Editor’s Note: Stephen Richer is the Maricopa County recorder. He was elected, as a Republican, in November 2020, and took office in January. Richer holds a J.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from Tulane University. The opinions expressed here are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
I didn’t want to be in the spotlight. Truly.
I ran on the platform of making the “Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Boring Again.” I sought to competently, fairly, lawfully and quietly administer and manage the three duties of the office: public recordings, voter registration and election administration.
To that end, prior to Friday, I had declined every interview invitation since taking office. I tried my best to stay on the sidelines even as Arizona elections continued to be the subject of vitriol, lies and conspiracy theories.
But I am human. I have my limits. Since taking office in January, I have enlisted legal counsel multiple times to defend myself from outlandish criminal accusations. I have been accused of shredding tabulated ballots. My office has been accused of using fake ballots flown in from South Korea. These claims haven’t been confined to inconsequential conspiracy theorists – they’ve been indulged by the likes of the current state Senate Republican whip Sonny Borrelli.
These claims are especially rich, given that I didn’t take office until January, having unseated the incumbent Democrat recorder in the November election (yes, I unseated the Democrat head of county elections in the same election that is being said to have been stolen from Republicans).
I also have my staff. The Recorder’s Office and Elections Department is home to 160 full-time employees. During a major election, our team swells to approximately 3,000. They work long hours. They are knowledgeable and passionate about their jobs. They are good people. They are people of integrity. They are my friends. They are people simply doing their jobs and do not deserve this.
Last Wednesday, the Twitter account “Maricopa Arizona Audit” – an account that is run by an undisclosed person or company – wrote: “Breaking Update: Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases from the 2020 election cycle days before the election equipment was delivered to the audit. This is spoliation of evidence!”
This was laughably inaccurate. The state Senate, as well as its auditors (led by the Cyber Ninjas who had no election experience prior to reviewing one small county in the 2020 election), have now acknowledged that the files were not removed. Whoops.
But the genie was out of the bottle. The defamatory tweet had stayed pinned to the audit’s Twitter page for five days.
Then former President Donald Trump amplified the erroneous allegation. Several of my supporters and friends – people whose good opinion I value – forwarded me the former President’s statement saying that the “entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!” and asked “why are you doing this Stephen? Why are you deleting these files?”
That was enough. It was time to loudly speak up to defend my name, my team’s name and the county’s name.
It was also time to loudly speak the truth.
The truth is that there is no solid evidence of significant fraud in Maricopa County’s November 3 election. There is no solid evidence that the election in Maricopa County was stolen from former President Trump. That is why all eight cases brought in Arizona state and federal courts alleging widespread fraud, inaccuracies, or irregularities lost spectacularly. And yes, I believe in the court system and the rule of law.
In denying that Arizona’s election was stolen, I join the ranks of Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, the state’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, our Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and former President Trump’s leadership team at the Department of Justice, all of whom disclaimed widespread fraud in Arizona’s elections. I even join the lawyer for President Trump’s campaign in Arizona who very responsibly stated to an Arizona judge, “We are not alleging fraud. We are not saying anyone is trying to steal the election.”
I also join the entire Maricopa County team. We are united – Republican (majority) and Democrat (minority) alike. The Board of Supervisors has carried the water for six months now. They have been subjected to every vile tactic in the book as a result. It’s time they have teammates standing up for the truth besides them.
Hopefully, by speaking out, other elected Arizona Republicans will be encouraged to do the same. Many elected officials have privately shared that they do not believe that Arizona’s election was stolen. I hope they will speak out now.
If they don’t, I fear the future of Arizona elections.