Maricopa County investing in new voting equipment, ballots ahead of 2020 polls

Voters might see some changes when they head to the polls to vote in 2020, as elections officials in Maricopa County have upgraded the process, in hopes of making things easier and faster for voters.

For the first time in 24 years, the Elections Department is preparing to roll out new ballots and faster ballot-counting machines.

The current tabulation machines, in use for over 20 years, were last used during the 2016 elections.

"With the old equipment we had since 1996, it was much slower," said Erika Flores. "We counted about 3,000 ballots per hour."

Elections officials say the newer machines will speed up the process, and get results nearly three times faster.

The ballots themselves are also new. With the new ballots, voters will be instructed to fill in the ovals next to their choice. Currently, voters fill in arrows next to their choice.

Officials say many voters filled out the old ballots incorrectly.

"Sometimes, they wouldn't fill in the arrow. They'd either circle or sign their name," said Flores. "What was happening is we had to do a lot of manual review so we knew what the intent was for the voter."

This year, the Elections Department hopes to prevent voters from waiting in long lines. In 2016, several polling places stayed open past the deadline, to accommodate people still waiting in line to vote. This year, there's expected to be three times as many polling places throughout the county than there was four years ago.

"We've increased the number of polling locations from 60 to 220 as well," said Flores.

The new ballots and tabulating machines will be used for the first time in March, when two elections will be held.

On March 10, voters in Tempe will vote in the City Council elections. Seven days later, the Democratic Presidential Preference election is set to be held.