Maricopa County Recorder Richer releases proposal for election reform
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer announced Thursday a proposal to make changes to Arizona election laws that could speed up the ballot tabulation system.
The proposal comes months after the state faced criticism for the amount of time it takes to count all the ballots under the current system.
“I think the number one thing that we hear about is ‘we’d like to know the winning candidate faster,'” Richer said.
For that reason, the county recorder said he would like to eliminate the “late early ballots” issue, which are early ballots returned on election day. Richer faults late early ballots for the state not having 95% of the results on election night, saying the process prior to tabulating them takes a while.
“Those early ballots come back in their signed and sealed envelopes. Those have to be scanned in, they have to be imaged, they have to be signature verified, they have to be audited, they have to be sent to a bipartisan ballot processing team, and then — only then — can they be sent forward to tabulation,” Richer said.
Richer added the number of these ballots being dropped off during Arizona’s election cycles continues to grow.
According to the proposal, in Maricopa County, voters dropped off 290,735 early ballots at vote locations on Election Day in the November 2022 election. In 2020, there were 172,499 ballots dropped off on Election Day.
Richer proposed eliminating the late early ballots by requiring all early ballots to be dropped off by 5 p.m. Friday before elections. The proposal goes on to say anyone who wants to vote after that date still can but will need to drop their ballot off at a designated location.
“A lot of people pointed to Florida as a model that they wanted to craft Arizona’s elections to reflect,” Richer said. “If you look at Florida, they can drop off their early ballots up until the close of the early voting period,” Richer said.
He believes this will allow Arizona to have 95% of the results within the first 24 hours.
“I want to create a situation in which Arizonans can know within 24 hours who is winning these important contests,” Richer said.
He also proposed the idea of allowing on-site ballot tabulation for multiple days. Currently, Arizona law allows on-site tabulation on Election Day only. The proposal would allow counties to tabulate on-site the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before elections.
Richer would also like to see politics taken out of the recorder’s office.
“It might not be in the public’s best interest to have the office that is overseeing requests being made by the political parties decimate himself or herself as one of those political parties,” Richer said.
The proposal also questions if the position should even be elected.
Now it is up to the state lawmakers to draft new election laws and adopt some of Richer’s suggestions.
Richer told KTAR News 92.3 FM he has spoken with republican Senate President Warren Peterson and democratic governor Katie Hobbs’ teams about election reform.
“There’s a little bit of a different preface profile for, say, the governor versus Senate President Peterson, but I think that some of these ideas offer a middle ground and could be potentially workable,” Richer said.