Arizona Sec. Adrian Fontes blames thwarted election crisis on ‘rumors,’ ‘conspiracy theories’

Feb 16, 2024, 4:35 AM

Close-up of Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes on the left and the state Capitol with its cop...

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, that he disagrees with how the Legislature handled a potential election crisis. (Getty Images and KTAR News File Photos)

(Getty Images and KTAR News File Photos)

PHOENIX – Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said Thursday he thinks lawmakers addressed the wrong problem when they revised the state’s election calendar last week.

With near-unanimous bipartisan support in both chambers, the Republican-led Legislature passed an emergency bill making multiple changes to the election timeline on Feb. 8. Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs signed it into law the next day to avert a potential 2024 election crisis.

The most notable adjustment was moving this year’s primary election up a week to July 30.

Although a bullet was dodged, Fontes blames the Legislature for pulling the trigger in the first place.

“They’re making decisions based on rumors, innuendos and conspiracy theories,” the Democrat told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

Why did Arizona lawmakers change election calendar?

County officials had warned lawmakers the timeline updates were needed to prevent the state from potentially missing federally mandated deadlines for mailing ballots to military members before the general election and for the certification of the Arizona’s presidential electors afterward.

Fontes, however, said it was potential crisis of the Legislature’s own making.

“Here’s the bottom line: Based on conspiracy theories and a bunch of hoo-ha, some folks lowered the threshold for recounts,” the Democrat said.

He was referring to a law signed by former Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, in 2022 that increased the margin needed to trigger an automatic recount in an Arizona election contest. The margin was increased from 0.1% to 0.5%, opening the door to more recounts in the battleground state.

What does Adrian Fontes think about lawmakers’ approach?

Supporters of the change said it would build voter confidence, although Fontes said it was “based on nonsense.”

“It’s going to take more time. It’s going to cost more money,” he said. “But instead of moving that [recount margin] back to where it had been for decades, we had to make all kinds of other adjustments, which is confusing.”

Fontes noted that Navajo Nation had already adjusted its election calendar to match the state timeline, and now the tribe is forced to change again. The new law also shortens time to cure missing or non-matching early ballot signatures.

“Instead of fixing the problem that they created, some of the folks in the Legislature decided that this lower threshold that was based on nonsense had to stay, so everybody else had to make a whole bunch of adjustments,” he said. “And it just shows the fact that some people in our state government are not negotiating in good faith.”

While he disagrees with how lawmakers handled the issue, Fontes said he’ll do what is needed to serve Arizona’s voters.

“We’re just going make things happen regardless of the adjustments that are necessary,” he said.

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Arizona Sec. Adrian Fontes blames thwarted election crisis on ‘rumors,’ ‘conspiracy theories’