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.
Cochise County Recorder David Stevens disagrees with the assurances from Maricopa County election officials that the recently-released audit was entirely inaccurate. Stevens made this assessment on KFYI’s James T. Harris radio show. He honed in on the purported issues presented by Maricopa County’s signature verification process.
“We have standards in this field. I was in this field for 30 years, they go back decades that dictate what are good practices – and they [Maricopa] show none of them,” said Stevens.
Stevens explained that his county’s signature verification process was very different from Maricopa County’s. That caused him to question the strength of Maricopa County’s results.
“They’re verifying the scanned copy of the signature with what’s in their file. What I do in my county is we actually have the envelope in hand, looking at the signature on screen, because there are indicators in the signature that help to determine if it’s a valid signature or not. But you saw the scans if you watched the presentation on Friday, [of] how low quality of the scan was. And those indicators are very small. Like when you stop – when you’re writing your name and you stop, and that one letter you start up again – that kind of stuff disappears on a scan, and it makes it harder if not impossible to verify.”
AZ Free News reached out to Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer about these concerns. He didn’t respond by press time.
Stevens said that he was also astounded by the other problems discovered by auditors – like the fact that countless people used the same log-in credentials.
However, Stevens said that the more troublesome aspect of the audit concerned the election officials themselves. He cited the recent resignation of Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri as an example, who quit following the audio leak of a phone call in which he claimed that his county knew their audit and the Dominion voting machines weren’t trustworthy.
“Why did the elected officials obstruct this audit?” asked Stevens. “We’re elected to serve the public, not to serve ourselves. You see what happens when you get caught on a phone call you don’t know what’s being recorded, you don’t know what comes out. They were afraid for themselves.”
Maricopa County officials disagree with the audit because of who was put in charge: Cyber Ninjas. Prior to the Arizona Senate’s contract, the technology security company had never conducted any election-related work, including audits. This is something that Richer and others have reiterated: their reluctance to cooperate comes from their distrust of Cyber Ninjas’ intentions and competence.
Stevens said that he couldn’t see what good reasons the county could have for the issues presented in the audit.
He added that officials shouldn’t be deleting files, referencing a claim made during the Senate audit hearing last week. Maricopa County responded that they hadn’t deleted the files: they’d archived them elsewhere, something which the Senate hadn’t subpoenaed.
When asked, Stevens said there likely wouldn’t be any remedies to improve elections before the 2022 midterms.
“I think the best solution going forward is a random, constant audit going forward,” said Stevens.
Maricopa County created a webpage to address various concerns and claims made about their election processes.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich promised to have his Election Integrity Unit (EIU) investigate some of the findings in the Senate audit. He issued a follow-up request for the supporting documents to the audit earlier this week.
“The Arizona Senate’s report that was released on Friday raises some serious questions regarding the 2020 election,” said Brnovich. “Arizonans can be assured our office will conduct a thorough review of the information we receive.”