Chandler Prohibits Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Chandler Prohibits Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation Discrimination

By Corinne Murdock |

On Thursday, the Chandler City Council established a nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO) to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Two years in the making, the NDO prohibits the denial of public accommodations, employment, and housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The council passed the NDO unanimously.

Nine citizens submitted their support of the NDO ahead of Thursday’s meeting; only two submitted opposition. Among those who testified in favor of the NDO were women claiming to be Christians and a business advocacy nonprofit, Local First Arizona, who insisted on the NDO’s potential for increasing city revenue. Chandler Pride, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, complained that the NDO didn’t go far enough.

Chandler Pride co-founder Jude Schroeder argued that the NDO shouldn’t have religious exemptions for nonprofits. Schroeder argued further that the enforcement mechanisms and punishments weren’t strong enough.

“Chandler residents served with tax dollars are not to be discriminated [against] by anyone for any reason,” said Schroeder. 

Those who violate the NDO won’t be eligible for city contracts or grants. The NDO doesn’t apply to small businesses and private membership clubs.

Mayor Kevin Hartke assured citizens that the NDO came with plenty of religious exemptions. 

“It makes a statement and it’s a statement I believe has always described Chandler,” said Hartke. 

The NDO carves out an exemption for “bona fide religious organizations or persons who hold bona fide religious views.”

At the start of the council meeting, several citizens lamented that the current council agenda didn’t reflect the current issues or will of the people: other than the DEI policy, allowing backyard chickens, and expanding the number of days citizens may shoot off fireworks. The first citizen to speak expressed a desire for the council to focus more on addressing the inflation crisis and looming police hiring shortage. Almost a quarter of Chandlers’ police force is slated to retire in the next few years, and the pace of hiring hasn’t accommodated for that.

The council spent over $56,000 last year for the study to back this NDO. A survey of 33 percent of staff revealed that most city staffers are satisfied with the city’s diversity at present. 

60 percent believe the city recognizes staff diversity, while 15 percent disagreed; close to 80 percent believe the city values different backgrounds, while 10 percent disagreed; 55 percent believe the city encourages different viewpoints, while close to 20 percent disagreed; 60 percent believe the city supports diverse teams, while 15 percent disagreed. The remaining percentage of staff were neutral. On average, 68 percent expressed a positive outlook on the city’s diversity outlook and integration, compared to 13 percent expressing a negative outlook. 

Similarly, more city employees had a positive outlook on the city’s accessibility and availability of DEI education, events, and practices: 55 percent positive, 9 percent negative, and 17 percent neutral, and 18 percent didn’t know.

17 percent of employees disagreed with DEI implementation, 25 percent were neutral, 45 percent agreed, and 12 percent didn’t respond. 

Chandler’s NDO aligns with those established by localities across the nation, and resembles the antidiscrimination laws established by states. Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws resulted in the targeting of several Christian business owners. One, a baker named Jake Phillips, declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and then declined to make a gender reveal cake for a transgender individual. Another, a website designer named Lorie Smith, declined to design wedding websites for same-sex couples. 

Phillips won his Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case concerning the wedding cake, but remains in court for the gender reveal cake. Smith will appear before SCOTUS early next month to argue her case. 

Arizona nearly banned sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) introduced a bill to do so, though it never advanced to a committee.

In addition to this latest policy, Chandler’s other DEI efforts launched in 2020, prompted by the death of George Floyd, came to fruition this year. The city sponsored and hosted its first LGBTQ+ event, produced a video series highlighting Black families living in Chandler, and hosted its first Asian community conference.

Watch the Chandler City Council meeting here:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Pima County Recorder: Ballots May Be Finished by Next Week

Pima County Recorder: Ballots May Be Finished by Next Week

By Corinne Murdock |

Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly told reporters on Wednesday that it may be another week before they finish counting ballots. 

The county has over 159,700 ballots left to be counted. 

That’s just 63 percent of their ballots counted, the lowest percentage out of all reported counties — even Maricopa County, which experienced widespread tabulation machine failures for around eight hours, most of Election Day. 

The delay follows several significant changes in the county’s election procedures. 

Earlier this summer, Cázares-Kelly prohibited political party observers for the primary election. The county also introduced vote centers this election, rather than the traditional method of having votes cast based on precinct. The county halved their operations from 280 voting precinct locations to 129 vote centers.

More recently, Cázares-Kelly was involved in the Proposition 309 controversy with Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer. Prop 309 would tighten ID requirements for in-person and early voting, which Richer opposed. As Arizona Association of County Recorders (AACR) president, Richer issued a false public statement that all 15 county recorders supported an anti-Prop 309 statement. It was Cázares-Kelly’s idea to include the recorders’ names. 

Richer used county resources to advance development of his anti-Prop 309 letter. He is facing a complaint filed with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

There’s approximately 619,000 uncounted ballots remaining. Track updates to ballot counting here. Track updates to all of the races here.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Katie Hobbs Widens Lead With Maricopa County Ballots

Katie Hobbs Widens Lead With Maricopa County Ballots

By Corinne Murdock |

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was unable to close the gap between her and Democrat Katie Hobbs as of Wednesday night. Hobbs widened her lead from just over 8,100 votes to over 13,000 votes. 

Hobbs gained 33,000 votes, putting her at 953,700 votes; Lake gained over 28,000 votes, putting her at over 940,700 votes. 

There remains around 400,000 ballots to be counted in Maricopa County. In a press release, the county approximated this to be 17,000 Election Day ballots, 382,900 early ballots, and 7,800 provisional ballots.

Lake told Fox News that she anticipated overtaking Hobbs in the coming days. Hobbs didn’t post about the ballot dump as of press time.

Arizona’s closest races were yet to be called as of Wednesday night, as incoming ballots close the gap between Democrats and Republicans. At least 611,300 ballots are yet to be counted.

Maricopa County delayed updating its remaining ballot counts for several hours. AZ Free News was unable to get the counts by press time. 

The second-highest number of uncounted ballots comes out of Pima County. Their recorder, Gabriela Cázares-Kelly, told reporters on a press call that it may be until next Monday or Tuesday before they finish counting those ballots.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Maricopa County Recorder Fundraised Off Voting Machine Failures

Maricopa County Recorder Fundraised Off Voting Machine Failures

By Corinne Murdock |

“Where there’s crisis, there’s opportunity,” as the saying often attributed to Albert Einstein goes. 

In the midst of a widespread Election Day disaster concerning tabulation machine malfunctions reportedly caused by printer settings, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer capitalized on the crisis in his county as an opportunity to fundraise for his campaign. 

In an email to voters publicized by the Arizona Daily Independent, Richer explained his office takes responsibility for voter registration and early voting. Those in charge of the tabulator failures would be the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, he added, throwing in commendation of his own job performance. Richer included a contribution link and a disclosure that the email was paid for by his reelection campaign.

“Since becoming Recorder in 2021, I have worked hard to improve voter registration and Early Voting, while also supporting the Board’s administration of Election Day operations and tabulation, as well as bolstering communications about elections holistically,” Richer said in the email.

On Richer’s personal Twitter account, which he usually uses to discuss his work, this letter was published without disclosing its campaign origins or including the contribution request. 

Voters faced with faulty vote centers were faced with multiple options, some leading to potential disenfranchisement: leave without voting, spoil their ballot, cast a provisional ballot, or wait in the hopes that their ballot would be tabulated properly (sometimes for hours). 

GOP consultant Constantin Querard told the ADI that this was a bad move on Richer’s part.

“I can’t imagine a worse time for a County Recorder to be soliciting contributions than on Election Day, while your voters are stuck in line, waiting for your malfunctioning machines to be repaired so they can vote,” said Querard.

Richer’s term doesn’t end until 2025. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Potential Voter Disenfranchisement Remedy Denied After Senator Mark Kelly Intervenes

Potential Voter Disenfranchisement Remedy Denied After Senator Mark Kelly Intervenes

By Corinne Murdock |

A court ruled against a request to extend Maricopa County polling hours despite mass voting machine failures, after Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) petitioned to reject the request. Kelly is in a highly contested race against one of the GOP candidates that filed suit, Republican challenger Blake Masters.

Two Republican candidates, Masters and Kari Lake, filed an emergency request on Tuesday afternoon to extend the polling hours to 10 pm, after the mass failure of tabulation machines across the county for over eight hours. This extensive failure resulted in issues such as voters spoiling ballots, leaving without voting, or unwillingly casting a provisional ballot. 

One of the lawyers that filed the case, Harmeet Dhillon remarked that Kelly’s intervention was hypocrisy given his public commitments to thwarting voter disenfranchisement. 

“Goes to show you that Democrats’ platitudes about voting rights are often situational, at best,” said Dhillon.

A lawyer for the Arizona GOP, Alex Kolodin, called the court’s rejection “unfortunate” in an interview with “The Conservative Circus.” Kolodin shared that frustrated voters left polls, or were forced to cast a provisional ballot after they checked in at a malfunctioning vote center. The law doesn’t allow for voters to cast a ballot at another polling location after they’ve checked in at one location.

“The campaigns tried to explain to the judge that this was a very unique situation with this widespread issue where voters really were deprived of the right to vote and that made it a unique circumstance that warranted keeping the polls open a couple extra hours,” said Kolodin.

Kolodin said that at least 33 to 40 percent of vote centers were affected by tabulation machine failures. Kolodin stated that the timing marks on the ballots likely weren’t printed properly, which meant the tabulators couldn’t read them.

Kolodin added that printers have been a major issue for Maricopa County since the 2020 election, and were at the root of the SharpieGate controversy.

“It’s funny, the county has known about ballot printing issues for two years,” said Kolodin.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Races Tighten With Election Night Ballots; Substantial Amount Of Early Ballots Remain

Races Tighten With Election Night Ballots; Substantial Amount Of Early Ballots Remain

By Corinne Murdock |

The most highly-contested races tightened overnight after Election Day votes were counted, leaving a substantial number of early ballots left to process. 

In eight of these 13 races, Democrats lead Republicans. Total ballots processed numbered over 1.8 million, or 44 percent of total registered voters (over 4.1 million). Voter turnout in the 2018 midterms was over 2.4 million ballots cast (nearly 65 percent of the 3.7 million total registered voters).

In the Senate race, incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly leads Republican Blake Masters by nearly 90,000 votes, 51 to 46 percent.

In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Katie Hobbs leads Republican Kari Lake by over 11,700 votes, 50 to 49 percent.

In the secretary of state race, Democrat Adrian Fontes leads Republican Mark Finchem by over 84,500 votes, 52 to 47 percent.

In the attorney general race, Democrat Kris Mayes leads Republican Abraham Hamadeh by 4,000 votes, both sharing about 50 percent. 

In the state treasurer race, incumbent Republican Kimberly Yee leads Democrat Martín Quezada by 201,200 votes, 55 to 44 percent.

In the superintendent race, Republican Tom Horne leads incumbent Democrat Kathy Hoffman by nearly 7,700 votes, both sharing about 50 percent.

In the first congressional district, Democrat Jevin Hodge leads incumbent Republican David Schweikert by 4,400 votes, 51 to 49 percent.

In the second congressional district, Republican Eli Crane leads incumbent Democrat Tom O’Halleran by 18,700 votes, 53 percent to 46 percent.

In the third congressional district, incumbent Democrat Ruben Gallego leads Republican Jeff Nelson Zink by 47,300 votes, 76 to 24 percent.

In the fourth congressional district, incumbent Democrat Greg Stanton leads Republican Kelly Kooper by 24,400 votes, 57 percent to 43 percent.

In the fifth congressional district, incumbent Republican Andy Biggs leads by 38,200 votes, 56 to 38 percent.

In the sixth congressional district, Republican Juan Ciscomani leads Democrat Kirsten Engel by 2,400 votes, 50 to 49 percent.

In the seventh congressional district, incumbent Democrat Raúl Grijalva leads Republican Luis Pozzolo by nearly 34,000 votes, 64 to 36 percent.

Incumbents Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-08) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ-09) were unchallenged.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.