Success has spoiled us.
After Cochise County invested about $1 million in new voting equipment and adopted a plan that consolidated polling locations, local pundits had high expectations for immediate and accurate results.
The Board of Supervisors authorized the expenditure after the county’s old system failed during a 2014 election and ballots needed to be flown by the Sheriff’s helicopter to Graham County to be tabulated.
In addition to the impressive new technology, former Elections Director Katie Howard convinced Supervisors to move from 49 polling locations to 18 “vote centers.” Board members also approved allowing voters to cast ballots at any of the centers, ending the practice of restricting voters to casting ballots only in the precinct where they live.
When Lisa Marra assumed the elections director position, she pushed voters to sign up for early balloting. The convenience of that process and Ms. Marra’s effective promotion of the Permanent Early Voting List dramatically boosted the number of ballots cast before Election Day. In the Aug. 4 primary, for example, 84.9 percent of the 28,583 ballots were cast early. Fewer than 4,000 voters went to the polls.
We’ve come a long way from the days when pencil sharpeners and calculators were important tools at polling places.
Today, voters “score” their ballot and return it early. After these ballots are verified and prepared, they are tabulated by a machine that “sees” each vote and maintains a running tally in microseconds.
Instead of waiting — sometimes for more than hour — for poll workers to carry ballots from distant precinct polling locations, vote counts are transmitted in seconds electronically to the county Elections Office in Bisbee.
All these improvements in the technology and process for tabulating election outcomes has engendered extremely high voter expectations. When a computer glitch slowed the posting of ballot totals after the Aug. 4 election, we openly criticized the “failure” and questioned what more would be needed to provide prompt results. Unofficial vote totals were available on the county’s website around 10 p.m., within three hours after the primary election polls closed.
For the General Election Nov. 3 — and for future elections — we’re being more realistic and we’re urging voters to adopt the same attitude.
Accuracy, not urgency, has to be the priority. We want every ballot counted and we want every voter to have complete confidence that their “voice” was heard through the process.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s top election official, has stated that “…the election doesn’t end on Election Day.” She’s warned that counting provisional ballots, tabulating early ballots dropped off at vote centers, and following the state law that allows voters to “fix” their ballot up to five days after the election, are just a few of the reasons why a final outcome won’t be known for several days — possibly a week or longer — after the polls close.
We can live with that.
We have confidence that Elections Director Lisa Marra together with her remarkable staff and volunteers will continue to accomplish accurate election results as quickly as they can after the polls close on Nov. 3.