ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona GOP claims Maricopa County destroyed some voting evidence

Nov 9, 2018, 12:24 PM | Updated: 3:15 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Republican Party is alleging that Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes deliberately destroyed evidence to cover up “voting irregularities” as the county moves to count hundreds of ballots in the tight U.S. Senate race between Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema.

In a statement released Friday, Chairman Jonathan Lines said the party sent a formal, written request to all the county recorders in Arizona, including Fontes, requesting that all evidence of “irregularities” be preserved after they were discovered during the early voting period.

Lines pointed to the use of emergency voting centers and an “inconsistent method” for counting early ballots as some of the irregularities. Lines said the party informed Fontes that there may be a legal challenge based on the irregularities and that state law required county recorders to set aside the disputed ballots during the legal process.

But instead, Lines claimed, Fontes “directed his office to mix the disputed ballots in with the undisputed ballots — thereby ensuring that there could be no review of voting irregularities.”

“Fontes’s decision was made deliberately, after receiving the letter from the Arizona Republican Party and being informed of his legal duty to preserve evidence,” Lines said in a statement.

Lines said the party is “reviewing all legal options at this time.”

The statement was released hours before a judge was set to hear arguments over a Republican lawsuit that was challenging the way early ballots could be counted.

The suit filed by four county Republican parties — Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties — alleges that the state’s 15 county recorders don’t follow a uniform standard for allowing voters to adjust problems with their early ballots, and that two counties improperly allow those fixes after Election Day.

“Whether you are a tea party patriot, or whether you’ve got a pink knit cap on your head, we are all Americans first, your votes are all going to get counted under my administration and let the winners be discovered once we are done with a thorough, accurate and accountable election, ” Fontes told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Friday.

Legal analyst Monica Lindstrom told Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday that the issue regarding this standard is not new.

“This law has not been clear or consistently followed with the counties,” she said. “We knew about this — or I should say, the parties that filed the lawsuit — knew about this before this election,” she said.

According to Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said there was no legal requirement that Fontes separate ballots like Lines argued.

The most prominent Republican to have raised baseless allegations of voting fraud in Arizona has been President Donald Trump, who claimed there was “electoral corruption” because “signatures don’t match.”

Trump, earlier Friday morning, suggested there was something sinister about “Democrats” adding to their tallies. “Now in Arizona, all of a sudden, out of the wilderness, they find a lot of votes,” he said.

The lengthy ballot counting process in Arizona can be partially due to the fact that voters like to vote early, by mail. A mailed-in ballot requires more work for Arizona elections officials because state law requires the envelope to be sealed and signed, and for elections officials to match each signature to the one on file with the voter’s registration before even opening the envelope.

The state’s Republican secretary of state, Michelle Reagan, said in a statement that in order to ensure against voter fraud, mail ballots dropped off Election Day — which totaled 320,000 — are double-checked with votes cast at the polls to confirm no one voted twice.

“Arizona takes elections seriously – from the poll workers to the county elections officials, and the Secretary of State’s office,” Reagan said in a statement Friday. “Everybody is working diligently to tabulate all of the election results in a manner that Arizonans can be proud of and, most importantly, trust the results.”

The ACLU of Arizona said in a tweet that it asked a judge to give voters until Nov. 14 to clear up any signature-matching issues on mail-in ballots.

The tight race for U.S. Senate took a turn on Thursday, when a surge of ballots put Sinema ahead in the race by more than 9,000 votes.

Garrett Archer, the senior analyst with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, told Arizona’s Morning News on Friday that there are still approximately 450,000 ballots statewide that still need to be counted, the majority of which are in Maricopa County.

Archer said the next ballot update from Maricopa County, which is expected to come at 5 p.m. on Friday, will benefit Sinema.

“Demographically, it’s similar to what we just observed,” he said.  “It’s expected to get worse for McSally before it gets better.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Rep.-elect Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., celebrates his win at an election night gathering for Democrats Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. Stanton defeated Republican Steve Ferrara in Arizona's 9th Congressional District. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York) Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, embraces Cindy McCain, wife of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, while speaking to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated Democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York) U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., holds his daughter Olivia as he speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) (KTAR News/Jim Cross) (KTAR News/Jim Cross) (KTAR News/Jim Cross) (KTAR News/Kathy Cline) (KTAR News/Kathy Cline) (KTAR News/Kathy Cline) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News/Griselda Zetino) An elections official counts ballots at the Tabulation and Election Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona Republican senatorial candidate Martha McSally, speaks with voters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Chase's diner in Chandler, Ariz. McSally and Democratic challenger Kirsten Sinema are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January. (AP Photo/Matt York) Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at a relocated polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Chandler, Ariz. The new polling station opened four hours late after the original location did not open due to the buildings' foreclosure overnight. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

A volunteer moves supplies to a relocated polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Chandler, Ariz. The new polling station opened four hours late after the original location did not open due to the buildings' foreclosure overnight. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

A notice sign is seen at a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Chandler, Ariz. A new polling station opened four hours late after the original location did not open due to the buildings' foreclosure overnight. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Marcicopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes holds an Election Day press conference, Nov. 6, 2018. (KTAR Photo/Ali Vetnar) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, arrives to cast his ballot early Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 in Paradise Valley, Ariz. Ducey is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger David Garcia. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia serves coffee at a local cafe, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. Garcia is challenging Republican incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Voters head into Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix to cast their ballots on Nov. 6, 2018. (KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross) Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins places a "vote" sign outside a polling station prior to it's opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins hangs "vote" signs outside a polling station prior to it's opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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Arizona GOP claims Maricopa County destroyed some voting evidence