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Republicans angry over ratio of Republican to Democrat poll workers in Maricopa County primary
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Republicans angry over ratio of Republican to Democrat poll workers in Maricopa County primary

  • A week before Election Day, the department had to fill 220 poll worker positions. County officials estimated that more than 500 temporary election workers quit at some point leading up to the election, and then their positions had to be filled.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comA week before Election Day, the department had to fill 220 poll worker positions. County officials estimated that more than 500 temporary election workers quit at some point leading up to the election, and then their positions had to be filled.

Republicans are once again criticizing elections officials in Maricopa County after learning that more Democrats than Republicans worked the polls in the August primary election. 

The Republican National Committee on Sept. 9 sent a letter to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, slamming the county for hiring 857 Democrats to work the polls on Aug. 2 but only 712 Republicans.

In the letter, the RNC also expressed concerns that there was “potential for this inequity to be repeated in the forthcoming general election.”

This is just the most recent in a laundry list of criticisms that Republicans have hurled at the Maricopa County Elections Department over the past two years, including through their  multimillion dollar partisan “audit” of the 2020 presidential election by the now-defunct firm Cyber Ninjas.

The Maricopa County Elections Department told the Arizona Mirror that it follows state law and aims “for equal representation from the two major political parties as we fill temporary election worker positions,” sometimes even going above and beyond statutory requirements.

“There are many times when we have election workers quit in the days right before Election Day, and including on Election Day,” said Maricopa County Elections Department spokeswoman Megan Gilbertson. “Our recruiters do their best to backfill these positions with someone from the same party, but there are some instances when it is not possible.”

When filling a position with someone of the same party isn’t possible, the Elections Department says it follows the Arizona Election Procedures Manual, which requires ensuring a diversity of party affiliations on elections boards. 

“We achieved that in August and will always prioritize bipartisan oversight,” Gilbertson said. 

Ahead of the August primary, the department initially planned to hire 2,148 poll workers to staff voting centers and 438 workers to staff temporary positions in the elections department, but it ended up with only 1,964 poll workers and 356 election workers. 

Of those who handled ballots for the Elections Department, 78 Republicans and 82 Democrats were hired, along with 29 who did not declare a party affiliation. 

The RNC also pointed out that there were 11 voting centers in the county that had no Republican poll workers. There were two centers that didn’t have any Democrat workers. 

The RNC asked the county for an explanation for the centers lacking Republican representation and the smaller number of Republicans working that day in general. The RNC said that Mickie Niland, the chairwoman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, provided the elections department with hundreds of names and contact information for Republican poll workers in May. 

“Please provide the RNC with the written documentation that demonstrates the County’s efforts to hire Republican poll workers at the 11 voting locations in question,” the RNC said in its letter. “If any Republican poll workers failed to show up on election day, or otherwise decommitted from these locations prior to election day, please provide documentation showing any efforts to find replacement workers for these locations.”

The RNC also complained of “a significant disparity” between the number of Republicans and Democrats working the processing boards at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center during the primary. 

Those working the processing board included 88 Republicans and 148 Democrats, when the numbers are supposed to be equal. 

A week before Election Day, the department had to fill 220 poll worker positions. County officials estimated that more than 500 temporary election workers quit at some point leading up to the election, and then their positions had to be filled. 

“It is not unusual to have a significant amount of turnover, but since 2020, it has been higher than normal,” Gilbertson said. 

The RNC also criticized the commitments that some of the central elections board positions required, including multiple days or multiple weeks of work, long hours and late nights. 

“The County has artificially limited its pool of board workers (especially Republican board workers) by refusing to allow more manageable shifts,” the RNC said in the letter. 

The RNC provided a copy of the letter to the Mirror but did not respond to a question asking why longer hours and multiple-day commitments would discourage more potential Republican poll workers than Democrats. 

“While it is critically important to understand how these disparities resulted in the primary election, it is equally (if not more) important to ensure that poll worker and central board staffing for the general election comply with the letter of the law and be beyond reproach,” the RNC wrote. 

Last month, Niland supplied the elections department with the names of 500 potential GOP poll workers and requested confirmation from the department that it would contact every single one of them. 

“Staffing elections requires a continuous effort of recruiting, hiring, training, and then backfilling positions of those that quit,” Gilbertson said. “Partnerships with the Maricopa County political parties play a critical role in helping ensure this bipartisan staffing. We reach out to every potential election worker the parties provide. Unfortunately, not all are willing or able to serve.”

The RNC asked for a response to its letter by Friday, and said if the department did not respond and adequately explain the issues detailed in the letter, it was “prepared to pursue all available legal remedies.”

Neither the RNC nor the Elections Department answered a question from the Mirror, asking if the department had officially responded to the letter. 

“We appreciate the partnership with Maricopa County political parties and we will continue to work to ensure parity in our positions – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and those without a party preference,” Gilbertson said. “Voters interested in applying to support elections can visit GetInvolved.Maricopa.Vote.”

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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