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FLORENCE — Hundreds of Pinal County residents received the wrong early ballot, and up to 15 Kearny-area voters received the wrong ballot at the polls, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was told.

The board approved the canvass of election results for the Aug. 4 primary election at a special meeting Friday.

Recorder Virginia Ross said a city of Maricopa voter complained that her early ballot did not include city races. When the Recorder’s Office researched the voter’s address, it learned this voter was in fact in the city limits and should have received a city ballot.

Ross said she ran an audit and found there were 400 early voters across the county who received the wrong ballots. She said she had time to get the correct ballots to those people.

“We heard about the situation early enough, because the early voting period is 29 days. We heard immediately, and immediately had time to correct,” Ross told PinalCentral.

She told the supervisors there may have been only two Maricopa residents who received bad ballots and voted them and didn’t bother later to send in the correct ballots. Yet a Maricopa City Council candidate, Julia Gusse, submitted a letter to the supervisors indicating she wished to contest the primary election.

In the letter, which the board clerk read at Friday’s meeting, Gusse said because errors occurred, all the primary candidates should advance to the Nov. 3 general election, or to a special election at the county’s expense.

Board Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, asked Ross if the problem would be corrected before the general election.

“We’re obviously going to do another audit just to make sure,” Ross replied. “The software vendor has provided some enhancements and updates to their addressing module, with additional error checking, quality control and reports that we’ll be able to use, and we will make sure everything is correct before we send our data to the printer next month for the general election.”

Elections Director Michele Forney told the board she found out late on Election Day that some voters who lived outside Kearny improperly received a ballot that included town elections. Poll workers determined on their own that they had given 13 people the wrong ballot.

Forney’s own investigation showed that up to 15 people who lived outside the town boundaries received the wrong ballot and improperly voted for town candidates.

But Kearny’s two mayoral candidates were separated by 116 votes, so those wrong ballots could not have affected the outcome of the race. The Kearny council race was likewise unaffected because it was three candidates running for three seats, Forney said.

There was also an allegation of poll workers in Kearny who supported candidates, including a poll worker who was a relative of a candidate. Forney said she only heard of this on Aug. 13. She investigated and found that two poll workers had lawn signs, “and that’s it.” There were no complaints of anything improper occurring at the polling place on Election Day.

Forney said poll worker training includes instruction that they can’t be partisan in the polling place. She added it would be hard to recruit workers if they could not show their support for candidates “in their private lives,” especially in small towns.

Poll workers are also asked if they are parents, spouses or children of any candidates, Forney said. But again, she said it would be hard to recruit workers in rural areas who aren’t related to any candidate in some way.

Forney told the board that 37% of Republicans and 27% of registered Democrats voted, which is a slight increase from the 2016 and 2018 primaries. Less than 1% of Libertarians voted.

There were 11,269 people who voted at the polls, which was down somewhat from 2018. Forney said this was possibly the result of the coronavirus and the fact there were few contested races. There was, however, an increase in early voting, with almost 60% of voters casting their ballot that way.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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