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Pima County to hold another mock election after 'hiccups' during dry run

Pima County will host an additional mock election this week after some technical issues with electronic pollbooks clouded a practice session last Friday.

The public dry run allowed voters to experience the county’s upcoming use of voting centers, which will allow residents to vote at more than 100 locations instead of a singular location determined by precinct. A few concerns overshadowed the event after some names were not found in the electronic poll books and some precinct’s ballots were not available.

“Because there were hiccups today, we need to have full confidence in the electorate that this system works and works well and is really efficient and improved with the check-in process,” Mark Evans, the county's chief spokesman. “So since that didn't happen for some voters today, we're going to do it again.”

The second mock election will be held 9-11 a.m., Friday, July 1, again at the Abrams Health Center, 3950 S. Country Club Rd.

On Friday, officials gave participants voter cards with purposefully fictitious names such as those of celebrities, which were supposed to be uploaded to a test registration system for the event. Some of these cards included information that wasn't in the system so these attendees had to fill out provisional ballots.

This issue led officials to ask people to start using their actual identifications for the event rather than the practice IDs. Some Republicans taking part in the demonstration run refused to do so.

Shelley Kais, chair of the Pima County Republican Party, said the election failed due to the problems with the fake voter cards.

“The mock election did not work,” she said.

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Kais refused to use her driver’s license when a card she submitted with the name “Marlon Brando” did not work, so officials allowed her to submit a provisional ballot under “Marlon Brando” after adding the name to the practice system, she said.

“The key issue here is that when I wasn’t in the system they put Marlon Brando in the system on Election Day, allowed him to select his party and vote a provisional ballot,” Kais said. “That’s against the law.”

Nothing should happen during the public demonstration that would not occur on an actual election day, she said.

But the mock election was not to test the provisional ballot process, officials said. During an actual election if someone submitted a provisional ballot, without being registered to vote, the ballot would not be counted by election officials, Evans said.

“So yes, that would never have happened in the real world. It only happened here under the training exercise, to make sure that they got a ballot that they could vote,” Evans said.

When officials shifted to accepting real identifications, some voters could not receive a ballot for their specific precinct.

The example ballots used Friday were from the 2018 primary election. There were only 248 precincts then, a number that has since expanded to 279, according to David Wiseley, program specialist for the Pima County Elections Department.

“So anything 249 and above, we didn't have a ballot style for,” he said. “So when those voters tried to vote, it wouldn't print a ballot because there's no ballot to print. So that was a glitch trying to combine two different data sets.”

The process went well for other voters who presented their actual IDs to vote.

“For me, it went smooth,” said Steve Freeman, director of communications for the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

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However, the difficulty for people with disabilities to navigate from table to table inside was one concern of Freeman’s. Voters who need accommodations will be able to vote from their vehicles, he was told by an election official.

Kathryn and Timothy Kosse went through Friday's test run and are in favor of the new voting center format, which allows residents to vote at any of the county’s 129 designated locations. The Kosses live in Marana, and their precinct’s voting location was 15 miles away under the previous system, Kathryn said.

“I think it’ll be a much smoother operation, and it’s going to allow more people to vote,” Timothy Kosse said.

Maricopa County had a voting center in 2012 or 2016 where people were unable to vote after a printer went down for two hours, Kathryn Kosse recalled, who was with the organization Election Protection at the time.

The county Elections Department has anticipated this problem.

Officials will have hard copies of already-printed ballots available if a center’s system goes down, and most locations will have a minimum of two printers, Wiseley said. There will also be back-up printers available if necessary. 

“You know, you always have to have five or six backup plans,” he said.

Voting centers will use electronic poll books, with each voter presenting their ID to an official and signing in before they are given a ballot slip. Individuals will present the slip to an election worker another station, which prints out each individual ballot based on a voter's precinct. For the primary election, the voter's choice of political party will also affect the choices on their ballot.

The electronic poll books will contain the latest voter registration information from the Pima County Recorder’s Office and have encrypted communications, officials said. Voter registration for the August 2 primary ends on July 5. Early ballots will be mailed out shortly after that deadline.

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Paul Ingram/Tucson Sentinel

Rebecca DuPree turns in her ballot as part of mock election and technology demonstration at the Abrams Public Health Center on Friday.