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Fontes, Richer criticize legislation that attempts to undo advances in voting in Arizona

Republican Stephen Richer and Democrat Adrian Fontes were once political rivals. 

But now the Maricopa County recorder and secretary of state, respectfully, find common ground defending the integrity of Arizona’s elections — and criticizing proposed laws that would undo decades of progress modernizing the election process, such as a bill to require ballots be counted by hand.

Adrian Fontes
Adrian Fontes speaks during a press conference for Moms Demand Action at the Arizona State Capitol on Jan. 23, 2023.

House Bill 2307, which Republican representatives passed through a House committee on a party line vote, would ban the use of tabulation equipment when counting votes cast on ballots.

“It's such a stupid point, that, the hand counting of ballots,” Richer said during a Wednesday evening conversation on Arizona elections at Valley Bar. “It's so silly. I mean, 50 years of social sciences has proven this – humans are bad and slow at repetitive tasks, machines are very good at that.”

Fontes agreed, warning that a hand count would damage the reliability of election results.

“Hand counting is far less accurate than machine tabulation — far less accurate. And so I genuinely, I am, I am a firm believer in humanity and the voters, except when it comes to hand counting ballots,” he said.

Fontes said the Legislature should rely more on local election officials for advice when it comes to crafting election laws.

Instead, many of the election bills introduced at the Arizona Legislature seem guided by misinformation and half-truths about the election process.

Richer said many of his fellow Republicans are to blame, and accused them of using election-related conspiracies to boost their political clout.

“Politicians respond to incentives,” Richer said. “And right now there’s an incentive within the Republican Party to talk about this and give credence to it. And I will tell you that behind the scenes, the vast majority of them acknowledge it’s a lie.”

Fontes noted that Arizona voters statewide rejected candidates who engaged in election conspiracy theories. And he praised political leaders such as Richer for providing solid, fact-based communication to voters.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.