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November 10, 2022

If you want to know which political party is focused on competent administration in 2022, just compare and contrast vote-counting in Florida with vote-counting in Arizona.

There’s no need to go into the Election Day issues in Florida, because essentially there were none. Voting and counting were handled smoothly, the counts are in and the outcomes known. I remember the days when elections used to be like that everywhere. But this year in Arizona, particularly (once again) in Maricopa County, we get a very different picture.

Unbelievably, Arizona’s secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, who is charged with running the elections in her state while also being the Democrat candidate for governor, chose not to recuse herself from overseeing her own race. Problems arose right away on Election Day when 20-30 percent (accounts vary) of Maricopa County’s tabulation machines had “issues,” and this led to two-hour lines at some polls. (Arizona voters use paper ballots, but these machines are used for counting those ballots.) If Hobbs’ handling of the elections in Arizona is any indication of her competence to be governor --- and surely it is --- Arizonans had better hope and pray her opponent, Kari Lake, wins.

In an update Wednesday evening from ARIZONA REPUBLIC, Maricopa County, the main population center in the state, still had some 300,000 more votes to count. The early vote count had favored Hobbs by 14 percent, but of those that came in on Election Day, Lake had carried a whopping 70 percent. Hobbs’ lead narrowed to less than 1 percent. It was looking very good for Lake on Wednesday night.

“There’s very much still a path to victory for Katie Hobbs,” said Democratic Governors Association Political Director Marshall Cohen. “And the truth and the summary here is that this election will be determined by the numbers of votes cast, not by the volume at which an unhinged former television reporter can scream conspiracy theories.”

No, I’ve been watching Ms. Lake as this counting unfolds, and have to say that she’s been calm and professional when I've seen her. She radiates confidence. She is perfectly well hinged. Her brutal take-downs of the media have been masterfully articulate --- and well deserved. She has the goods on them and shows them for what they are. But still her critics fume: how dare she question or criticize the inefficiency of the vote count, just because the state says it could take weeks to do what should be finished in a day? And how dare she bring up the possibility of ulterior motives, just because she’s dealing with the bizarre situation of having her own political opponent running Election Day?

A poised and relaxed Kari Lake told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night that Arizona still had 650,000 votes that hadn’t been counted.  She was confident she'd overtake Hobbs. 

Tucker also spoke with GOP lawyer Harmeet Dillon, who was in Phoenix (that is to say, Maricopa County), on Wednesday evening. She explained that recent covid-era changes in voting procedure had dropped the number of polling places in Arizona by two-thirds. They also don’t use pre-printed ballots, instead printing them individually for each voter, and that takes time. And it’s the responsibility of county officials to test the tabulation machines ahead of time; these machines should have been working fine on Election Day. The long lines, she said, disenfranchised some voters, and a judge had denied the GOP’s request to keep the polls open longer on Tuesday.

All of that was known, but one other thing Dillon said almost in passing really grabbed our attention: that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is “still [through organizations] giving in-kind contributions to the recorders’ offices in Arizona, even though ‘Zuckerbucks’ had been banned.” She said she was hopeful that new leadership in Arizona will get things turned around.

Zuckerberg’s use of his money to fund illegal dropboxes in Wisconsin in 2020 through the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) has been well reported (at least in conservative media) and is widely known (at least by readers of conservative media), but not so much his similar generosity in Arizona. We did some digging and found that Arizona –- secretary of state Katie Hobbs, in fact –- had accepted that money through the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) and used it on an ad campaign “telling voters when and how to vote, encourage signup for the permanent early voting list, recruit poll workers and combat misinformation before and after the election.” (Where would we be if we didn’t have the government to combat our “misinformation”?) CTCL was generous, too, funneling $5 million into 9 Arizona jurisdictions, with more than half of that going to Maricopa County.

After the disastrous 2020 election, the Republican-led state legislature had passed a law saying state election departments could no longer accept private money. (Hilariously, it passed in both the legislature and state senate by straight party-line votes, with no Democrat voting against taking the “Zuckerbucks.”) Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law in April 2021, making Arizona the first state to ban private election funding.

The governor wrote this at the time: “With public confidence in our elections in peril, it’s clear that our elections must be pristine and above reproach --- and the sole purview of government.” That was a laudable goal, but too bad; they didn’t reach it this time.

The Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society had written at the time that the money from CTCL and CEIR “improperly influence[d] the 2020 presidential election on behalf of one particular candidate and party.”

If Zuckerberg is still funneling money to Arizona for elections in violation of a legislative ban, that sounds serious indeed. But state law bans private contributions to state ELECTION departments. Dillon said this involves RECORDERS’ offices. The Maricopa County recorder is Stephen Richer, whom you might remember from an extremely contentious live-streamed election board meeting that we reported on at the time. Not sure if it’s possible to see that video now, but here’s Mr. Richer trashing President Trump and election “conspiracy theorists” as liars on MSNBC, May 18, 2021.

As you can see from the following county webpage, Richer’s duties include “maintaining voter files for more than 2.6 million active registered voters for Maricopa County. The Recorder’s Office partners with the Maricopa County Elections Department to plan and hold jurisdictional, county, state and federal level elections for all Maricopa County voters.”

It goes on to say that the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office is widely recognized as a leader in recording services, voter registration and elections in the nation.”

So, it appears that the Recorder’s Office isn’t technically in the Elections Department but still has responsibilities relating to elections. We’re making no accusation but just wonder: Has anyone asked if the Recorder’s Office might be exploiting a loophole in the law to accept private money to help run elections in Arizona?

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Comments 1-1 of 1

  • Cheryl Mizner

    11/10/2022 08:45 PM

    The Dems and media are the ones backing DeSantis on 2024 election. That's how it made all news so quick. You're being played. If DeSantis falls in their trap, here will come the underage girls, women getting abortions, and sex sex sex stories. Look what Dems did with Jan. 6.