As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. If that’s true, then it is insane to expect Arizona to produce election results in a timely manner and free of controversy. Three months ago, Arizona’s administration of voting in the state primary election created chaos. Arizona let America down then, but many hoped that the state’s leaders would learn from that mistake and produce better results in November. No such luck: Arizona’s administration of the general election shows that its failed leadership has not learned anything.
Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, finds itself at the center of the voting controversy. Its voting administration is divided up between the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the county recorder, and the secretary of state. The board handles the actual voting and counting of ballots, while the recorder’s office manages the registration and verification of voters. The secretary of state oversees voting in all Arizona counties.
On election day, 60 of Maricopa’s 223 voting locations faced problems with their voting machines. The machines would not accept votes, which may have caused some people to miss their chance to cast a ballot. Many felt that these problems disproportionately harmed Republicans because Republicans vote heavily in person on Election Day, while Democrats predominate in the use of mail-in voting.
In early returns on Election Night, the whole GOP statewide ticket started from a massive deficit, creating the illusion that these races were over. Days later, the vote counting continues, while Florida, a state with roughly three times as many people as Arizona, counted nearly all its ballots on Election Night. No matter who wins in Arizona, the losing side will likely feel cheated.
Everyone with a role in managing voting in Maricopa County contributed to this failure. Arizona’s secretary of state is Democrat Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor. Her office is overseeing the election that will determine whether she becomes the next governor. In 2018, Democrats wanted then Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp to resign during his run for governor, and he ultimately did so as counting continued after the election. Hobbs refused to resign, yet she showed up to work for only 19 days in the six months leading up to the election. Hobbs should have been more dedicated to the office she held or else resigned it, especially considering the state’s disastrous primary.
The chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Republican Bill Gates, has attacked conservatives who raise questions about voting issues in Arizona. A few days before the election, Gates boasted that Maricopa was “prepared for anything.” It wasn’t.
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer has his hands tied to a certain degree in terms of how his office can count votes because, unlike some other states, Arizona cannot count mail-in ballots until Election Day. But even with these limitations, Maricopa has counted its ballots slowly compared to other jurisdictions with the same disadvantages. Additionally, Richer has done little to change these policies. He spends much of his time online, retweeting praise of himself and writing editorials attacking the GOP. Richer, who has been in office for about two years, could have used his position to push the legislature to institute necessary changes in the administration of elections.
In the aftermath of this latest fiasco, Gates and Richer have been more apologetic. In contrast with his behavior after the primary, Richer is now being more direct about calls for changes to voting. In 2024, Gates and Richer will face the voters themselves. They have failed their constituents and the nation, and voters should remember that.
As for Hobbs: if she becomes the state’s next governor, voters should demand that she demonstrate a competency that she so far has not shown.
Todd Carney is a lawyer and frequent contributor to RealClearPolitics. He earned his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School.