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Candidates for Maricopa County recorder debate election integrity

The candidates running for Maricopa County Recorder represent different factions within the Republican Party that have emerged over the integrity of elections.

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — The three Republicans vying for county recorder's seat spent a good portion of Monday's primary debate rehashing allegations of fraud and errors in Maricopa County's controversial 2020 and 2022 elections.

At one point during the forum, hosted by the Citizens Clean Elections Committee, each candidate was asked point-blank whether the two most recent elections were stolen after Republicans lost multiple statewide races.

Don Hyatt He said the election was stolen and that Mark Zuckerberg was partly to blame.

County Recorder Steven Richer He is seeking re-election and said the last election was not rigged.

State Legislator Justin Heap He said electoral rules were not being followed and that people had the right to doubt the election results.

Richer accused Heap of not providing clear answers to the “stolen questions” and broadly blamed leaders for intentionally stoking discord by refusing to accept Arizona's recent election results.

Hiatt and Heap repeatedly accused Richer of not running a transparent office and ignoring issues raised by concerned constituents.

Richer began the debate by claiming that he had cleaned up the county's voter rolls by removing more than 200,000 names, but his opponents questioned his claim, offering anecdotes about voters receiving multiple ballots or ballots that belonged to other people.

Richer then detailed how the barcode printed on mail-in ballots will prevent Arizona voters from voting more than once.

Following Donald Trump's loss in 2020, election integrity quickly became a hot topic in Arizona, with Republican lawmakers spending months reviewing Maricopa County ballots that ultimately concluded Joe Biden had won.

The issue has caused divisions within the Arizona Republican Party, leading Richer to file a defamation lawsuit against Republican colleague Kali Lake for comments she made after losing the 2022 gubernatorial election.

In Maricopa County, election duties are divided between the Recorder, who oversees mail-in and early voting, and the Board of Elections, who oversees voting on Election Day.

Hyatt was particularly critical of postal voting, claiming it is an “unstable” system that is vulnerable to manipulation.

Heap said safeguards were not being followed and signature verification procedures for mail-in ballots were “inadequate.”

“I don't have confidence in the system that's currently in place,” Heap said during Monday's debate.

Richer said his office follows the law and has withstood many election lawsuits filed over the past four years.

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