After an Arizona primary election last week full of anomalies, the Executive Guidance Committee of the Maricopa County Republican Committee (MCRC) issued a resolution on August 4 censuring Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican. The resolution cited problems that arose during the election and Richer’s previous denials that election fraud occurred in the 2020 presidential election.
Member-at-large Brian Ference drafted the resolution, which passed 13-11 with two abstentions. It cited “irregularities” in the primary election, including “reports of printers and scanners not working,” “Pentel felt-tip pen smearing and not drying,” and “late counting and delayed results.”
The resolution listed seven statements Richer made in his August 19, 2021 “Open Letter to Maricopa County,” which was his opinion claiming there was no election fraud in the 2020 election (he was not in office during that election). It has been pinned to the top of his Twitter feed since that date. His statements include, “Nobody stole Maricopa County’s election. Elections in Maricopa County aren’t rigged.” Another statement by Richer asserted there were “no serious mishaps or anomalies …” The MCRC also singled out his comment “I’m embarrassed listening to my party concoct the most outlandish theories (Chinese ballots!) to avoid accepting the reality: we lost the top two races in Arizona.”
The MCRC said it no longer recognizes Richer as a Republican, calling for him to “immediately resign or be recalled,” and additionally calls on the county’s Republican Party “to encourage all registered Republicans to expel him permanently from office.”
Maricopa County was one of the last counties to finish counting ballots from the primary election last week, and since gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake only ended up defeating Karrin Taylor Robson in the Republican primary by less than five percentage points, far less than most polls showed, concerns arose about the reasons for the delay. The first batch of ballots counted on election night, which were mail-in ballots, showed Robson leading by 10 points, causing some news outlets to ask Lake if she would concede.
MCED admitted last week that giving voters felt-tip pens that could bleed through ballots did cause some problems, but said it would take a week in order to fully investigate the extent of the damage. Richer accused those objecting of trying to cause problems. “Just texted a friend who sent out a message that she will ignore instructions, not use the given pen, and will use a ballpoint blue pen,” he tweeted on July 17. “Let’s call it what it is. She’s trying to disrupt the primary. Just use the darn pen given to you on election day.”
Another tweet made fun of the concerns. “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? Do you think we’re just asking you to use the Pentel pen to be funny? Good lord people.”
Ference compiled his own list of anomalies from last week’s election, which include a story from a couple who said their polling location in Phoenix was unable to print ballots for them, but when they tried to vote somewhere else the system reported they had already voted when they hadn’t. Another voter reported being told to color in a small rectangle on the upper right side of the ballot due to the toner being low. The election worker told her the machine might not read the ballot otherwise.
Ference included screenshots of complaints about felt pens smearing the ink and spoiling ballots, an election worker asking a voter if she wanted to change her party, and additional voters unable to get their ballots printed. A woman left a comment after the post stating she saw an election security worker stop a man from handing out ballpoint pens to voters so they didn’t have to use felt pens.
ABC-15 “Data Guru” Garrett Archer tweeted about the censure, stating that much of the blame for the election problems lies with the Maricopa County Supervisors, not Richer, due to jurisdiction. Richer tweeted in response, “Oh well. I’m fine with it. Proud of the Board and @MaricopaVote and @maricopacounty.”
Richer denied during an interview that there were significant problems running the primary election. “We haven’t delivered on some sort of significant error or confusion,” he told Votebeat.
Last fall, Richer started a PAC for Republican political candidates who deny there was election fraud during the 2020 election. He said the first candidate he intended to support was House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), who defeated numerous election integrity bills this past year. Due to voters angry with his record, Bowers was massively defeated in his primary race this year, almost two-to-one, by Trump-endorsed David Farnsworth.
Richer blew off concerns before the primary election that a small clear window on ballots mailed to voters revealed the political party of their ballot. Richer was singled out for criticism during a debate for Arizona attorney general. “The realtors’ association can tell you who moved or died, but Richer can’t,” said candidate Andrew Gould.
Richer originally ran for office on a platform of combating election fraud, and was widely considered to have won in part due to that platform. Ference said voters used the VotifyNow app to report problems during the election.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Stephen Richer” by Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.