Maricopa County election officials ignored questions Friday about an 11-page report by an election integrity group that say they discovered 20,500 ballots were received by the Maricopa County Recorder’s office — and subsequently counted — after the legal deadline of 7 p.m. on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Only 934 of those ballots, the groups says, were rejected for lateness. Joe Biden was certified the winner of Arizona by 10,457 votes.
The Arizona Sun Times asked the recorder’s office several questions regarding the ballots, including why they had difficulty producing the ballot receipts for months; why the late ballots were tabulated; whether there were really only 934 ballots rejected for being late; and why there were no records indicating whether ballots received the day after the election were transferred to the Maricopa County Treasurer.
Maricopa County Communications Director Megan Gilbertson did not address the inquiries directly. Instead, she replied in part, “The 2020 election is over. We continue to stand by the integrity of our workers and the effective checks and balances in place that allow us to provide free, fair, and accurate elections.”
In a statement, election integrity group Verity Vote said they submitted a public records request in October 2021 to the Maricopa County Recorder for receipts reflecting ballots that were submitted after the statutory deadline for the 2020 election. Seven months later, after a Maricopa County Deputy County Attorney got involved, the election officials produced the records.
The group requested ballot receipts from October 13 to November 6, 2020. The county turned over receipts from all of the days except November 4 — the day after the election. Verity Vote followed up, requesting the missing records through phone calls and written requests. Finally, the county told them the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was handling their request. The receipts were turned over on May 19.
In Verity Vote’s report shows a November 4 Receipt of Delivery was partially illegible. The name of both the person who delivered the ballots and the person who received the ballots is unreadable, although there is a Runbeck Election Services employee named Brandon listed at the top, along with a time that says 9:30. Verity Vote said Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer confirmed that meant 9:30 a.m. A row listed as “late” has numbers but they’ve been scribbled over so are also unreadable. However, 18,000 is clearly listed as the number of ballots.
Although the receipt is dated November 4, “Election Day” is written in handwriting different than the rest of the document at the top. A receipt from November 5 indicates that 1,000 ballots were received, and a receipt from November 6 reports 1,500 more.
Verity Vote said Richer told them the receipt from November 4 isn’t the only one from that day. In a letter dated May 18, 2022, he stated, “This document does not represent the complete universe of Maricopa County inbound receipt delivery forms from November 4, 2020. We cannot be certain, but we believe that the remainder of these forms were transferred to the treasurer’s office to be stored and sealed with ballots.”
The group speculated, “If there are indeed additional forms for 11/4 then the number of USPS late mail ballots could be much higher than 20k.”
The organization noted, “The records in the treasurer’s custody can only be examined with a court order.”
Verity Vote analyzed the number of ballots that were returned each day leading up to the election and afterwards. Voters had been told they should postmark their ballots by October 27 to ensure they arrive on time. There was clearly a spike right after that time, as ballots from the voters who made that deadline arrived. Then the ballots dramatically decreased, except for the huge 18,000 spike on November 4.
October 28: 58,500
October 29: 14,500
October 30: 10,500
October 31: 6,000
November 1: 1,500
November 2: 1,000
November 3: 2,500—Election Day. In order to be counted and valid, the ballot must be received by the county no later than 7 p.m.
November 4: 18,000 late, invalid ballots
November 5: 1,000 late, invalid ballots
November 6: 1,500 late, invalid ballots
Military ballots in some states can be accepted after the deadline, but Arizona makes no exception, they are due by 7 p.m. on election day just like the rest of the ballots.
The process by which the county obtained the late ballots was unusual. Verity Votes reports a county employee drove to USPS to pick up the ballots, then drove them to Runbeck Election Services where they were scanned and the receipts generated before returning them to the county’s tabulation center. Runbeck came under fire in April after it became public knowledge that their AI technology was used in the 2020 election in Maricopa County for signature verification, despite complaints from the elections director regarding its accuracy.
Richer has repeatedly stated there was no election fraud in the 2020 election and started a PAC to support Republican candidates who agree with this position.
Verity Vote say they also submitted a public records request to the Maricopa County Recorder for documents related to 56,226 ballots that were mailed out by the office which came back undeliverable. The election integrity groups said the office told them that the county does not actually receive the undelivered mail back, only an electronic notice from USPS. The office then uses the barcodes from the envelopes to invalidate them for election use.
However, Verity Vote points out that the ballots could still be returned in person on election day. The organization provided this information to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott).
An investigation completed in January by Verity Vote found that 740,000 ballots in the 2020 election in Maricopa County had no chain of custody. The organization looked at 1,895 forms providing chain of custody for ballots, and found over 80% of them were lacking ballot counts. There were other problems such as no times recorded. In Arizona, Brnovich’s investigation of the Maricopa County independent ballot audit, he found 100,000 to 200,000 ballots were lacking a chain of custody.
The Sun Times asked the Maricopa County Treasurer whether any ballots from the Nov. 4 batch were transmitted there, and a spokesperson said they had no records responsive to the request.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].