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 toldAZ 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.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) accused Maricopa County’s top election officials of gaslighting Attorney General Mark Brnovich as part of an ongoing massive cover-up of their alleged mistakes in the 2020 election. She asserted that Brnovich was doing his job, even at the risk of facing media attacks that could undermine his senate campaign.
Fann noted that Recorder Stephen Richer had no reason to participate in the alleged cover-up because he didn’t assume his role until January 2021.
“It still goes beyond me that they are still denying the mistakes that happened,” said Fann. “[Richer] joined up with the board of supervisors to do this massive coverup. Mind you, they kept saying everything was fine and perfect. No it wasn’t.”
The senate president appeared on “The Conservative Circus” with host James T. Harris. She brought up past admissions by the county as evidence of a massive cover-up.
Fann gave one example of the county’s admission that one 2020 election poll worker double-counted 50 ballots. She said that although that amount didn’t seem like a lot in the context of a presidential election, it would’ve mattered in the 2016 primary election between Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) and opponent Christine Jones. Their race necessitated a recount; Biggs ultimately won by 27 votes.
As an example of the county contradicting its claims on the nonexistence of widespread fraud, Fann cited Richer’s emails. She read aloud from one, in which Richer wrote of the existence of “plenty of instances of actual, prosecuted and convicted election law violations [from] both administrators and normal citizens,” some of which he asserted were recent.
Additionally, Fann revealed that Richer’s emails identified major issues with chain of custody and signature verification.
“But now? Nope. He’s part of the cover-up by saying, ‘Oh no, everything is fine,’” said Fann. “The Arizona Senate was the only body in the entire nation to step up and actually say, ‘Let’s get to the bottom of these rumors. Let’s get to the bottom of these allegations.’ The Senate has been attacked from day one — before the auditors were selected, before anything happened.”
Fann’s remarks on Thursday were in response to the actions of the Maricopa County election officials this week.
On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Richer presented a unified front against Brnovich’s interim report on the 2020 election. The officials accused Brnovich of lying and using the election controversy to score “cheap political points.”
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.
The Maricopa County Recorder isn’t just dedicated to elections — he’s dedicated to commemorative literature. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer bought multiple copies, or “a box,” of a book satirizing the Arizona Senate’s 2020 election audit, “Goodnight Audit,” a parody of the classic children’s book, “Goodnight Moon.”
“Goodnight Audit” author Trevor Nelson, a parent activist and marketing manager, shared Richer’s post.
Nelson’s tweet from early last May served as inspiration for the cover art of the book. The post played on the name of Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott), pointing out a fan left on in the abandoned room.
The original inspiration for Nelson’s post came from Garrett Archer, ABC15 Data Analyst and former Arizona Secretary of State Senior Elections Analyst, who pointed out that the auditors left a fan running on site after they’d left for the day.
Several weeks later, Nelson launched a Twitter account to help fundraise for the parody book, @goodnightaudit. “Good Night Fan” was to be the book’s original title.
Last week, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Bill Gates appeared in a video to speak out against the Senate’s audit. The pair had teamed up to support Republicans for Voting Rights within the Republican Accountability Project, the latest endeavor of the Democratic, “Never-Trump” group, Defending Democracy Together. They were one of the top-spending “dark money” groups in the 2020 election, spending over $15 million to either oppose previous President Donald Trump or support President Joe Biden. Contrary to how DDT characterizes itself, Open Secrets classifies DDT as “liberal.”
AZ Free News reached out to both Richer and Gates to inquire about this partnership. Gates didn’t respond by press time, but Richer did. Richer told AZ Free News that he decided to team up with Defending Democracy Together because he believed it was an opportunity to speak out against what led to January 6, which he said reminded him of the French Revolution. Richer also informed us that Defending Democracy Together approached him to appear in the video, and that he didn’t receive any compensation for his appearance.
“I took the opportunity to voice my opposition to January 6 and the lies that led to January 6,” stated Richer. “Standing up against something that looked like it was out of the playbook of the French Revolution is something that would hopefully make Edmund Burke – the godfather of modern conservatism – and anyone who supports law and order proud.”
In the video, Gates said that the auditing company, Cyber Ninjas, and the Arizona Senate have “desecrated our democracy” with their audit. He urged other Republican leaders to say that no fraud existed and that President Donald Trump really lost the election, in order to save our democracy. “If you aren’t willing to speak up now, as a Republican, when are you going to?” asked Gates. “You can’t worry about your electoral prospects because we may not have a democracy by the time that you have a reelection.”
Richer concurred with Gates’ pleadings, asking Republicans what their “line in the sand” was if it wasn’t the January 6 riot. He characterized the audit as a partisan effort led by conspiracy theorists.
“I wish there were more Republicans who would speak out about this audit. There has to be a line in the sand. If lying about the election system, lying about the very form of government to which you were elected, if January 6 isn’t your line in the sand, what is?” asked Richer.
Gates shared the video shortly after it was posted by the Republican Accountability Project. “Conspiracy-driven, partisan audits only further ‘The Big Lie’ and chip away at the foundations of our democracy,” tweeted Gates. “To my fellow Republicans, it’s time to tell the truth. If not now, when? Our republic depends on it.” https://twitter.com/billgatesaz/status/1441455035901227009 The Republican Accountability Project calls January 6 an “insurrection.” By law, an insurrection is a violent uprising or rebellion against the government. The project also ranks those that many call “Republicans In Name Only” (RINOs) as “excellent,” such as Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IN-16) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), as well as Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). True Republicans back the traditional party values of low taxation, limited government, deregulation, conservative lifestyles, capitalism, and the free market.
By definition, those in charge of Defending Democracy Together aren’t Republicans.
One of the directors, Amanda Carpenter, is a CNN political commentator and author of “GASLIGHTING AMERICA: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us.” Another director, Olivia Troye, pledged to vote for Biden – she was previously in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a top aide to previous Vice President Mike Pence.
The founding director and current chairman of Defending Democracy Together, Bill Kristol, chairman, came out as a Democrat last year. Although, Kristol’s tax filings indicate that he’s been a Democrat for years.
Sarah Longwell, executive director and co-founder of Defending Democracy Together, as well as spokeswoman for Republicans for the Rule of Law went door knocking for Biden’s campaign last year and presumably voted for him.
The full transcript of the video is reproduced below:
Gates: What the Cyber Ninjas and the Arizona Senate has done is to desecrate our democracy.
Richer: This is a partisan audit that is driven by conspiracy theorists.
Gates: I’m Bill Gates and I’m Vice Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Richer: My name is Stephen Richer, and I’m the Maricopa County Recorder.
Gates: We have to tell people the truth: there’s no evidence of fraud and that Donald Trump lost the election. If you aren’t willing to speak up now, as a Republican, when are you going to? You can’t worry about your electoral prospects because we may not have a democracy by the time that you have a reelection.
Richer: I wish there were more Republicans who would speak out about this audit. There has to be a line in the sand. If lying about the election system, lying about the very form of government to which you were elected, if January 6 isn’t your line in the sand, what is?