Court Overrules Maricopa County Recorder’s Proposed Election Changes

Maricopa County ballots

By Jessica Swarner

March 13, 2020

The Maricopa County recorder’s plan to mail more ballots was just shot down in court.


An Arizona Superior Court judge overruled Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes’ proposed election changes Friday, according to the Arizona Capitol Times.

Fontes had announced a plan earlier in the day to mail ballots to all Democrats who had yet to vote and have them drop them off at polling stations.

Shortly after the announcement, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed an injunction against the plan. He accused Fontes of rewriting state law. 

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs also criticized the plan.

“I … urge you to abandon your current effort, which will only cause massive voter confusion and, more critically, jeopardize the legitimacy of this election,” she wrote to Fontes in a letter shared with 12 News

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which shares authority over elections with the recorder’s office, announced its own plan for election changes Friday afternoon. 

The county’s Election Day Director Scott Jarrett said at a press conference the county plans to downsize from 229 polling stations to 151 vote-anywhere centers because it does not have the resources to keep them clean, according to 12 News

But Jarrett never finished his discussion. Mid-sentence, he said, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this,” and left the room, while the board’s Chairman Clint Hickman stepped in to continue talking. It’s unclear why Jarrett stepped away.

Original Story

While some states are delaying their primary elections due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arizona’s version of it will continue as scheduled on Tuesday. However, there are some big changes to how the process will work in Maricopa County. 

Normally, voters only receive ballots by mail if they are on the Permanent Early Voter List or they request one. Now, any Democrats who have yet to vote in the Presidential Preference Election will receive a ballot in their mailbox by Tuesday, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes told 12 News.

Fontes said in-person polling will still be available Tuesday but voters are highly encouraged to simply drop off their mailed ballots in order to limit person-to-person interaction. 

“We’re just really trying to help the process in these unprecedented, really emergency, times so that folks can have that ballot and just get in, drop it off,” Fontes said. “They don’t have to spend a lot of time checking in, utilizing the same equipment that other people have used, and so forth.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people practice social distancing, meaning staying home or at least six feet away from other people who may be sick. Because the disease is spread through respiratory droplets, the CDC also recommends frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Many public places are trying to reduce the spread of the disease by increasing the frequency of their cleaning, but the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office said in a statement to 12 News it doesn’t feel equipped to do so. 

“There is also a lack of cleaning supplies available to meet County Health Department directives for preventing the potential spread of disease in the polling places,” the statement read. 

The county’s move is also meant to protect polling workers and seniors, since the CDC has said older adults are at an elevated risk for the coronavirus. Officials announced earlier this week they are moving five polling stations out of senior living facilities to other locations.

Fontes said postponing the election wouldn’t have made any sense. “The reality is we’ve already received a quarter of a million votes here in Maricopa County,” he told 12 News. “We’ve already tabulated over 200,000 of those ballots, and this election is well underway.” 

Wednesday was the last day to mail in votes, so any ballots not turned in must be dropped off by Tuesday at 7 p.m. Anyone who has already voted for a candidate who has since dropped out of the race may not vote again.


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.



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