Arizona expects to be at the center of the election attacks again. Officials are in violation

(Sait Serkan Gurbuz / Associated Press)

Arizona expects to be at the center of the election attacks again. Officials are in violation

Election 2024


March 24, 2024

The room is behind a chain link fence and then behind black iron gates. Guards block the entrance, which requires a security badge. The glass surrounding it is unbreakable.

What deserves all these layers of protection is somewhat surprising: the mapping of vote-counting machines in Arizona’s Maricopa County. The safety measures are a necessary expense, said county Recorder Stephen Richer, as Arizona and

Maricopaits largest province

have become hotbeds of election misinformation leading to intimidation of election workers.

What would be even more shameful is if we couldn’t look workers in the eye and say, ‘We’re doing everything we can to make sure you’re safe,'” he said.

Richer’s job is to oversee voter registration and early voting

in Arizona’s largest county

, but much of his time is spent preparing for disinformation and its consequences. The state’s razor-thin presidential outcome in 2020 made it a national one

hotspot epicenter

for conspiracy theories about voter fraud and false results.

The false claims made by prominent Republican candidates have prompted protesters to gather outside polling places and patrol mailboxes. They have led to death threats against election workers and their families

to have

prompted key election officials to resign.

Election meddling officials have also attempted hacking

Arizona belongs to the state

electronic systems, said Foreign Affairs Minister Adrian Fontes.

The challenges come as understaffed and underfunded election offices across the country face persistent disinformation and intimidation of election workers, artificial intelligence deep fakes, potential cyberattacks from foreign governments and criminal ransomware attacks.

With the elections approaching this fall,



a Republican,




a democrat,

to take


aggressive steps

than ever

to rebuild trust with Arizona voters, combat disinformation, and address threats immediately.


they said

hope this is enough to counter an attack they know will happen in November.

Fontes, a Marine Corps veteran, has since brought his military mentality to the office

He started to become Minister of Foreign Affairs

last year. He has deployed tiger teams to solve problems and hosted simulations of AI-generated disinformation.

He also created a four-person information security team. One member does




to monitor the internet for election-related disinformation and threats.

Conservatives in other states have objected to their election offices partnering with companies to monitor online postings, arguing that it allows government surveillance and censorship. Arizonans who voted before last Tuesday’s presidential primary in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe were also unconvinced.

Are you monitoring it for threats? Sura. You have to guarantee safety, said 40-year-old Thomas Abia. But he called monitoring untruths a gray area.”

Fontes defends the need for a dedicated employee, whose name he declined to share to protect that person’s safety.

Yes, we are monitoring a certain group, he said. We are monitoring people who want to destroy our democracy. And that’s not political.

The team leader, Michael Moore,

chief information security officer

at Fontes, Michael Moore’s office

previously did similar work for Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.

He said

After seeing threats that disrupted workers’ lives, he decided

believes was convinced

those who spread disinformation are responsible

he said


Sophisticated snake oil salesmen tell people what they want to hear in the spirit of an election conspiracy and that encourages people to take action, Moore said.

Fontes and Richer agree that restoring public trust requires transparency.

Fontes is testing a nationwide system that will allow voters to receive text messages when their ballot is mailed, delivered, returned and counted. Richer recently hosted his first Ask Me Anything live video session on

the social media platform


the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Wrong information has led to doubt among many voters.

Jane Carter, a 62-year-old property manager, is one of them. A Republican, she

she said

has no confidence in election officials.

“I don’t really have much confidence in anyone doing anything,” she said.

Carter said her concerns increased when a 101-year-old in her care received multiple ballots in the mail.

Signature verification and other security measures make the risk of fraud in mail-in voting extremely low. But Richer said he has been collecting voter lists to minimize the number of ballots sent to the wrong place, hoping

encouraging it can give voters a boost

to trust

in the process

. His office also posts live feeds from the tabulation center 24 hours a day, even when


activists have harassed the workers shown on camera.

We continue to lack transparency and then try to address the consequences if they are negative, he said.

Republican Senator Ken Bennett argues that even more transparency is needed. Last year, he sponsored a bipartisan bill that would require detailed voter data and images of cast ballots to be posted online.

The legislation, which Fontes supported, passed but was vetoed by the government last May. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat. She said it threatened voter anonymity and placed an unnecessary burden on election workers.

It proves difficult to change public perception.

During the recent presidential primaries, Richer saw a conservative activist on X complaining about receiving two ballots.

Richer, huh?

suspected she had changed address


close to the election, resulting in a second ballot delivered to her new home. That wouldn’t be a cause for concern: Once the new ballot went out, the county system would invalidate the initial

one, mood

and it would never be counted.

Richer responded to the post to explain. But people

still on the internet

used the post to claim that election

are not were not


Richer said he has to accept that some people won’t change their minds.

I was a romantic who believed in some kind of marketplace of ideas where, you know, the best ideas and the truth will bubble up to the top, because man is a rational being, he said. “I’m not sure I feel that way anymore.”

So when a voter voted on X during the presidential election


I do not trust you. Richer responded the best way he knew how.

Okay, he wrote. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you think differently.

Swenson writes for the Associated Press.


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