Maricopa County election officials try to ease concerns, dispel rumors

County Supervisor Bill Gates addresses and updates the press for the upcoming 2022 election.
County Supervisor Bill Gates addresses and updates the press for the upcoming 2022 election.(Courtesy of the Maricopa County)
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 7:59 PM MST|Updated: Oct. 20, 2022 at 12:52 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Maricopa County election officials held a press conference Wednesday with updated ballot numbers and to fight misinformation. “We’re running the most transparent election in Maricopa County’s history,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Bill Gates. “We’re also protecting our elections workers. We can do both and if the campaigns have an issue, they can contact us. They don’t need to go and send incendiary tweets.” Recently, the FBI released a memo cautioning about threats to election workers. “The FBI continues to prioritize identifying, mitigating, and investigating threats targeting election workers,” the statement read.

Along with assurances, the officials will do what they can to protect the integrity of the upcoming 2022 general election. They also released this year’s voter registration numbers as of Oct. 17. There are about 2.43 million registered voters in Maricopa County, said Ray Valenzuela, the county’s elections director. Of that, there are 841,142 Republicans, 731,792 Democrats, 19,829 Libertarians and 842,634 Independents. Active early voters make up 78.3% of all registered voters, Valenzuela said, and a little over 1.9 million mail-in ballots were sent out, including almost 6,500 to those in the military or overseas.

One concern that Gates addressed is a lawsuit filed against county election officials by the Republican National Committee and Arizona Republican Party, saying they had “no basis in fact and was a political stunt.” The lawsuit claimed that election officials were not being transparent with their hiring process for poll workers. The county is “84% staffed up,” according to Gates, and the voting centers would be fully staffed by Election Day.

The chairman for the Maricopa County Republican Party, Scott Jerrett, revealed the party affiliation makeup of election workers so far. Those working in voting centers consist of 792 Democrats, 839 Republicans, four Libertarians and 338 Independents. Those whose job is to transport, process and adjudicate ballots outside of voting centers consist of 125 Democrats, 134 Republicans and 542 Independents.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer addressed one type of conspiracy theory that originated during the 2020 general election. He debunked the notion ballots from other countries could easily be added to the system.

Along with the measures described by Richer, Gates explained that all ballot equipment is “air-gapped,” which means those machines are incapable of connecting to the internet. Despite these assurances, some continue to take actions that Gates considers harassment. “Regardless of the what the intent is,” he said, “these people who are taking pictures of our elections workers, they’re harassing people. They’re not helping further the interest of democracy. And if these people really want to be involved in the process, want to learn more about it, come be a poll worker or be a poll observer.”