Five days after the election, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes continues to count ballots that could determine the outcome of Arizona’s U.S Senate election, which could end with the closest margin of victory for any statewide election in the country.
Even before the election, Fontes — a known Democratic partisan and Bernie Sanders donor — had become a figure of suspicion for Republicans and conservatives. Despite running on a platform of modernizing and streamlining Maricopa County’s eternally flawed election system, the first statewide primary election that Fontes oversaw in August after beginning his tenure was a disaster, with many of the problems already associated with the county election system seeming to be amplified instead of alleviated. This didn’t stop Fontes from initially claiming victory- stating that a primary election in which 62 polling places suffered serious technical problems was a “story of success.” However, Fontes proved unable to dismiss the problems with the election, later taking responsibility for the severe problems.
Fontes also apologized for telling a candidate for the state legislature who was concerned with his poor performance to “go f— yourself” on Facebook- showing the dispassionate and disciplined demeanor required of an election official in the fourth-largest county in the United States.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have seemed to clean up his act in time for the main show. With the exception of the stalwart election officials of Broward County, Maricopa County seems to be the only county municipality in the country continuing to tally votes in a competitive statewide election- with many of the discrepancies and poor practices seeming to endure.
Maricopa County started off as the only county in the state engaging in the practice of “curing” ballots- contacting voters in an attempt to remedy substandard signature verification on mail-in ballots and count them in the election. Residents of 13 other Arizona counties (the Democrat stronghold of Pima County is also an exception in using the practice of ballot curing) were not afforded the same luxury, initially- it took a lawsuit from state Republicans to reach an agreement by which all counties in the state would be given an equal window to “cure” ballots. 50-75% of Maricopa’s electorate usually votes through the process of mail-in ballots.
The discrepancies and suspicious conduct from the Maricopa County Recorder seem to go beyond ballot curing in an election that currently has an outstanding Democrat lead of around 20,000 votes. Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, a leading county Republican figure, revealed that he had heard from numerous constituents who found out their mail-in ballot was not counted through the County Recorder’s ‘Ballot Status’ verification system.
Local Republican Brenda Crawford described a difficult experience getting the County Recorder to process her new address in time to receive an early ballot. Despite submitting her updated voter registration form before the deadline of October 9th, Crawford never received a mail-in ballot and ended up voting at a polling place in person.
Despite having around 130,000 more registered Republican than Democratic voters in the county, the election results released at a dripping pace by Fontes continue to add to a lead for Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema over Republican Martha McSally. Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Governor Doug Ducey is crushing Democrat David Garcia in the county alone by around 200,000 votes- while Sinema outright leads there by roughly 48,000.
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