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Arizona GOP chairman makes false allegations against Fontes

By: - November 21, 2018 12:33 pm

Jonathan Lines speaking at the 2018 election eve rally hosted by the Arizona Republican Party in Prescott. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

In a radio interview to discuss his so-called “independent audit” into Maricopa County’s handling of the 2018 general election, Arizona Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Lines falsely accused County Recorder Adrian Fontes of ignoring instructions from the Board of Supervisors to not open several emergency voting centers.

Lines told KFYI host Mike Broomhead on Nov. 16 that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors ordered Fontes not open emergency voting centers, but that the Democratic recorder did so anyway. His decision to open five centers on the Saturday and Monday before the election has been a source of intense criticism from Republicans, who have accused him of using them as a de facto extension of early in-person voting, which by state law ends at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.

“He was told not to open those centers a week before by Maricopa Board of Supervisors. They expressed a concern about it. And he went ahead and did it independently,” said Lines, who called the emergency voting centers the “most egregious” of Fontes’s questionable actions regarding the election because he’d been told not to open them.

But Steve Chucri, the Republican chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said the board didn’t tell Fontes not to open emergency voting centers – and that the board doesn’t even have the authority to issue such instructions or orders to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.

“We don’t have the statutory authority to do that. Nor do I remember him coming and asking us in a formal way where we responded one way or the other. My recollection is it just happened. It happened a few days before that weekend,” Chucri told the Arizona Mirror.

Chucri said he spoke to Lines a few days after the election and told him about an email he’d sent to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office the day before the election expressing concerns about the emergency voting centers, and requesting that any ballots cast at those centers be set aside until Fontes’s authority to establish the centers had been clarified. He said that may have led to misunderstanding or confusion on Lines’s part.

Lines did not respond to a voicemail and a text message seeking comment on the matter.

State law permits emergency voting during the three days prior to an election for voters who face “unforeseen circumstances that would prevent the elector from voting at the polls.” But Fontes has said it’s not the role of election officials to determine what qualifies as an emergency, and said the purpose of the statute is to allow as many people as possible to vote. Some other counties also permit emergency voting, though only at the county recorder’s office, and don’t require voters to explain their emergency.

Republicans have been critical of Fontes’s insistence that voters don’t need to demonstrate a genuine emergency. Many Republicans also questioned his decision to open a fifth emergency voting center – he opened four for the primary election – in Tolleson at the request of Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the Board of Supervisors, despite the fact that the heavily Democratic city is just a few miles from another voting center in Avondale.

According to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, 2,788 votes were cast the at the five emergency voting centers: 529 in Avondale, 803 in Mesa, 207 in Tolleson, 797 in Scottsdale and 452 at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office location in downtown Phoenix, which has traditionally been the only site where emergency voting is conducted.

Lines’s comments came while promoting what he says is an “independent audit” of the election in Maricopa County by the Arizona Republican Party. The audit is being conducted by election attorney Kory Langhofer, who serves as the state GOP’s general counsel, and Stephen Richer, an attorney with the firm Steptoe and Johnson who was involved with a young professionals coalition that was backing Republican U.S. Senate nominee Martha McSally during her campaign against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”