Secretary of State-elect Fontes calls recount discrepancy ‘really problematic’

Dec 30, 2022, 9:37 AM | Updated: 9:38 am

From left, Democratic Arizona secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes speaks to Phoenix Mayor Ka...

From left, Democratic Arizona secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes speaks to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes during a Nov. 5, 2022, event. Fontes and Mayes won their races in the Nov. 8 general election. (File Photo by Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

(File Photo by Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s next chief elections officer said it was “really problematic” that one county’s recount added hundreds of votes to its initial tally.

“The single-digit differences are not unusual, but … it’s really problematic to see the number of ballots in Pinal County that were not tabulated,” Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Thursday, hours after the recount results from three Nov. 8 general election races were released by a state judge.

No outcomes changed in the races for attorney general, superintendent of public instruction and one state House seat, which were close enough to trigger automatic recounts under state law. But Democrat Kris Mayes’ margin of victory over Republican Abe Hamadeh in the attorney general contest shrunk from 511 votes to just 280 votes.

Most of the shift was because Pinal County, a GOP stronghold, added more than 500 votes from its initial tally in the attorney general race, 392 for Hamadeh and 115 for Mayes. Only one of Arizona’s 14 other counties had a change greater than single digits.

Pinal County officials said in a statement that human error caused the initial undercount.

Fontes, a Democrat who will be sworn in next week, pointed a finger at the top authorities in the county southeast of metro Phoenix.

“The folks down in Pinal County, particularly the board of supervisors and their election director, back a year ago, did not staff up. They did not fund up. They did not train and prepare for what they knew was going to happen,” Fontes said.

The recount discrepancy wasn’t Pinal County’s only election-related problem this year.

In June, county officials had to scramble after tens of thousands of voters were sent early mail ballots that were missing some races. Then there were ballot shortages at multiple polling sites during the August primary election, leading to the resignation of David Frisk as elections director.

Fontes, who previously served as recorder in Maricopa County, said he’s already directing his incoming staff to look into election issues throughout the state, although his new office doesn’t have control over how counties manage their elections.

“What I have to do now as secretary of state is convince the Legislature to make sure that county governments have the support that they need so that they can have solid check-in systems, so that they can have redundancies, so that they can have post-election audits on the inside, so that they can make sure to reconcile these numbers before they even make their canvasses, so that they don’t have these errors,” he said.

“This is a really bad showing, particularly in Pinal County, and some of the other ones don’t look so great either.”

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Secretary of State-elect Fontes calls recount discrepancy ‘really problematic’