The top election official for one of the nation’s most scrutinized jurisdictions says things are ready and in place for Arizona’s upcoming primary and general elections.
In fact, in some categories, things are better, according to Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer.
Speaking to the county’s Board of Supervisors at a meeting this week, Richer went over changes, implementation of state law, distribution of personnel and technology resources and other aspects of elections.
The board also voted to approve Richer’s election plan for both the Aug. 2 primary and Nov. 8 general elections. He touted the 69-page 2022 Elections Plan, which can be viewed on the publications tab of recorder.maricopa.gov — and encouraged anyone with an interest in elections to read it over and to keep it handy.
“From the cost of elections to ballot procedures, and everything in between, a lot is in this plan,” Richer told the board. “For anyone who wants to know how elections work, they should check this out.”
The plan says the budget for the combined August and November elections is $23.4 million. That comes out to a cost of less than $5.22 per Maricopa County resident, according to the plan.
Maricopa County Elections Director Scott Jarrett made a presentation as well, walking the board through the chain of custody of early voting ballots.
“Voters should be able to rest assured that if they put a ballot in a drop box, it will be received by the county’s Elections Department,” Jarrett explained. “A clerk monitors collection of ballots from drop boxes, serialized seals go on the ballots, a bipartisan team of couriers transports ballots to the Elections Department, where the ballots are audited and signed affidavit envelopes are examined.”
In forecasting election turnout, Jarrett said, the Secretary of State’s elections manual, along with both recent turnout statistics and some that date as far back as 1946, are used. This year, he said, recent gubernatorial election turnout will be scrutinized.
According to county projections, it’s estimated between 83% and 90% of voters will vote early in August and November, either mailing in ballots or going to an early voting center.
In 2020, with COVID-19 restrictions and advisories discouraging the amount of people packed into buildings, the county’s early voting rate was about 91%.
“That means for the November 2022 cycle, we’re looking at between 1.2 million and 1.5 million people voting early,” Jarrett said. “That’s as many as 321,000 people voting on Nov. 8 (Election Day).”
Board chair and District 3 Supervisor Bill Gates made a 17-minute speech during a special “Correcting the Record” meeting in January, during which Richer and other county staff refuted allegations and conclusions associated with a state Senate audit.
He has made the board’s most staunch and detailed stands for how the 2020 elections were free and fair in the county, despite efforts in court to prove otherwise.
Richer pointed out the inspection of a sampling of 1,629 county ballots showed no evidence of signature forging or fraud in the case known as Ward v. Jackson — a verdict a judge awarded to the county, affirmed by the Arizona Supreme Court.
In Georgia, Richer said, 15,000 ballots were examined for signature issues, and only two had potentially fraudulent signatures.
Tom Liddy, who leads the Civil Division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, also spoke at Monday’s meeting. The longtime county attorney and son of Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy said the Elections Department received praise from independent experts for the number of steps it takes in the care of handling millions of ballots.
Richer reminded voters of several restrictions and other factors, including some that involve partnering with agencies such as the U.S. Postal Service.
He pointed out election materials are marked “return service requested,” meaning the USPS won’t forward it to part-time residents with a second address.
“Even if you have the Postal Service forward your mail, that’s got nothing to do with us or anyone else,” Richer said. “We send election materials to the address where you’re registered, and that’s it. If you want to change your voter registration address permanently, we have a procedure for that.”
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