Maricopa County Issues Legal Warning to Candidate Advising Voters to Steal Election Pens

Maricopa County Issues Legal Warning to Candidate Advising Voters to Steal Election Pens

By Corinne Murdock |

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. 

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

Maricopa County Abandons Sharpies to Improve Tabulation Machines’ Ballot Processing

Maricopa County Abandons Sharpies to Improve Tabulation Machines’ Ballot Processing

By Corinne Murdock |

The Maricopa County Elections Department will swap Sharpies for Pentel felt-tipped pens to ensure that the ink dries fast enough for tabulation machines to process in-person votes.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer told AZ Family this week that Sharpies don’t dry as quickly as Pentel pens. 

“If you’re voting on Election Day, we need that pen to dry quickly because you’re going to feed it directly into the tabulation machine that is there at the voting location,” Richer said.

The county’s switch comes months ahead of the two-year anniversary of “SharpieGate,” a viral belief that grew out of local voter complaints in the 2020 election that Sharpies used at voting locations to fill out ballots caused tabulation machines to struggle processing their ballots. 

In May, Richer shared with KTAR News that SharpieGate-related concerns among voters were another reason they ceased using Sharpies.

“It’s small but emblematic of what we’re trying to do here,” said Richer.

Yet in June, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Clint Hickman said in a since-deleted interview with AZ Family that Sharpies were the manufacturer-recommended tool because of their quick drying time. 

“Sharpies are recommended by the manufacturer because they provide the fastest-drying ink. The offset columns on ballots ensure that any bleed-through will not impact your vote,” said Hickman. 

In the weeks following 2020 voters’ concerns that Sharpie ink invalidated ballots, Maricopa County asserted that Sharpies didn’t compromise ballot integrity and were “the best option” for their tabulation equipment. They also claimed that Sharpies were the “fastest drying ink” that “doesn’t smudge.” 

The county added that the tabulation machine manufacturers recommended the use of Sharpies over other writing instruments. 

Richer pleaded with voters to use the felt-tipped pens, saying that other pens — like ballpoint — might cause residue buildup in the tabulating machines. 

The changes prompted some within GOP leadership to openly balk county protocols. Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward instructed her voters to use their own pens when voting.

State Representative and secretary of state candidate Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) announced that she would be using her own pen to vote in person. 

Bolick later shared that poll workers were giving her reports of the pens bleeding through the ballots. The county has assured voters repeatedly over the past two years that bleed-through doesn’t affect the machines’ ability to read ballots. 

In response, Richer said that naysayers of the new pens were attempting to disrupt the primary. He advised voters to comply with their election workers by using whatever pen they’re given. 

“It’s a primary. What the heck do you think we get out of giving people a special pen other than a smooth functioning election?” asked Richer. “Do you think we’re just asking you to use the Pentel pen to be funny? Good lord people.”

Primary Election Day is next Tuesday, August 2. Maricopa County drop box and voting locations are available online, and ballot tracking is available here.

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

Maricopa County Issues Legal Warning to Candidate Advising Voters to Steal Election Pens

Maricopa County Opens First 10 Vote Centers of Over 200 This Week

By Corinne Murdock |

On Wednesday, Maricopa County will open the first 10 of 211 vote centers for the upcoming primary election; in all, double the number operating during the 2020 election. Five of those locations will only serve as vote centers on certain days — otherwise, they’ll only house drop boxes. 

Vote centers allow voters to cast ballots at any location rather than an assigned precinct, leading them to be referred to as “vote anywhere” locations. 

The majority of vote centers were concentrated at places of worship: churches and a few mosques accounted for about 44 percent of all vote centers. About 16 percent were located at K-12 schools or district offices. About 15 percent were located at recreational or community centers. 

Another 15 percent were scattered almost evenly across 17 different types of buildings. Of note, there was a vote center at a mortuary, a union, a country club, an airport, and a commercial real estate agency.

As reported by AZ Free News, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer stated about one month ago that there would be 212 vote centers. 

The county will open 44 more vote centers on July 22, then 65 more on August 1. On election day, August 2, 92 vote centers will open.

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

Valley Metro Board Might Spend Taxpayer Money In Hopes Of Getting More Taxpayer Money

Valley Metro Board Might Spend Taxpayer Money In Hopes Of Getting More Taxpayer Money

By Terri Jo Neff |

Should Arizona’s largest public transportation entity be allowed to use taxpayer funds to pay lobbyists to obtain even more taxpayer funds? And if so, can Maricopa County taxpayers be assured their money isn’t used to influence a possible vote to extend a transportation tax set to expire in 2025?

On Thursday, the joint board of Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) and Valley Metro Rail will meet in Phoenix to vote on several matters, including two agenda items involving “legislative consulting services” which includes lobbying of federal and state lawmakers.

The meeting starts at 11:15 a.m. at the Valley Metro boardroom at 101 North 1st Avenue on the 10th Floor.

However, there will be no discussion of either item, as they are listed under the meeting’s Consent Agenda instead of the Regular Agenda. That is of concern due to the fact one of the agenda descriptions refers to Prop 400, a half-cent tax many state lawmakers want voters to extend for yet another 20 years

The prospect of Valley Metro using taxpayer dollars to lobby for more money from taxpayers -whether via Congress, the Legislature, or with Prop 400 voters- has raised the question of why the joint board meeting has the two lobbying items on the Consent Agenda where there can be no discussion and where individual board members do not have to publicly state their position.

According to the June 16 agenda, Item 4G is listed as “Authorization to Issue a Request for Proposals for Federal Legislative Consulting Services” for a two-year period with three one-year options. The estimated cost is listed as between $180,000 and $240,000 per year. 

Valley Metro is currently contracted with Cardinal Infrastructure for federal lobbying activities through Dec. 31. Staff recommends continuing with some sort of contract to assist Valley Metro in achieving “specific federal legislative, lobbying and funding objectives” with Congress, the Executive Branch, and various federal agencies.

This is especially timely, according to the agenda item, in light of “opportunities in the federal passage of the infrastructure bill.” Those opportunities include federal taxpayer funds which Valley Metro staff wants to ensure the region “is not missing out on.”

Meanwhile, Item 4H on the agenda seeks authorization for Valley Metro’s CEO to issue an RFP for state consultant services in dealing with the Arizona State Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and other state agencies. The cost would likely run $60,000 to $90,000 per year.

The current contract issued in 2018 is a joint venture between Highground Public Affairs Consultants and The Kruse Group, described in the agenda as “a well-known Republican and Democrat lobbyist to access bipartisan relationships.”

Among the services the contract would cover is Governmental Relations -monitoring and lobbying public transit issues- at the state level along with Strategic Planning.

“Due to the ongoing dialogue with respect to the possible extension of Proposition 400, staff supports this request,” the agenda states.  

The Prop 400 extension is a longshot to get on the ballot this year given that the tax does not expire until 2025. However, many voters are wary of the prospect that public entities such as Valley Metro and the Maricopa Association of Governments will use taxpayer funds behind the scenes to sway voters to approve the extension when it does get on the ballot.  

Whether any of Valley Metro’s board members will acknowledge those concerns and remove the two items from the Consent Agenda to the Regular Agenda remains to be seen.

Valley Metro RPTA’s board members are:

Veronica Malone, Avondale Vice Mayor;

Clay Goodman, City of Buckeye;

Kevin Hartke, Chandler Mayor;

Monica Dorcey , Vice Mayor of El Mirage;

Mike Scharnow, Fountain Hills Town Council,

Brigette Peterson, Gilbert Mayor;

Lauren Tolmachoff, City of Glendale;

Bill Stipp, Goodyear City Council;

Francisco Heredia (Chair), Mesa City Council;

Jon Edwards, Peoria Councilman;

Laura Pastor (Vice Chair), Vice Mayor for City of Phoenix;

Leah Martineau, Town of Queen Creek;

Betty Janik, Scottsdale Councilwoman;

Chris Judd, City of Surprise;

Robin Arredondo-Savage, Tempe Councilmember;

Adolfo Gamez, City of Tolleson;

Rui Pereira, Wickenburg Mayor; and

Michael LeVault, Youngstown Mayor.

Four of Valley Metro RPTA’s board members also serve as the board of Valley Metro Rail: Arrendondo-Savage (Tempe), Hartke (Chandler), Heredia (Mesa), and Pastor (Phoenix).

Maricopa County Tells Residents ‘Educate Yourself’ on LGBTQ+ Ideology

Maricopa County Tells Residents ‘Educate Yourself’ on LGBTQ+ Ideology

By Corinne Murdock |

On Sunday, Maricopa County used its official social media accounts to tell residents to educate themselves about the LGBTQ+ history. The post comes midway through what some of the country recognizes to be Pride Month, acknowledgment and celebration of LGBTQ+ lifestyles.

The county directed residents to utilize resources from the Maricopa County Library District (MCLD). The district organized adult, teen, juvenile, and children reading lists as well as film and TV suggestions for Pride Month. 

For those under 10 years old, the picture books were “Strong” by Eric Rosswood, about the world’s only openly-gay powerlifter; “The Rainbow Parade” by Emily Neilson, about a lesbian couple who help their little girl work past her nerves to attend her first Pride parade; “Twas the Night Before Pride” by Joanna McClintick, about families preparing for a Pride parade; “My Moms Love Me” by Anna Membrino, and “Plenty of Hugs” by Fran Manushkin, about children raised by lesbian couples; “What Are Your Words” by Katherine Locke, about gender identity pronouns; “Two Grooms on a Cake” by Rob Sanders, about the first wedding between two gay men before it was legalized; “Sam is My Sister” by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, about a family encouraging their gender-confused little boy to become a transgender girl; “Daddy & Dada” by Ryan Brockington, about a little girl raised by two gay men; “It Feels Good to Be Yourself” by Theresa Thorn, about gender identity and transgenderism; “Kind Like Marsha” by Sarah Prager, about historic LGBTQ+ individuals; and “Cinderelliot” by Mark Ceilley, a retelling of Cinderella but with two gay men. 

Most reactions to the post were negative. Residents asked why the county was advocating for certain ideologies over others.

“I don’t think government-run institutions should be telling citizens what they should ‘accept and affirm,’ much less celebrate,” replied one Twitter user. 

“I wonder, you push ‘Pride Month,’ do you present ‘heterosexual’ lifestyles by offering book readings from the Bible?” replied one Facebook user. “And, in the same book, you can find our creator’s thoughts on LGBTQ+ — since LGBTQ+ isn’t new, it has been around since the earliest times of history (refer to Genesis 19).”

Other residents lamented that the county was focused on social justice agendas instead of issues plaguing the city like the homelessness and violent crime surges.

“This is why Maricopa County must be broken up. Get busy and stop crime. Help with the homeless problem,” replied another Twitter user. 

Pride Month originated from the Stonewall Riots, or Stonewall Uprising, in June 1969. The six days of riots were in response to a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan, New York. At that time, homosexual relations were illegal. A year later, LGBTQ+ activists commemorated the riots with gay pride marches in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. 

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