By Terri Jo Neff |
AZ Free News has confirmed at least two of Arizona’s 15 county recorders did not put forth an “aye” vote when deciding whether to oppose Proposition 309, despite public assertions by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer of a unanimous vote.
Prop 309 would tighten the identification requirements for in-person and early ballot voting. On Sept. 29, the Arizona Association of County Recorders (AACR) conducted a “aye or nay” voice vote on issuing a statement in opposition of what is often referred to as universal voter ID.
Many boards and associations make decisions and take positions on a majority-rule basis, but those votes are not publicized as representing the position of each individual member. There was no role call nor record kept of how any of the county recorders voted, yet Richer, who is AACR’s President, listed the names of all 15 recorders on the anti-Prop 309 statement.
As previously reported by AZ Free News, Cochise County Recorder David Stevens took issue with that, as he was out of the country at the time and had not given his chief deputy recorder authority to vote his proxy. In fact, Stevens is pro-Prop 309.
Public records obtained by AZ Free News also show at least one other recorder reported not expressing any vote on the AACR position but opted to not go public, given that the majority of members did vote “aye.”
AACR met on Sept. 29 and took the voice vote about Prop 309 despite nothing on the agenda indicating a vote would be taken. Then on Oct. 4, Richer used his Maricopa County email account to distribute a draft version of the AACR statement to a handful of members for review.
He also used the Maricopa County website and a staffer’s time on the AACR’s anti-Prop 309 letter.
Richer has acknowledged this was an improper use of public resources to influence a ballot measure, and has expressed hope his mea culpa is sufficient to stave off criminal charges in light of a complaint filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO).
The AGO has the authority to expand the investigation from Richer’s use of public resources into whether his refusal to correct the record about the AACR vote falls under Arizona’s criminal statutes related to a fraudulent scheme or artifice.
Other public records show the draft version of the anti-Prop 309 statement Richer sent, however, did not include the names of all the county recorders. That feature was added at the suggestion of Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cazares-Kelly.
Richer released a revised draft statement about Prop 309 to the full AACR membership on Oct. 10. The next day, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs received an email from Richer with an advance copy of the statement about 90 minutes before it was released to the public.
Stevens, who did not see the draft, immediately emailed Richer and the other recorders upon learning of the statement’s content. He made clear his position on Prop 309 (he supports it) as well as on the use of his name.
The email also requested Richer “remove my name from this list and issue a retraction immediately.” Richer ignored that request as well as subsequent requests by Stevens.
For now, Stevens is waiting for the outcome of the AGO investigation. There is also a possibility of civil liability under Arizona law for the use of Stevens’ name without his consent.