Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer said that early mail-in ballots are less problematic than in-person voting.
Richer made the remark during last month’s rowdy Board of Supervisors’ meeting to certify the election results. Richer said that this year’s early voting process had few issues, which he assured were remedied quickly.
“The early voting process is safe. It is secure, it is trackable, and it is subject to fewer of the caprices of in-person voting,” stated Richer.
The county recorder disclosed that preference at the end of his summary report on the county’s election processes and relevant data. He also took a swipe at critics.
“We can spend the next two years as we’ve spent the last two: fighting over conspiracy theories as promoted on social media by people who know nothing about elections,” stated Richer.
That line prompted loud, angry outcries from the audience. Gates pleaded calm, remarking that “the world is watching” as the audience shouted at Richer.
Richer continued, insisting that people should stop focusing on issues like splunk logs and ballot mules, and instead focus on legislative efforts like speeding up early vote processing.
Richer assured those present and the tens of thousands viewing the live stream of the meeting that the election was run efficiently despite Election Day hiccups with tabulators stemming from printer settings. Richer noted that political observers representing all parties were present throughout the election process.
Richer reported that Election Day voter registration totaled around 2.4 million. Approximately 77 percent of those were on the Active Early Voting List (AEVL); the county reportedly mailed out just under 1.9 million ballots.
There were 6,836 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) votes. Over 1.3 million million early ballots were returned early: 806,000 came through USPS. Of the 461,000 early ballots dropped off at drop box early voting locations, 290,000 were dropped off on Election Day. Richer remarked that the number of early ballots dropped off on Election Day were a significant increase, despite his “best efforts” to dissuade voters from doing that.
Richer walked through the early ballot review process. He dispelled rumors that the county uses artificial intelligence for signature verification.
Richer reported that on the day before Election Day, the county had processed all early ballots received by Saturday. By Wednesday morning they processed all early ballots they received by Sunday, Monday, or by mail on Tuesday.
Richer emphasized that the county didn’t compromise any aspect of their early ballot processing because of the “stink” raised by the community concerning signature verification over the last few years.
He reported that the Sunday after Election Day, the early vote team had to review provisional ballots and cure ballots. Approximately 16,000 ballots had “bad” signatures, and all were cured except about 1,800.
The House Government and Elections Committee narrowly approved a resolution requiring expanded voter ID requirements for any mail-in or early drop-off ballots.
HCR2025, called the “Arizonans for Voter ID Act,” would require voters to sign an affidavit with their ballot, including their birth date and an “early voter ID” constituting one of the following: their driver’s license number, nonoperating ID license number, last four digits of their Social Security number, or their unique identifying number. In order to protect the voter’s information, counties would be required to provide an additional privacy folder or slip.
The resolution would also prohibit the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) from charging a fee for an ID if the applicant discloses that the ID was obtained for the purposes of registering to vote or voting. Photo ID that doesn’t contain a suitable address must be accompanied by additional documentation verifying ID.
State Representative John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction) introduced the resolution, formed with assistance from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. The Club’s deputy director, Greg Blackie, explained that there’s currently a similar voter initiative being conducted throughout the state, also called Arizonans For Voter ID. Blackie added that this resolution expanded on last year’s universal ID efforts.
In response to concerns from Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) that voters’ private information would be compromised, Blackie reminded Bolding that the same private information was routinely sent through the mail such as tax return forms.
Bolding said that he was in opposition to the legislation because it didn’t take into account the difficulties it might impose on the elderly or the Navajo nations. He said that many lack multiple forms of what would qualify as early voter ID. Bolding implied that legislators’ fears over Arizona becoming a purple rather than a red state were the real reason behind this bill, prompting chiding from Chairman John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills).
Fillmore rebutted that he witnessed all parties support the parallel voter initiative currently underway: supporters from the Green Party and independents, in addition to Democrats and Republicans.
“This is a pure voter integrity bill and the people get to speak on it,” said Fillmore.
A new bill proposes that Arizonans registering to vote must provide proof of citizenship in order to vote in presidential elections and receive early ballots by mail. Federal-only voters aren’t required to provide proof of their citizenship to vote for the president, though they must for state, county, and local elections.
The bill makes an exception for military and overseas voters within the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).
In the 2020 election, Arizona had over 11,600 federal-only ballots cast: nearly 1,150 more votes than President Joe Biden’s margin that won the state.
The bill also laid out a method for verifying citizenship with the submission of a federal form. Within ten days after receiving the form, election officials must utilize their available resources to verify citizenship as well as search the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) databases, Social Security Administration (SSA) databases, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) Electronic Verification of Vital Events (EVVE) system, and any other state, city, town, county, or federal databases relating to voter registration. Throughout the entire process, elections officials must record their efforts to verify citizenship.
If election officials discover definitive proof that the applicant isn’t a citizen, then they must reject the application and notify the county attorney and attorney general for further investigation. The bill would also require election officials to notify applicants if they are unable to locate confirmation of citizenship, providing applicants 30 days to respond with proof of citizenship. Election officials may not reject an application if the applicant doesn’t provide proof of citizenship within that time frame — at that point, the applicant would only be eligible to vote in federal elections.
Election officials that don’t attempt to verify citizenship when no proof of citizenship is provided would be guilty of a class six felony.
Those who introduced the bill were State Representatives Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake), Neal Carter (R-San Tan Valley), Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), Teresa Martinez (R-Oro Valley), Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott), Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa), Ben Toma (R-Peoria), Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix).
The bill also proposes other requirements to strengthen voter registration, such as providing proof of residential address and a checkmark specifically next to a detailed question regarding citizenship.
Voters are reporting on social media that they’ve received multiple ballots with different names at their address. This is not to say that these issues have been widespread, but that there are instances of voters receiving three to four different ballots addressed to different individuals.
One Maricopa County voter, Anthony Massara, told the Arizona Daily Independent that he’s received mail for multiple different voters since 2017, despite notifying the post office that none of the voters lived there. This year, the multiple misaddressed ballots he received were for a special election in Scottsdale.
State Representative Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City) tweeted pictures of those ballots after Massara reached out to him.
“So the Arizona Secretary of State and Dems say our elections are secure,” wrote Biasiucci. “Here are 3 ballots showing up to a home in Scottsdale, Arizona that has had the same single owner for 5 years. None of those names below are his.”
So the Arizona Secretary of State and Dems say our elections are secure. Here are 3 ballots showing up to a home in Scottsdale, Arizona that has had the same single owner for 5 years. None of those names below are his. pic.twitter.com/F3aP8kQ36B
The state legislature recently passed a law further refining process for resolving ballots addressed incorrectly. Voters may now check a box on a flawed ballot to reflect that the addressee doesn’t reside at their address, and then mail it back to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Then, USPS should return the ballot to the recorder’s office of the affiliated county. At that point, the county recorder would notify the voter that the address they’d listed was incorrect, and offer them 35 days to respond.
If the voter doesn’t respond after 35 days, their voter file would be marked “inactive” and no early ballots would be mailed to that voter until they update their registration. If the voter doesn’t update their registration after two federal election cycles, then they are removed from the voter rolls.
A Mohave County voter, Sherrie Row, tweeted that her daughter received two ballots in addition to hers.
“Arizona is just handing out ballets. Only one of these people live here. And mine isn’t one of these. My democratic daughter got hers +2,” wrote Row.
Arizona is just handing out ballets. Only one of these people live here. And mine isn’t one of these. My democratic daughter got hers +2 pic.twitter.com/7yGU76MBZ7
The Arizona Senate’s Cyber Ninjas-led audit discovered over 23,300 ballots that were voted on from a prior address, according to their report last month. Maricopa County explained that these numbers likely included those that may have cast a “federal only ballot,” those who recently moved, or those who requested a temporary address.
“EXPLANATION: 1) Military and overseas voters can cast a ‘federal only ballot’ despite living outside the U.S. The address tied to their ballot would be their prior address in AZ. 2) People are allowed to move from one house to another (or even one state to another) in October and November of an election year (yes, shocking!). If the driver’s license address matches the voter registration address, they are still allowed to vote. 3) For the November General Election Maricopa County had 20,933 one-time temporary address requests. In addition, snowbirds and college students tend to have forwarding addresses when they are out of the county. 4) Mail-in ballots are not forwarded to another address.”
CLAIM: 23,344 mail-in ballots voted from a prior address.
BOTTOM LINE: Cyber Ninjas still don’t understand this is legal under federal election law. To label it a “critical” concern is either intentionally misleading or staggeringly ignorant. AZ senators should know this too.