On Tuesday, Maricopa County sent a cease-and-desist letter to board of supervisors candidate Gail Golec for advising voters to steal election pens. The county gives voters a specific type of felt-tipped pen to fill out their in-person ballots.
Maricopa County Deputy Attorney Joseph La Rue requested that Golec issue a public retraction urging voters not to steal the pens.
“As you well know, theft of any sort is unlawful; moreover encouraging theft of the fast-drying ink pens specifically recommended for election day voting is a deliberate attempt to interfere with election administration and will have the harmful effect of delaying the vote tabulation of election day ballots, as the wet ink harms the vote center tabulation machines,” wrote La Rue.
La Rue’s letter came hours after Golec persuaded voters to steal pens via Telegram, an encrypted messaging service increasingly relied on by right-wing individuals as an alternative social media platform.
“I just had someone give me an idea. When voting take the pentel pen with you and leave a blue pen behind. Eventually they will run out,” wrote Golec.
Later on Twitter, Golec alluded to her advice to steal pens with the hashtag, “#LeaveNoPentelBehind.”
Golec dismissed the county’s warning as a distraction from election integrity. She doubled down with a hashtag associated with her call to action, #UseBlueInk. As of press time, the Telegram post wasn’t removed.
Several hours before Golec shared Maricopa County’s cease-and-desist letter, AZ Free News inquired with the county whether voters were stealing poll pens and/or replacing them with their preferred pens. The county didn’t respond by press time.
The county’s elections department announced Tuesday morning that they resolved reports of stolen pens, as well as other minor technology issues.
Golec’s advice was based on her claims that the tabulation machines wouldn’t be able to read ballots marked with the county’s felt-tipped pens. Golec also claimed that the felt-tipped pens were part of a bigger conspiracy to rig elections.
The candidate advised voters repeatedly to use a blue ink pen of their choice, not the felt-tipped pens provided by the county.
Golec made headlines last month for her claim that former President Donald Trump endorsed her campaign. The Arizona Daily Independent reported that sources close to Trump denied that the former president ever issued a formal endorsement for Golec.
The county supervisor candidate substantiated her claim of Trump’s endorsement with a brief exchange the two shared: Golec interrupted part of Trump’s speech addressing Maricopa County at Mar-A-Lago, telling the former president that she needed him to get her into office. Trump replied that he endorsed her, but didn’t mention her by name and never issued a formal endorsement later.
During the Arizona Senate’s audit of the 2020 election, Golec communicated frequently with Ken Bennett, the audit liaison, to share concerns that Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists were attempting to undermine the audit. Those exchanges came to light through the release of communications data related to the audit.
As proof of her claims that BLM was near the site of the audit, Golec sent Bennett a picture of a bus with “Black Lives Matter” wrapping. The bus belonged to the Toronto Raptors, an NBA team, not BLM.
Golic submitted numerous questions and requests about election security to Bennett as well as Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott).
Golic characterized Fann in a recent campaign ad as a politician willing to undermine election integrity to serve her own interests. She cited the timeline of the State Senate’s settlement concerning its subpoena of Maricopa County in September, followed by the state’s contracting of Fann’s family company and 10 other developers in October to widen the I-17. Golic claimed that the settlement meant the county didn’t have to supply its routers.
However, the county did agree to hand over its routers. Fann summarized that the settlement gave the senate everything they wanted and had the county drop its $2.8 million lawsuit.
Fann responded that Golic lied to the public and owed her and the voters an apology.
Maricopa County announced earlier this year that it would cease using Sharpies at the polls, instead relying on Pentel felt-tipped pens. Election officials offered multiple reasons for the change, with some noting public distrust of Sharpies following the 2020 election and the ensuing “Sharpiegate” controversy.
The county’s chief reason for the switch concerned faster ink drying times for improved ballot processing by the tabulation machines.
A candidate for Maricopa County Attorney has retracted a comment she made last week which provided incorrect information that could lead to voter confusion during the current 2022 primary election.
Gina Godbehere is running on the Aug. 2 Republican primary election ballot against interim County Attorney Rachel Mitchell. And with Maricopa County’s election process under intense scrutiny since late 2020, voters cannot be blamed for presuming candidates have taken the time to get a good grasp on election procedures.
But Godbehere, an attorney and former prosecutor, raised eyebrows July 7 with a campaign newsletter which included a “note of caution” to voters on the county’s Active Early Voting List (AEVL).
The AEVL allows voters to receive their primary ballot by mail. Once completed, the ballot can be returned by postage-prepaid mail, placement in an official drop box, hand delivery to the county recorder’s office, or dropping it off at one Maricopa County’s 200+ voting centers.
The completed ballots must be received by the county recorder by 7 p.m. on Aug. 2, regardless of which return option is chosen.
Godbehere’s newsletter, however, incorrectly described what happens if a voter waits until Aug. 2 “to walk your early ballot into a voting center” and drop it off in a ballot box. In that situation, Godbehere claimed AEVL voters will have their ballot deemed “provisional” which she said meant the ballot would be “counted last” 7 to 10 days after the election.
Various election officials told AZ Free News there is nothing in Arizona law or the state’s Elections Procedures Manual referring to any dropped off ballot as provisional. In fact, the term provisional only applies to ballots cast in-person under specific circumstances.
On Monday, Godbehere’s campaign issued a statement admitting the mistake.
“These ballots are not provisional, but regular ballots,” the statement reads. “We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”
Godbehere and Mitchell are vying to be the Republican who takes on Democrat Julie Gunnigle in a Nov. 8 special election to serve out the remainder of former County Attorney Allister Adel’s term through the end of 2024.
Adel resigned under pressure in March and died the next month.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Recorder accused Attorney General Mark Brnovich of executing a dishonest investigation into the 2020 election. In a public letter, the election officials claimed that Brnovich’s interim report on the 2020 election released last month was nothing but misinformation intended to “score cheap political points.” Brnovich is a candidate in the upcoming U.S. Senate race.
“Rather than being truthful about what your office has learned about the election, you have omitted pertinent information, misrepresented facts, and cited distorted data to seed doubt about the conduct of elections in Maricopa County,” read the letter.
The election officials then refuted claims made by Brnovich: that up to 200,000 ballots lacked proper chain of custody, that Maricopa County didn’t cooperate fully with Brnovich’s investigation, that the county relied on artificial intelligence to execute signature verification, and that the number of rejected ballots were too low. They also challenged Brnovich on his decision to publish an unprecedented interim report, characterizing it as improper commentary on an ongoing investigation.
On Wednesday morning, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors held a press conference during their special and formal meeting. Chairman Bill Gates said that Brnovich’s interim report was backing fraud and necessitated a response from the board.
“We’re all Republicans who actually have the statutory responsibility to run these elections, and we’re saying these allegations are false, that there’s no systemic fraud,” said Gates. “Our democracy is on the line here.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer reiterated one of the promises made in their letter: that the county would submit public records requests of all of the public records requests sent to the attorney general’s office for the last two years.
Richer explained that the goal of the massive undertaking was to see how many of those requests Brnovich’s office fulfilled. He accused Brnovich of living in a glass house.
Brnovich called the county’s response “disappointing.” He accused Maricopa County officials of casting stones instead of working alongside his office to resolve election integrity concerns.
“The reality is we issued an interim report that identified several issues that need to be addressed,” said Brnovich.
Brnovich held that up to 200,000 ballots lacked proper chain of custody. Brnovich also challenged the supervisors’ office to offer a clear, consistent answer on signature verification processes, pointing out the range of times they estimated it took to verify a signature.
Richer called Brnovich’s statement “nonsense.” He said that Brnovich wasn’t being impartial about the 2020 election, referencing the attorney general’s interview with right-wing talk show host Steve Bannon.
An outpouring of condolences continues in response to the announcement that former Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel died Saturday due to unspecified health complications.
“How very tragic. The hearts and prayers of Arizonans are with Allister’s family, colleagues and close friends,” Gov. Doug Ducey stated after Adel’s death was revealed. “May she Rest In Peace.”
Similar sentiments were shared on Twitter by Arizona LD28 Republicans.
“We grieve the loss of our fellow member Allister Adel and pray for her family and friends who stood beside her,” the group tweeted. “She will be remembered as a caring mother, first female elected Maricopa County attorney, a loyal friend and party member. She wished only to do good in her life.”
Adel is survived by her husband, David DeNitto, and two children. DeNitto serves a senior vice president and investment officer for Wells Fargo Advisors.
“My family and I are utterly heartbroken by this unimaginable loss. We are so very proud to call Allister wife and mom,” DeNitto said Saturday in a released statement. “We are asking that the press and the public honor her, her legacy, and our family by respecting our privacy at this difficult time.”
Adel, a Republican, was appointed as Maricopa County Attorney in 2019 when then-County Attorney Bill Montgomery joined the Arizona Supreme Court. She was the first woman to hold the office, to which she was elected by voters in November 2020.
Unfortunately, Adel spent election night in the hospital where she underwent emergency surgery for a head injury suffered when she fell at home. She remained in the hospital for several weeks and even after being discharged Adel spent much of early 2021 recuperating at home.
In August 2021, Adel admitted herself to a rehabilitation facility for several weeks for treatment of anxiety, an eating disorder, and alcohol abuse. However, her frequent absences from the office were not disclosed to the board supervisors or other elected county officials until September when Sheriff Paul Penzone became concerned with who was signing off on various legal advice to his office.
Those absences also raised further questions about who was managing the 1,000 employees of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and its $115 million budget. It also led to revelations that Adel had little direct involvement in strategizing many major Maricopa County legal decisions, including multiple lawsuits related to the Senate’s 2020 election audit.
Further scrutiny into how decisions were made by the criminal division in several high-profile controversies led in February to five of Adel’s chiefs asking her to resign. Their letter was shared with the State Bar of Arizona, the board of supervisors, and the media.
That resignation finally came as of March 25 when it was apparent Adel’s personal issues were distracting from the daily work of her office. It was later confirmed she was receiving in-patient treatment at the time her resignation was announced.
“I am proud of the many accomplishments of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office during my tenure, including policies that seek justice in a fair and equitable manner, hold violent offenders accountable, protect the rights of crime victims, and keep families safe,” Adel stated in a news release at the time.
Anni Foster, general counsel for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, tweeted that she was heartbroken for Adel’s family.
“I had prayed for a miracle for her,” Foster said. “Hoping she can now rest in peace and that everyone can let her family grieve in private.”
For Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, Adel’s sudden death serves as a reminder to remember others who may be going through difficult times.
“We never know the struggle the person next to us is going through,” he tweeted. “Today we should pray for her soul and for her family. We should also be praying for those having difficulties in their lives.”
Adel was a 2004 graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. She held a number of legal positions, including as a deputy county attorney for Maricopa County before serving as the chief administrative law judge for the Arizona Department of Transportation and then becoming general counsel for the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
Julie Gunnigle, the sole Democratic candidate in the Maricopa County Attorney’s race, pledged to disregard the upcoming new law banning abortions after 15 weeks gestation. Gunnigle said that enforcing that law would be a “waste of resources” and “not in the interest of justice.” She called the ban “unconstitutional policing,” claiming that the law would lead to investigations into miscarriages and stillbirths. The legislation, presented to Governor Doug Ducey on Monday, bans the prosecution of women who receive an abortion under 15 weeks.
“Your county attorney should always be working in the interests of justice and prioritizing those cases that do justice for our county and our residents. That means not prosecuting people for their health care decisions, including abortion,” said Gunnigle.
Her stances have earned her the support of Arizona’s activist arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider and profiteer.
Gunnigle, legal director for the Poor People’s Campaign, checks all the boxes of the Democratic Party’s progressive criminal justice reform wishlist. Gunnigle pledged to ensure marijuana charges expungement and implement an affirmative action approach to sentencing. She has also expressed opposition to election integrity measures, bans on sex change surgeries for minors, bans on biological males in women’s sports, private prisons, and current incarceration rates.
Gunnigle claimed that former county attorney Allister Adel wasn’t the problem, but a symptom of a greater issue of a broken criminal justice system. Her platform and remarks reflect the same principles as the pioneer for criminal justice reform: Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, the same prosecutor responsible for enabling Darryl Brooks to kill in the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack four months ago.
Like Gunnigle, one of Chisholm’s main focuses was to eliminate racial disparities in sentencing and incarceration. Chisholm, in turn, received validation and assistance from the progressive criminal justice reform organization, the Vera Institute of Justice.