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During debate with Fontes, Finchem claims 2020 election was 'irredeemably compromised'

Adrian Fontes Mark Finchem
Adrian Fontes (left) and Mark Finchem.

Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for Arizona secretary of state, claimed the 2020 election was “irredeemably compromised” when asked to account for his belief that former President Donald Trump, not President Joe Biden, won the popular vote in Arizona two years ago.

During a debate with Democrat Adrian Fontes, Finchem — an Arizona state representative and Trump-backed conservative — cited a handful of prosecutions for ballot harvesting and a widely debunked conspiracy film as evidence election results for certain jurisdictions should have been set aside, including Maricopa and Yuma counties.

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“You have people taking ballots, harvesting ballots, stuffing them into ballot collection boxes that are unsupervised,” Finchem said.

“Are you talking about the ‘2000 Mules’ movie?” a moderator asked.

“Exactly. This is one example,” Finchem said.

Fontes, the former Maricopa County recorder who helped run the county’s 2020 vote — and lost his own re-election campaign — said Finchem’s perpetuation of conspiracies and lies about the past are dangerous and unfit for secretary of state, an office that is first in the line of succession for governor in Arizona.

“When we have conspiracy theories and lies like the ones Mr. Finchem has just shared, based in no real evidence, what we end up doing is eroding the faith that we have in each other as citizens,” Fontes said.

Fontes also attacked Finchem for his attempts to outlaw Arizona’s popular vote-by-mail system. Finchem is also part of a lawsuit seeking to require ballots in this year's election to be counted by hand, rather than by machines.

And Finchem’s suspicions of election fraud extend past 2020, as he was asked whether there were any improprieties in the August primary, when he won the GOP nomination for secretary of state.

“I have no idea,” Finchem said.

When asked what changed, Finchem said, “The candidates? I have no idea. We’ve not really dug into what happened with the processing of ballots.”

Finchem sought to cast Fontes as an inept former county election official, citing a court decision that blocked Fontes’ attempt to mail early ballots to all registered Democratic voters during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

A judge ruled that early ballots can only be sent to voters who signed up for the early voting list, as prescribed by law.

Fontes defended his actions as an attempt to do what was best for voters at the time.

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Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.