Wikimedia Commons/Australian Electoral Commission
Maricopa County is instituting new voting equipment and procedures in time for the March 17 Democratic presidential preference vote.
New ballot tabulators and other accessibility improvements cost about $6.1 million and will replace equipment that has been used for more than 20 years. The appearance of the ballot will change slightly too – voters will be asked to fill in ovals instead of arrows.
The county leased the new equipment last summer, according to Maricopa Elections Communications Director Megan Gilbertson, and the passing of Senate Bill 1135 allows them to use the new electronic adjudication feature.
Senate Bill 1135 was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in February. It was considered an emergency measure so that it could be implemented before the Democratic presidential preference vote – on a normal schedule, the bill wouldn't have been implemented until August. Even though the law affects all 15 Arizona counties, Maricopa County is the only one that could afford, both financially and technologically, the equipment upgrades at this time.
Ballot tabulators got a major upgrade and will now be able to process 6,000 to 8,000 ballots per hour instead of 3,000. Each polling location will have a precinct tabulator, and there will also be a bank of tabulators set up at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center. If a precinct tabulator is unable to read a ballot, it will be sent to the central tabulators for electronic adjudication. This new process should take one minute instead of 12.
Senate Bill 1135 also calls for the creation of a ballot duplication board. Erika Flores, deputy director of communications for elections in Maricopa County, told the Arizona Daily Independent that one Republican and one Democrat will be appointed by the county board of supervisors or an election officer. Damaged ballots that clearly indicate a voter's choice but cannot be read by the tabulator – a voter circles or signs his name next to his choice instead of filling in the oval – will be duplicated by the board and counted in place of the damaged ballot.