Arizona primary 2022 updates: Pinal County names new recorder in reshuffle after election woes

Most of the outstanding ballots from Tuesday's Arizona primary will be counted by Friday night, officials said.

In the governor's race, Republican Kari Lake was declared the primary winner Thursday night by the Associated Press. Lake will face Democrat Katie Hobbs in the November general election. As a result, Arizona will elect its fifth female governor, more than any other state.

Follow coverage of Arizona's primary election by Republic reporters here.

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6:45 p.m.: Pinal County names new recorder in reshuffle after election woes

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors named a replacement for the elected recorder on Friday as it continues to address primary elections problems that the board chairman called a “major screw-up.”

The five-member board voted unanimously to name Assistant Recorder Dana Lewis to the position that handles early ballot mailing and voter rolls and filing of documents such as deeds. Lewis replaces former Recorder Virginia Ross, who stepped down Thursday to take over as elections director.

County officials did not blame fired former elections Director David Frist for the problems during a Wednesday news conference but then fired him the next day.

Members of the public who spoke at the brief emergency meeting Friday praised the board's action, saying it goes a long way to restoring trust in the elections.

Lewis, a former elections employee, moved into the recorder's office earlier this year. She will fill the remainder of the elected post until 2024 when another election will be held.

Ross had been the recorder since being elected in 2012.

The recorder's office oversaw elections until county supervisors separated the elections department in 2017. The county since has had at least three elections directors, who handle Election Day operations that include polling places and ballot counting.

The board plans to focus on elections at several upcoming meetings to ensure the November general election goes smoothly.

— Associated Press

3:45 p.m.: Groups opposing Stop Dark Money initiative take fight to court

As candidate fights in the primary election were being decided, a new fight opened up over Voters’ Right to Know initiative, which addresses anonymous campaign contributions.

A coalition of groups that opposes such disclosure has gone to court, challenging whether the initiative, better known as the Stop Dark Money initiative, gathered enough valid signatures to get on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court questions whether petition circulators were properly registered with the Arizona secretary of state. It also alleges that some of the registrations lacked a sworn affidavit and that some of the petitions failed to list the campaign headquarters as the proper address for serving legal notices.

The campaign last month submitted about 393,000 citizen signatures on its petitions, 155,365 more than the required 237,635.

The groups trying to block the initiative include the Goldwater Institute, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, the Center for Arizona Policy Action and Americans for Prosperity.

It’s not the first time the anti-dark money drive has faced court challenges. In 2018, a similar challenge knocked the measure off the ballot.

Terry Goddard, the campaign’s chairman, said they learned their lesson and took strides over the past two years to ensure the petitions met the strict requirements for validation.

The battle will play out in court over the coming weeks.

Another lawsuit, filed late last week, mounts a similar challenge to the Free and Fair Elections Act. The complaint from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club says the wide-ranging election measure lacks enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The act contains numerous changes to how Arizona votes, including restoration of the Permanent Early Voting List and the creation of same-day voter registration.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

3 p.m.: 22 votes separate JP candidates

Just 22 votes separate two Democrats competing to be West McDowell justice of the peace, making it one of the tightest races in Tuesday’s election.

State Rep. Robert Meza held a slight lead (2,174 votes) over incumbent Teresa Lopez (2,152 votes) after Thursday’s vote count.

Maricopa County has about 70,000 more votes to tally, although it's unclear how many of those would impact this race.

An automatic recount would be trigged if the race ends within a 10-vote difference, a county spokesperson confirmed.

Meza said Friday he’s “just embracing whatever the universe kind of presents … and being open to it.”

After 19 years at the state Legislature, Mesa said he stepped away to make room for a new generation of lawmakers. He said he ran for JP to use his community connections to help people, especially with eviction cases.

Justices of the peace hear cases such as small claims, evictions, orders of protection and some traffic infractions. The job comes with an annual salary of about $100,000.

Lopez, who did not immediately respond to The Arizona Republic’s request for comment, is seeking a second term.

Metro Phoenix had four competitive justice of the peace races and one competitive constable race on Tuesday.

— Maritza Dominguez

1:10 p.m.: Kelly Cooper wins GOP nod in 4th Congressional District

Kelly Cooper, a conservative running in the Phoenix-area 4th Congressional District on a Trump-style “America First” platform, will take on incumbent Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., on the Nov. 8 ballot.

With 100% of precincts reporting, Cooper defeated Tanya Contreras Wheeless, a former aide to Republican Sen. Martha McSally, and four other rivals to win the GOP nomination.

Former President Donald Trump opted not to endorse in the six-way Republican race but Cooper was a candidate who closely reflected Trump’s policies and priorities.

In a statement to The Arizona Republic after his win, Cooper said: “We are ready to go head to head with Greg Stanton and the failed policies of the Democratic Party. It is time to fight.”

— Tara Kavaler

12:45 p.m.: Fann’s campaign message on Senate letterhead raises ruckus

You can’t unsend the email.

A spokeswoman for the Arizona Senate tried to walk back a statement from President Karen Fann supporting Republican nominee for governor Kari Lake and trashing her Democratic opponent Katie Hobbs on Friday after the statement was sent on Senate letterhead and via the Senate’s official spokeswoman.

Arizona law says the state shall “not spend or use public resources to influence an election.”

The statement was “accidentally” sent from the official Senate email, spokeswoman Kim Quintero said in a follow-up email almost four hours later asking to retract the prior message.

The political point of Fann's message was clear, calling Hobbs unfit to lead the state and a “dangerous choice for Arizona governor” while throwing in some jabs at the “reckless and extremist policies of Democrats.”

— Stacey Barchenger

12:20 p.m.: Maricopa County to release another update Friday evening

Officials at the Maricopa County Election Department said updated results show 750,516 voters cast a ballot in Tuesday's primary election. That's nearly one in three eligible voters.

There are about 70,000 ballots left to be tabulated. 

The department said it will release another update by 7 p.m. Friday. The votes will include tallies from early ballots dropped off on election day and ballots that have been cured.

A cured ballot is one in which the county had to contact a voter to review their signature. There are 9,100 uncured ballots still.

The department has workers staying late into the evening calling voters to cure these ballots. Voters have until August 9 to cure their ballots. Uncured ballots are not counted.

The county expects to begin counting provisional ballots Saturday.

Also Saturday, the county invited the political parties to conduct hand count audits of select races. The county will oversee the process and remain in custody of the ballots, but it will not conduct the hand count itself. Instead, political party appointees are trained to do so.

— Taylor Seeley

10:45 a.m.: Ballot drop boxes won't be tampered with, says Coconino County Recorder

Ballot drop boxes are a hot topic in Arizona. And, as a call to the Coconino County Recorder’s Office showed, the interest isn’t limited to state borders.

Recorder Patty Hansen took a call from a man in South Carolina, wanting to know why the county doesn’t put cameras on its drop boxes. Her county boundaries are far flung, Hansen concedes, but the southeastern U.S. is way outside her territory.

Hansen said she was perplexed why a South Carolina resident would be so concerned about a northern Arizona county’s policy, but she had an answer to his question. The drop boxes are located at government buildings, including fire stations where people are posted around the clock.

Hansen said that provides a level of assurance that they won’t be tampered with. Besides, she said, the slot in the box is so narrow that, at best, only a few ballots can be inserted at the same time.

And, for the record, there have been no reports of people stuffing ballots into the boxes.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

9:45 a.m.: Reginald Bolding calls for unity behind Adrian Fontes

Reginald Bolding issued a statement Friday morning congratulating Adrian Fontes for his win in the Democratic primary for Arizona secretary of state.

“It’s time to unite behind leaders like Adrian, who will protect our elections from those who aim to tear them down,” Bolding said.

Bolding, the House minority leader, said Fontes will get his full support during the general election campaign.

“After taking time to rest with family, I look forward to working to ensure we defeat the most extreme slate of statewide Republican nominees in Arizona history,” Bolding wrote. “My passion is to continue working to improve the lives of Arizonans.”

Bolding is in his fourth and final term as a member of the House of Representatives and will serve as the Democrats’ leader until early 2023.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

8 a.m. Friday: How many votes are left to count in Maricopa County?

Maricopa County reported about 75,000 ballots in its latest results drop. Nearly 70,000 ballots remain to be counted.

The drop, which came just before 7 p.m. Thursday, brings the number of ballots tallied to 790,516. Officials said they verified all remaining early ballots Thursday. Those ballots will be sent to processing Friday.

Elections Department spokesperson Megan Gilbertson said Thursday that “a majority” of the remaining ballots should be counted by the end of the week.

County officials anticipate they will finish tallying unofficial results by Aug. 9, which is the statutory deadline for voters to “cure,” or verify, any questionable signatures on early ballots and provide proof of identification if they cast a conditional provisional ballot.

— Sasha Hupka

7:10 p.m.: Kari Lake wins primary

Kari Lake has won the Republican primary for Arizona governor, the Associated Press declared Thursday evening.

Kari Lake wins: Lake's win completes the sweep for Trump-backed candidates in Arizona

— Stacey Barchenger

7:10 p.m.: Fontes wins Democratic primary for secretary of state

Adrian Fontes has won the Democratic race for Arizona secretary of state, according to a projection from the Associated Press.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

7 p.m.: Lake now leads in Maricopa County

Kari Lake’s lead over challenger Karrin Taylor Robson widened on Thursday night as more votes in the race to the Republican nomination for governor were counted.

Lake was about 19,600 votes ahead, just shy of 3 percentage points, in the latest round of results. For the first time since results were reported on Tuesday evening, she overtook Taylor Robson’s lead in Maricopa County, albeit by about 2,500 votes.

The race has not been called, signaling the tightness of the contest and the pivotal role of election day voters whose ballots are still getting counted. Lake picked up two election day voters for every one that supported Taylor Robson, state results showed.

Lake, the former television news anchor from Phoenix, has already declared victory over Taylor Robson, the real estate developer and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents. Taylor Robson has not conceded.

— Stacey Barchenger

6:45 p.m.: Big results drop expected

Maricopa County will drop a new batch of results around 7 p.m. Thursday, Elections Department Spokesperson Megan Gilbertson said.

The results will include early ballots dropped off at voting sites on Monday and Tuesday. Gilbertson said elections workers have signature verified all remaining early ballots and officials expect to process the vast majority of outstanding ballots by the end of the week.

The county will continue to process ballots through Aug. 9, which is the deadline set by state law for voters to “cure,” or verify, any questionable signatures on early ballots and provide proof of identification if they cast a conditional provisional ballot on election day.

— Sasha Hupka

5:15 p.m.: Could the vote margin in the governor's race trigger a recount?

The vote margin between Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson is narrow as votes continue to be counted. But will it be so narrow as to trigger an automatic recount?

It would have to be really, really tight because, despite a bill that this year widened the margin, the new recount trigger won’t become law until Sept. 24.

That means that the gulf between the winning and losing candidate would have to be one-tenth of 1% of the total votes cast in the GOP race for governor. And given that race will have well over 700,000 votes when the counting is wrapped up, the margin would have to be 700 votes.

The new threshold makes the trigger five times greater than what current law calls for, or one half of 1 percent of total votes cast. With the 700,000 vote theoretical example, that would be 3,500 votes.

The new recount trigger was in a bill sponsored by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale. It was a reaction to Joe Biden’s 0.3% margin of victory in the Arizona presidential election.

Because the bill didn’t contain an emergency clause, it won’t become law until 90 days after the Legislature adjourned. In other words, after the votes have long been tabulated from Tuesday’s primary.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

5 p.m.: Thousands of ballots in Pinal County still remain uncounted

Roughly 50,000 early ballots remain to be counted in Pinal County, spokesperson James Daniels said.

Approximately 26,000 early ballots containing federal, congressional and state contests have yet to be tallied, as well as 14,000 supplementary ballots. Those were cast by voters living in municipalities impacted by last month’s error that caused Pinal to send out nearly 63,000 erroneous ballots. They contain only city and town contests.

About 10,000 early ballots still are awaiting signature verification.

All of the outstanding early ballots arrived at the county’s Elections Department or were dropped off by voters in the days leading up to election day, Daniels said.

Daniels expects more results to drop Thursday at 7:30 p.m. He did not say how many of the outstanding ballots may be included. All counting is expected to conclude Aug. 9.

— Sasha Hupka

4:45 p.m.: Kelli Ward tramples over John McCain as Meghan McCain weighs in

Kelli Ward took a victory lap after the slate of Trump-endorsed candidates chalked up wins* in Tuesday’s primary – and her route trampled right over John McCain.

“It’s been a long fight, 12 years,” she said in a Wednesday interview of Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast. “(T)aking on John McCain, taking on the machine and yesterday in Arizona was a culmination and it was an exorcism of John McCain from our state. And from our country.”

But the McCain spirit is far from dead.

Meghan McCain weighed in on the results on Twitter.

“Congratulations to my home state for full making the transition to full blown MAGA/conspiracy theory/fraudster,” she wrote. “The voters have spoken - be careful what you wish for…”

She had predicted a Kari Lake win, calling the Republican gubernatorial candidate “one of the great political lunatics of our time."

McCain lambasted Lake for her earlier support of Barack Obama and for being a “lifelong progressive liberal.”

“All she had to do was vomit up MAGA talking points and people bought it,” McCain tweeted. “She is a fraud, a conspiracy theorist, and not up to the character of Gov.”

She continued her Lake critique in an interview on the Commentary podcast.

“Her favorite thing to do is attack my family,” McCain said in the interview.

*Lake is leading in the GOP governor’s race, but no winner has been declared as ballots are still being tabulated.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

11:45 a.m.: Pinal County removes election director

Following a problem-filled primary election, Pinal County has removed its Elections Director David Frisk and he “is no longer employed” by the county, officials announced in a statement released Thursday.

County Recorder Virginia Ross has resigned from that position and will take over as elections director, the county said.

“As a Board, we are deeply embarrassed and frustrated by the mistakes that have been made in this primary election, and as such, we are taking immediate steps to ensure the November election runs smoothly, as elections in Pinal County have historically done prior to this primary,” said Jeffrey McClure, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said in the news release.

The Board of Supervisors will meet Friday morning to appoint a replacement for Ross, who was first elected recorder in 2012.

“Having been the recorder for Pinal County since 2013, this primary election has been a stinging experience for us all. I look forward to involving all stakeholders in Pinal County as we work together to finish this primary election, before immediately turning our attention to the November election,” Ross said in the news release.

— Wyatt Buchanan

9:45 a.m.: Masters to meet with parents about education issues

Senate candidate Blake Masters will reportedly talk with parents about public education in Arizona.

A roundtable was set for Thursday with "concerned Arizonans about parents rights and other issues in public education," according to a news release.

The roundtable was slated for 1 p.m. Thursday at 3336 E. Chandler Heights Road, Suite 117, in Gilbert.

To attend, email by 11 a.m.

— Mike Cruz

8 a.m.: Arizona poised to elect 5th female governor

No matter who is the Republic nominee for governor, Arizonans in November are poised to elect their fifth female governor, more than any other state in the country.

If Kari Lake secures the GOP nomination, the sprint to November's general election will pit one of the state's loudest 2020 election deniers, Lake, and its chief defender, Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Though the Republican race was too close to officially call, Lake declared victory on Wednesday afternoon as ballots cast on election day were counted and pushed her ahead of opponent Karrin Taylor Robson's advantage among early voters.

“We are so proud of the movement," Lake said during a news conference Wednesday. "We are so proud of the victory we have, and we are going to lead this state to its brightest days ahead.”

A spokesman for Taylor Robson declined to comment about Lake declaring victory with the race yet to be called.

Arizona's four previous women governors were Jan Brewer, Janet Napolitano, Jane Dee Hull and Rose Mofford.

— Stacey Barchenger

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona primary 2022: Live election updates