Maricopa County Guilty Of Election Interference, Says Former Lawmaker

Maricopa County Guilty Of Election Interference, Says Former Lawmaker

By Corinne Murdock |

Election officials’ plan to move up election deadlines in order to accommodate anticipated recounts and meet the federal deadline amounts to election interference, says a former lawmaker. 

Michelle Ugenti-Rita — also a candidate for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) — claimed that county officials’ push for legislative reform of the election calendar would result in “mass chaos” and lay the necessary groundwork for installing their preferred election reforms. 

The anticipated conflict between state election processes and the election deadlines can be traced back to 2022, when the state legislature passed Ugenti-Rita’s bill increasing the threshold for an automatic recount from a tenth to a half of a percent. Later that same year, Congress moved up the deadline for presidential elector certification through the Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA). 

ECRA requires each governor (or, the preferred executive designated by state law) to certify electors six days prior to when electors meet to cast their votes: this year, that would be Dec. 11 and 17, respectively.

That timeline change leads election officials to believe that potential recounts may not be completed by the federal deadline. 

Over the weekend, Supervisor Bill Gates said in an interview with 12 News that it would be up to Gov. Katie Hobbs to fix the election calendar to avoid conflict with the federal deadline: a request of 19 days less for the primary and 17 days less for the general election. Gates and other county officials said that the calendar conflict needs to be resolved by Friday, though it would have to be Thursday since the state legislature doesn’t meet on Friday.

“We need to have the primary date moved up seven days, so in order to accomplish that, we need to get going immediately on that,” said Gates. “We need these calendar changes so that voters aren’t disenfranchised.” 

However, Ugenti-Rita contended that the calendar change would result in voter disenfranchisement. She also contended that other, non-legislative solutions existed to remedy the timeline conflict, calling Gates’ appeal for a legislative calendar change “election propaganda.”

“There are plenty of non-legislative solutions that can address potential timeline issues, but that’s not good enough for Maricopa County,” said Ugenti-Rita. “Instead of doing their job, they are relying on their leader, Democrat @GovernorHobbs to bail them out.”

Per Ugenti-Rita, non-legislative solutions could have included increasing staffing and shifts, sending sample ballots to party chairs for proofreading, and reducing mail-in ballots by offering military and overseas voters a secure portal of ballot delivery.  

County officials brought up their concerns with the possible timeline conflict in September, after the 2023 legislative session had concluded: a move that some claim was intentional. 

Arizona Daily Independent first reported that Hobbs and county officials were reneging on a deal acceding to the last-minute demand to condense the election timeline in exchange for the state’s first-ever set of signature verification rules. 

The deal, laid out in a 41-page draft bill, would also move the primary to July 30 this year and to the second Tuesday in May by 2026; create a category of verified early ballots exempt from review for voters who show ID when turning in their mailed early ballot in person; expand signature curing hours to the weekend before and after an election for elections that include federal offices; and shrink signature verification and canvassing deadlines. Hobbs spokesman, Christian Slater, said that the bill was “dead on arrival.” 

In a press conference last week, Hobbs indicated that she wasn’t sure of the details of the issue but told reporters that the state was “well past the point” of shifting the primary date. 

“I actually don’t know what the exact issue is; I know we’ve been going back and forth with the Republican leadership and the election officials and I think we’re very close to agreeing on something,” said Hobbs. “I don’t want to compromise Arizonans’ ability to have their votes counted.” 

Slater later clarified to reporters that it was Hobbs’ “personal feelings” that the primary date couldn’t be moved up earlier. Gates indicated to 12 News that Hobbs would ultimately give in to their desire to push up the dates. 

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

Maricopa County’s Lobbyist Helped Kill Election Reform Bills

Maricopa County’s Lobbyist Helped Kill Election Reform Bills

By Corinne Murdock |

On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) advised voters to petition the legislature for the election reform they’d like to see — yet it was a lobbyist who spoke out on behalf of the counties against certain election reform bills desired by constituents this past session.

Supervisor Thomas Galvin said during the meeting that voters dissatisfied with the election processes needed to direct their frustration at the state legislature. He claimed that the legislature was “sitting on their butts” when it came to establishing election law, hence why it takes so long to count the votes. 

“Go to the state legislature — they’ve been sitting on their butts, they haven’t done a single thing. If you want changes in how votes are counted, let them know,” said Galvin. “We’re all very disappointed in what happened, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Similarly, Supervisor Steve Gallardo said that it was incumbent on the legislature to reform election law.

“Many of the suggestions that were made, this board can’t do. We’re an arm of the state. You have to go to the legislature. You have to change the laws,” said Gallardo. “Give us the authority to make some of the changes that are being suggested.”

Bills designed to restructure election processes were lobbied against by someone designated to speak on behalf of the counties. Jen Marson, a lobbyist and executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties (AACo), spoke out against a number of bills introduced to refine the election processes which ultimately failed, including: 

  • SB1056, invalidating ballots not included in chain of custody documentation and making it a class 2 misdemeanor to knowingly put a ballot into the collection, verification, or tabulation process outside of the official chain of custody;
  • SB1360, granting election observers the right to observe, document, and question all stages of the election process;
  • SB1577, requiring county recorders or other lead election officials to separate and record duplicated and adjudicated ballots by their type and defect or damage, compiled in a report submitted to the legislature;
  • SB1609, requiring a court to order an election to be repeated within 90 days if a contested ballot measure or candidate didn’t receive the highest number of votes;
  • SB1359, requiring unique election system passwords for election employees, volunteers, and contractors;
  • SB1570, implementing additional voting equipment chain of custody requirements such as access restricted to authorized election personnel, tamper-proof seals for accessible ports, and chain of custody logging, as well as prohibiting voting equipment from having internet access capabilities;
  • SB1572, requiring county recorders to publish a list of eligible voters on their website 10 days before primary and general elections, as well as all ballot images and sortable cast-vote records, and requiring all ballots to be separated and tabulated by precinct;
  • SB1358, requiring ballots in counties with voting centers to be separated and grouped by precinct for hand count audits;
  • SB1404, repealing the Active Early Voting List (AEVL) and limiting early ballot voting eligibility;
  • SB1357, prohibiting election machines or devices certified by laboratories not accredited at the time of certification;
  • SB1474, declaring primary and general election days as state holidays, prohibiting voting locations from being used as on-site early voting, and establishing voting on election day only;
  • HB2241, requiring anyone dropping off an early ballot to either show ID or sign an acknowledgment that they have permission to do so on behalf of the voter.

Marson also spoke out against bills that passed, such as HB2492, which requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote. That particular law attracted lawsuits from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and voting rights groups.

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