibility for much of what happens on Election Day, including the location and number of polling places, the equipment to count votes, and the training and assigning of poll workers.

At today’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved the contract for the new tabulation equipment and approved the creation of the second Elections Director position that reports to the Board. The staffing study should be completed later in the summer.

You may learn more about the election work group and the countywide election review process by visiting the project website.