Maricopa County Recorder Had Staff Compile News On His Personal Defamation Lawsuit Against Kari Lake

Maricopa County Recorder Had Staff Compile News On His Personal Defamation Lawsuit Against Kari Lake

By Staff Reporter |

Public records revealed that Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer tasked staff with compiling articles and online content pertaining to his personal defamation lawsuit against Kari Lake — Senate candidate and 2022 gubernatorial candidate — as well as topics of personal political interest.

Richer also tasked staff with printing his favorite articles and pieces of online content from these lengthy daily news compilations and organizing them in a binder. Richer admitted in one email obtained by public records that this daily content gathering assignment took a “significant amount of time” for staff to put together.

Richer filed his defamation lawsuit last June against Lake over her claims of him improperly administering the 2022 election. Lake has unsuccessfully petitioned to dismiss his lawsuit; her petition was denied earlier this month.

The county recorder’s staff weren’t just tasked with tracking online chatter about Richer’s personal lawsuit. 

Records reveal that Richer has regularly tasked staff with tracking a wide variety of media reports and other online content on topics of personal political interest to Richer, unrelated to the statutory duties of the recorder’s office. This included coverage of other elected officials in Arizona and across the nation; the political landscape for the 2024 election; the indictments against former President Donald Trump; developments in social media; and updates on various public policies. 

Some news and online content gathered by staff touched on legal challenges to free speech.

That prompted AZ Free News to ask Richer about the greater nature and purpose of his content gathering assignments, including whether the gathered content inspired, informed, or guided his defamation lawsuit, and why staff hours were dedicated to finding content unrelated to the duties of the recorder’s office.

In response to our questions, a spokesperson defended Richer’s content gathering tasks as consistent with the administration of his predecessors. 

“Providing leadership with news clips relating to the office and regarding current events is a standard practice. It has been a practice of this office for the past three years and it was originally implemented by staff from former Senator McSally’s office, where it was a standard practice, who joined the Recorder’s Office in January 2021,” stated the spokesperson. “Recorder Richer values news and being aware of developments within our state and relating to our statutory responsibilities.”

Richer’s office didn’t respond to a repeat of questions left unanswered by their statement: what bearing the content gathered had on Richer’s personal defamation lawsuit leading up to it, and why the recorder tasked staff with compiling news coverage of his personal defamation lawsuit as well as topics of personal political interest unrelated to the recorder’s office. 

Richer roping the recorder’s office in on his personal defamation case appears to be related to his interest in securing greater restrictions on free speech. Other emails obtained from public records reflected how Richer began to signal concern over the impacts of free speech on his office in the aftermath of the 2020 election. 

In September 2021, the recorder drafted a proposal for greater restrictions on free speech in an unpublished op-ed pitched to The National Review.

Richer argued that free speech restrictions should be expanded, even if the wrongs of 2020 election claims were righted through avenues such as the Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation cases against Fox News and top Trump personalities Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Patrick Byrne, and Mike Lindell. 

Dominion Voting Systems effectively prevailed in their lawsuit against Fox News in 2023, amassing the largest settlement in media defamation history: over $787.5 million. 

“[E]ven if Dominion wins all of these lawsuits (and certainly if it does not), it still might be time to revisit our First Amendment jurisprudence,” wrote Richer. “If we don’t, I fear that the morass of disinformation will blanket over legitimate information in all areas of public importance.”

National Review submissions editor Jack Butler rejected the piece over Richer’s proposed restrictions on free speech. Butler encouraged Richer to resubmit the op-ed, sans the call for free speech restrictions; the piece was never published. 

“I think we’d still be open to a version of this argument, but that sheds the bits about reconsidering First Amendment jurisprudence,” said Butler. “Even just revising it to express hope that the Dominion lawsuits have their desired effect.”

Although National Review denied the op-ed containing the free speech reform proposal, Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) accepted a version Richer drafted for a speech several weeks prior containing a more direct critique of the First Amendment. 

In that speech, Richer said that lies and disinformation were the greatest threat to elections and the government; because of that, the recorder characterized the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment, as a “thorn in the side” of his office.

Richer lamented that the First Amendment protects lies, to a certain degree. The Supreme Court ruled this to be the case in their 2012 decision for United States v. Alvarez which pertained to lying about military service, and their 1964 ruling in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan which pertained to deliberate lying about the government. 

Certain speech presenting specific harms aren’t protected, such as defamation, fraud, false advertising, perjury, plagiarism, and threats deemed grave and imminent.

However, in that earlier version presented to MCCCD, Richer admitted hesitation to his own desire for First Amendment reforms.

“Yes, I think it’s possible that our First Amendment jurisprudence needs to change,” said Richer. “But I’m hesitant to disrupt something that has served this country so well for so long.”

AZ Free News is your #1 source for Arizona news and politics. You can send us news tips using this link.

Kari Lake Withdraws Appeal To Access Ballot Envelopes, Loses Petition To Dismiss Defamation Lawsuit

Kari Lake Withdraws Appeal To Access Ballot Envelopes, Loses Petition To Dismiss Defamation Lawsuit

By Corinne Murdock |

Senate candidate Kari Lake sustained several blows in court this week: a withdrawal of her appeal for access to Maricopa County’s 2022 election ballot envelopes, and the denial of her petition to dismiss Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s defamation lawsuit. 

The former gubernatorial candidate filed the withdrawal on Monday in her case seeking access to Maricopa County’s ballot envelopes from the contested 2022 election (CV2023-051480). A similar, separate lawsuit from the Glendale-based nonprofit We the People AZ Alliance (WTPAA) remains active.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer expressed relief to AZ Free News that the county attorney’s office had one less election dispute case to manage, though he noted that other cases involving Lake remain. The attorney for both Lake and WTPAA’s cases, Bryan Blehm, didn’t respond to our request for comment by press time. 

“She lost. We won. The same could be said of every case Kari has brought against my office or the Board of Supervisors (and there have been many). We follow the law.  Period,” said Richer. “For anyone curious about allegations of election or public records misconduct, and who’s following the law and who’s not, these cases offer a very clear answer.”

Three other cases have been filed by Lake involving Richer, none of which have yielded any wins: CV2022-014827, which sought remedy for those disenfranchised by the mass ballot equipment malfunctions on Election Day, was voluntarily dismissed in November 2022; CV2022-015519, which sought access to Election Day voting records, was dismissed without prejudice; and CV2022-095403, which challenged the validity of the 2022 election declaring Lake’s opponent, Gov. Katie Hobbs, the winner. In the latter, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected most of Lake’s claims last March, with the trial court rejecting the remaining claim in May. Lake promptly filed an appeal. 

Monday’s action came after several months of waiting on the candidate’s next move, after she promised an appeal. Last December, the Maricopa County Superior Court denied Lake’s petition to obtain the 2022 Maricopa County ballot envelopes. Judge John Hannah said that the release of the ballot affidavit envelopes would result in harm to individual voters, such as voter fraud, harassment, and identity theft, due to the inclusion of voter signatures alongside voters’ names, addresses, and telephone numbers. 

“Disclosure of the ballot affidavit envelopes therefore would create a risk of widespread fraud where none exists at present,” said Hannah.

Another legal battle persists between Richer and Lake. On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court allowed Richer’s defamation lawsuit against Lake to proceed to trial. 

Richer sued Lake last June, alleging that the Senate candidate had “falsely and with actual malice” accused him of intentionally printing the wrong size of ballots and inserting 300,000 illegal or invalid early-vote ballots during the 2022 general election. 

In her unsuccessful motion to dismiss, Lake argued that her claims constituted legitimate concerns about the 2022 election.

In response to the development in his defamation case, Richer posted on X that Lake had made specific, easily falsifiable claims that she knew were false.

“Words matter,” said Richer. “[T]hose false claims — broadcast to millions of people, often while seeking donations — had, no surprise, a very material impact on me and mine.”

Richer later declared that his team of over 15 attorneys had built a strong case with favorable precedence.

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

Recorder Richer Shut Down Public Inspection Of My Voter Record During The Presidential Preference Election

Recorder Richer Shut Down Public Inspection Of My Voter Record During The Presidential Preference Election

By Merissa Hamilton |

Recorder Stephen Richer is a far cry from Candidate Richer we met just 4 years ago.

When Stephen Richer ran for Recorder in 2020, he promised us “fair and competent elections,” “no rogue policymaking,” and “NO FIGHTS WITH VOTERS.” His commitment was that if we the people elected him to arguably one of the most critical offices in Arizona related to overseeing the 2024 Presidential Election, he would “further transparency and accountability” in the Recorder’s Office.

His legal fights to refuse to comply with public records requests under the guise of “it’s for your safety” are well known. However, when I received a notice in the mail that he was going to inactivate my voter registration, I thought surely, we could expect transparency for our own voter records! After all, he promised to follow the law, and ARS 16-168F specifically affords voters the right to public inspection of their own voter registration records. It even requires the Recorder to conduct this service at the “office of the county recorder.”

Per testimony on January 31, 2024 by the lobbyist representing the Counties, the voter registration record is quite comprehensive. It includes essentially a transcript of every action the Recorder’s Office took on your record and every action you took as a voter. It includes your signature records, voting history, address history, registration history, and even your affidavit envelopes if you vote early.

Knowing this, I thought this inactive voter misunderstanding could simply be cleared up by asking for a public inspection of my voter registration record at his office. My immediate concern was that there was some tampering with my record since USPS had not disrupted my mail, and to my recollection, I’ve received all the same mail as the other voters in my household.

On February 20th, I went to Recorder Richer’s office in the afternoon to ask for an in-person inspection of my full voter record, only to be told I had to schedule an appointment for a public inspection.

Ok. No worries. I am a reasonable person.

The next day, after I emailed for an appointment, I was told they closed down the public from inspecting their voter record until April 3rd – well after the Presidential Preference Election concludes. This means that the previous day I made the request was the last opportunity they offered for electors to view their records and ensure everything was in order.

My friend Sean Campbell said it best in reminding us what Mr. Richer promised, “In June of 2020, Stephen Richer, while running for Maricopa County Recorder, gave a brief speech saying ‘we haven’t had transparency, we haven’t had competency, we haven’t even had lawfulness, we haven’t had fairness in the Recorder’s office and in our election system.'”

Can the 2020 Stephen Richer please remind this 2024 Recorder Richer guy what transparency, competency, lawfulness, and fairness mean?

Unless we can inspect our full record, we don’t know what signatures are actually on record or what the signature on our affidavit envelope that was counted looks like. With most voters voting on the early vote system, transparency in our elections with in-person public inspections of our records is the only security measure under the voter’s control that we have on our ballots.

What’s worse is that the voter roll cleanup Stephen Richer brags about is not even with actual returns of physical mail from USPS. He is removing voters without verifying they even received a physical piece of mail that was returned. Instead, USPS just sends him a digital file with voters to inactivate. He doesn’t even add the file to our voter record according to the Director of Constituent Services for his office. How many other highly active voters like me were erroneously inactivated through this lazy, digitized process?

There’s no excuse for Recorder Richer not to follow the law and allow voters in-person inspections of our full voter records in his office. There’s already a kiosk inside the voter service area. He also has conference rooms that can accommodate voters.

But these are not the only recent incidents where Recorder Richer has deliberately mismanaged his duties, disqualifying him from continuing in this role.

Recorder Richer ditched Phil the Ballot and used taxpayer dollars to promote himself with highly edited photos and videos.

In the 2023 bond elections, Recorder Richer shut down voting locations hours early after going on news broadcasts that day, telling voters all locations would be open until 7 pm. This likely disenfranchised thousands of voters.

Maricopa County voters deserve better. We deserve dignity back in our elections instead of constantly being the national laughingstock. And at the very minimum, we deserve transparency without suppressing voters from seeing our full voter records. These are low bars that Recorder Richer refuses to fulfill. Now, he either needs to step up and fulfill them or move on to a new role.

Merissa Hamilton is the founder and Chairwoman of Strong Communities Action, also known as, a non-profit organization focused on making civic action and education easy as pie. She’s an elected Member at Large of Congressional District 1 for the Arizona Republican Party. She’s the Executive Director of Save Arizona. She previously ran for Mayor in 2020.

Maricopa County Republicans Call For Voter Registration Cards To Be Termed Accurately

Maricopa County Republicans Call For Voter Registration Cards To Be Termed Accurately

By Elizabeth Troutman |

The Maricopa County Republican Committee is calling on Arizona state congress members to run a bill that mandates calling voter registration cards by a more accurate name. 

“Will one or both of your members please run a bill that mandates all 15 Arizona County Recorders replace erroneous so-called “Voter *ID* Card” terminology, misrepresenting what are, in fact, Voter *Registration* Cards?,” a Sunday Tweet reads. 

The Tweet was in response to approximately 260,000 Maricopa County voters recently receiving new voter registration cards, which Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer called ID Cards.

“The new ID cards will look exactly like the regular cards but will include a note that indicates the boundary changes,” Richer said

Voter IDs are a “long & strongly established principle” in Arizona, according to the Maricopa County Republican Party. 

 “A Voter Registration Card never serves as an authorized form of Voter ID, in & of itself,” the party tweeted. “It may potentially serve as a partial supplement, in combination w/ other docs—but never equivalent—to Voter ID.”

According to Maricopa County Republicans, the Arizona Elections Procedures Manual refers to voter registration cards as such, rather than as a “Voter ID” or “Voter ID Card.” The terms should not be used interchangeably, according to the Republicans. 

Arizona voters are required to show a valid government-issued ID, as well as a voter registration card. 

“However long ago ‘Voter ID Card’ got started (‘It’s been around so long & it’s only a word!’) & however strong Maricopa County Government’s institutional leverage may be, We The People hold the ultimate leverage: upholding a most basic & essential principle of Election Integrity,” the Maricopa County Republicans said. 

Elizabeth Troutman is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send her news tips using this link.

Kari Lake Withdraws Appeal To Access Ballot Envelopes, Loses Petition To Dismiss Defamation Lawsuit

Kari Lake Argues For Dismissal Of Maricopa County Recorder’s Defamation Lawsuit

By Corinne Murdock |

On Tuesday the legal team for former GOP gubernatorial candidate, now Senate candidate, Kari Lake argued for the dismissal of Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s defamation lawsuit against her.

Richer filed his defamation lawsuit against Lake in June over her claims of his administration of the 2022 election. Lake filed a motion to dismiss in August. 

In his amended complaint, Richer alleged that Lake had “falsely and with actual malice” accused him of intentionally printing improperly-sized ballots and inserting 300,000 illegal or invalid early-vote ballots during his administration of the 2022 general election. Richer said that the accusations have caused him and his family real harm, including threats of violence and death. 

Lake’s motion to dismiss argued that she voiced legitimate concerns about the 2022 election, and that Richer’s lawsuit amounted to retaliation following two failed attempts at obtaining sanctions against her. In those denied requests for sanctions, Maricopa County Superior Court found that Lake’s claims weren’t groundless or brought forth in bad faith.

“The types of statements that Recorder Richer complains of are the types of statements directly related to his job performance that political foes and constituents critical of elected officials ordinarily make,” read the motion. 

During Tuesday’s arguments in the Maricopa County Superior Court, one of Richer’s attorneys, Cameron Kistler, said that Lake’s speech wasn’t hyperbole, but a statement of facts. 

“She’s making statements where she’s asserting these are actual facts that happened in the world, these are actual accusations of falsifiable criminal conduct,” said Kistler. 

Jen Wright, the former assistant attorney general serving on Lake’s team, countered that Lake did believe her speech to be true based on the facts at hand: the county’s admission that there were ballots that lacked chain of custody, and that printer problems did occur for some, still unknown reason. 

“I don’t think it’s a question of fact as to whether or not the printers malfunctioned, it’s a question of opinion as to how they characterized them,” said Wright. 

Richer accused Lake of issuing dozens of defamatory statements.

Jessica Banks-McDowell, an Arizona State University (ASU) law student on Lake’s team, said that court precedent clarifies that Richer’s intent via his filings is to stifle Lake’s speech. ASU’s First Amendment Clinic signed onto Lake’s defense. 

“There is very clear intent of his motivation to deter, retaliate against, or prevent Kari Lake’s lawful speech,” said Banks-McDowell.

Richer seeks an injunction that would force Lake to delete the allegedly defamatory statements.

Banks-McDowell further argued that Richer hadn’t met the burden of proving defamation occurred as required by A.R.S. 12-751, Arizona’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law. 

Kistler said that the anti-SLAPP law didn’t apply here because Lake’s team didn’t provide evidence to prove Lake’s disputed statements as true. 

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