Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes Discuss Adding More Ballot Drop Boxes

Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, whose victory is being challenged by Republican candidate Mark Finchem, hosted a panel discussion with election fraud denier Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer this week.

ABC-15 Data Analyst Garrett Archer moderated the event at the Valley Bar in Phoenix, the bipartisan pair discussed the 2022 midterm election.

Archer began the event with introductions the candidates had prepared. Fontes’ bio said during his service as Maricopa County Recorder, he “revolutionized the election system by ensuring that every single Arizona had the access that they needed to enhance the ballot tracking technology and increased process transparency, winning recognition and awards.” Additionally, he “implemented reforms that drastically reduced the number of provisional ballots cast in the county.”

Archer asked the two if changes needed to be made to voting. Both admitted there should be, with Richer stating that “our politics are increasingly federalized.”

Fontes praised the election process in Arizona.

He said, “It is important to note that Arizona has one of the best election systems and system frameworks from the United States of America. We have more ways for folks to vote, we have more access for folks.” He said people realize “we’re pretty darn good about what we do here” with elections. “I think we’re in really good shape.”

Next, Archer asked the pair about printer problems during the midterm election.

Richer cast the blame on “working with an antiquated legal framework that allows the county boards of supervisors to tabulate on site on election day, and maybe that made sense at one point, but now we can do that for multiple days.” He said the law needs to be changed to allow the county to start counting early ballots much earlier than on Election Day. “If you allow on site tabulation for multiple days, then that decreases the amount of signature verification that you have to do for early ballots.”

Fontes agreed that the problem is the laws are outdated; he said they focus too much on in-person voting on Election Day when the reality is 90 percent of voters vote early.

Richer said there was a conflict between convenience and finding out the results faster.

“Do we want this leniency of being able to drop off your early ballot on Election Day, we value that more, and if we do that’s fine, or do we value having a higher percentage of results available within 24 hours?” he asked.

Fontes agreed there was a conflict.

“Because what the media has gotten is this idea that you have to know now, important, and not that we have to know correctly,” Fontes said.

He added people predicted in 2012 or 2014, there was going to be a demographic shift making election results closer, which has arrived. He said previously no one cared about results right away in the late Senator John McCain’s races since it was obvious he was going to win by large margins.

Fontes said, “We don’t really know what the average voter wants because we’ve never asked them. We make a lot of assumptions from these positions of power and politics.” He said he disagreed with Richer about restricting last minute ballot drop offs in order to get results faster.

Richer pushed back, “I’m worried that we are damaging competence materially, by not having results. A higher percentage results within 24 hours.”

Next, Archer asked the two about the adjudication process, the process where a bipartisan team determines the voters’ intent in cases where their markings on ballots aren’t clear.

Richer suggested that voters redo their ballots when it is difficult to determine their intent. Fontes disagreed.

“The bromance only goes so far,” he said.

Fontes added that they conflict on a few things … “little bits and pieces” of disagreement.

Richer was concerned that the Maricopa County Supervisors oversee Election Day operations while he oversees early voting. In contrast, Fontes said he liked the bifurcated system.

Fontes defended the fact he recently testified in favor of a bill he wants but did not talk to a single county recorder in advance about it. He said other officials don’t consult with others about bills that may affect them.

Archer said he wanted to discuss topics with a “grain of truth” in them that “blow up on social media” like ballot drop boxes, early voting voter signature verification, and post-election audits.

Richer talked about post-election audits that his office does with Republicans and Democrats. He brought up a bill that both he and Fontes agreed on, making ballot images public records.

Fontes said he would like to see early ballots tabulated earlier, which means early voting signature verification, but said due to the volume; it may not have a high degree of accuracy. He suggested expanding the number of drop boxes.

“As far as drop boxes are concerned, the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Fontes and Richer indirectly hinted that Republican leaders who told voters to wait to submit their ballots until the last day was at fault. They said leaders should urge voters to mail their ballots sooner since it would speed up tabulation.

Both frequently referred to democracy. Richer said he was “mostly sad” we’re talking so much about election mechanics since it’s because “we’re questioning democracy” and before this, nobody ever really thought to “challenge the results in a peaceful transfer of power.”

A Republican in the audience asked the two why Republicans are so suspicious of voter fraud. Fontes blamed “leadership.’ Richer responded, “Politicians respond to incentives, and right now there’s an incentive within the Republican Party to talk about this to give credence to it. And I will tell you that behind the scenes, the vast majority of them acknowledge it’s a lie. But then they go out there and they say it because they know that they can build a profile, they know they can raise [money].”

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Stephen Richer and Adrian Fontes” by Arizona Agenda.




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6 Thoughts to “Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes Discuss Adding More Ballot Drop Boxes”

  1. Ok, you put them out? We’ll save you the trip back and remove them for you. Commie pfhucko.

  2. azhnt3r

    He(double hockey sticks) no!!

  3. stuman15

    Seems the democratic Recorder and Sec. of State want more ballot boxes so more fraudulent votes can be submitted. We should go back when everyone voted on voting day. No drop boxes. Early voting by those that ae registered only. Right now, there are to many ways to cheat in our present voting system.

    1. Sherry

      We do NOT need more ballot boxes or more early voting. We need to split Maricopa County and end the monopoly of it’s board of supervisors.

  4. The accolades for Richer’s awards in reforming elections are worth about as much as a Pulitzer Prize, or the Nobel Peace Prize, or equivalent to passing gas in a windstorm, in my humble opinion.

    Our AZ House & Senate election committee members declined to attend this forum. Election law is made by the legislature, not an ad hoc committee.

    The “transfer of power” was peaceful, though hotly contested. That is our right in a “democracy”. A lot needs to be done to secure our elections in Arizona.

  5. tl

    We need more voting machines at the precinct level and no drop boxes. They can’t steal what has already been counted.