Election officials’ Tuesday performance worse than abysmal - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Election officials’ Tuesday performance worse than abysmal

September 5th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Election officials’ Tuesday performance worse than abysmal

By Paul Maryniak, Executive Editor

I’ve never been the world’s greatest when it came to math – which is perhaps a reason why I was never attracted to any public office that had to do with counting election results.

Apparently, Michelle Reagan and Adrian Fontes would have done well to have done the same.

Given last Tuesday’s handling of the primary elections, all I can say is that Reagan justly lost her primary bid for a second term as Arizona Secretary of State and Fontes should seriously consider doing something else for a living when his term as Maricopa County Recorder comes up in 2020.

As someone who has worked more primary and general election nights than he can remember, I can safely say that I’ve never seen such a deplorable handling of returns than I did last Tuesday night.

It was so bad that by 10 p.m., I gave up on my promise in print to have an up-to-date story awaiting our website readers Wednesday morning, opting instead to come in early in the hopes I could post a story with reliable results.

Sadly, they were semi-reliable at best, given that the Secretary of State’s website showed only 49 percent of the vote had been counted 12 hours after the lights had been turned off in polls across the state.

And the recorder’s website – well, it never did say how many votes had been counted, leaving some pretty close races for municipal councils in the East Valley in a state of doubt and confusion.

This got me wondering about whether I should have reconsidered a career in an office that oversaw elections.

What other job is there in the world where you have one critical task to accomplish twice every two years and can blow it with no immediate consequences?

I don’t count Reagan in that because she apparently bore the brunt of failures that were both hers and her predecessor – failures that, by the way, had nothing to do with counting votes.

You might think this is all caterwauling by a journalist disgruntled by the inconvenience created by the remarkably shoddy performance of the secretary of state and recorder’s offices.

It’s not.

What it is on my part is outrage that the time and money so many candidates had spent on trying to win their respective campaigns in Maricopa County and the state seemed not to matter to the two people who should have been most determined to perform flawlessly in their jobs on Tuesday night.

One legislative candidate I spoke with late Tuesday evening seemed pretty much ahead, but when I asked her is she was ready to declare victory, she hesitated and said she wanted to wait a few hours because it wasn’t clear whether it was time to grab a bottle of champagne.

The same thing happened Wednesday morning when I emailed a municipal council candidate in the East Valley who seemed to have won. She too told me she was figuratively keeping the Moet on ice.

I wasn’t particularly surprised by Fontes’ office’s performance.

The indications of sub-par performance on his part were there for months when I had to click my way around the recorder’s site trying to find simple answers to questions – and couldn’t.

Then, of course, when news of malfunctioning machines at 62 Maricopa County polling places broke during the day Tuesday, my only reaction was: Why am I not surprised.

Incredibly, Fontes’ office never posted how many votes had actually been counted, making it impossible to call elections and requiring more qualifying adjectives and adverbs in our Wednesday morning online report on results than a used car salesman might put on a lemon.

The last email I read Tuesday night was an abject apology by Fontes in which he told the world:

“I take responsibility for what happened and I will make sure that it does not happen again.”

Words like “How nice” and “yeah, yeah” came to mind.

But the ones that stuck were: “You’re fired.”

Or should be.