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Pima County staffer bungles ballot training for election workers

Six vote centers shifted before Tuesday's primary election

A staffer for the Pima County Elections Department has been "corrected" after wrongly training temporary election workers that voters can choose which ballot they vote during Tuesday's primary election.

Only voters who are not registered with a political party that has ballot access — so-called "independent" voters, as well as members of the Green Party — can pick whether they wish to cast a ballot in the Democratic or Republican party primaries.

Those who are registered with the Democrats, Republicans or Libertarian Party cannot choose a different ballot. The Libertarian primary isn't open to outside voters. Because it does not have enough registered voters to have earned a spot on the ballot, the Green Party is not now a recognized political party in the state.

The staffer who provided incorrect information to poll workers being trained last week was Jesus Federico, the training and education coordinator for the Elections Department.

Federico has been employed by the county since March, having worked for outside social service agencies before being hired by the government.

An attorney for the Republican Party, Eric Spencer of Snell & Wilmer, contacted Constance Hargrove, director of Pima County Elections, on Sunday afternoon, writing that "a poll worker who attended Jesus’ training on Wednesday informs me that Jesus instructed judges to issue a Republican ballot (upon request) to a registered Democrat on Election Day."

"This, of course, would violate Art. VII Sec 10 and A.R.S. 16-467(B). The poll worker asked Jesus to clarify and he reaffirmed this incorrect reading of Arizona law to the crowd," Spencer wrote. "It is unclear whether you were still in attendance at the time."

"The county will need to issue supplemental instructions to its poll workers immediately," the GOP attorney wrote.

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Officials did so on Monday, Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher told the Board of Supervisors in a memo about the "misinformation" situation.

Hargrove "has corrected the employee who led the training, emailed correct information to all of the poll workers with an email address, has sent a memorandum to all the Vote Center inspectors with the correct information, and is placing a poster at all Vote Centers with information about which ballots are available to vote depending on a voter's registration," Lesher wrote Monday.

Hargrove "reports that the party's attorney is satisfied with these corrective measures," Lesher said.

It's not clear how many poll workers were attending that training session, or if the illegal procedure was taught to poll workers during other trainings.

Vote centers shifted

129 vote centers will be open in Pima County for Tuesday's primary election. While about 80-90 percent of voters are expected to have returned early ballots, voters who have not can go in person to any site to cast their votes, or drop off an early ballot.

Six of those centers had to be shifted before the election, in addition to oen that had already been changed back in May, just says after the Board of Supervisors approved the list of all 129 sites.

Reasons for the changes included property owners not returning a contract to the use of a site, a decision by an owner to not be a voting location, and construction work making a location unavailable, Lesher told the supervisors in a memo on Monday.

Those locations have been replaced by alternate voter center sites nearby.

Pima County has an interactive map and list of vote center addresses posted online, along with an explainer on how the system works. Vote centers are new to the county, although they have been widely used across most of the rest of Arizona for previous elections.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

129 vote centers will be open in Pima County for Tuesday's primary election. While about 80-90 percent of voters are expected to have returned early ballots, voters who have not can go in person to any site to cast their votes, or drop off an early ballot.