Oct 19, 2022 - Politics

Conspiracy theories loom over race for Arizona's secretary of state

Photo illustration of Adrian Fontes and Mark Finchem.

Adrian Fontes (left) and Mark Finchem. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Alonso Parra, Mario Tama/Getty Images

The secretary of state is Arizona's top election's official, and rarely do two candidates for the office have such differing views than Republican Mark Finchem and Democrat Adrian Fontes.

  • Finchem is a real estate agent and former police officer who has been a member of the Arizona House of Representatives since 2015.
  • Fontes is an attorney who served as Maricopa County recorder from 2017-20.

State of play: The 2022 race between the two candidates has largely been defined by the 2020 presidential election.

  • Finchem is among the state's most ardent supporters of the false claims that the election was rigged against former President Trump, and he was part of the rally on Jan. 6 that preceded the insurrection.
  • Fontes has defended the integrity of the 2020 election, which he oversaw in Maricopa County.

What they'd do

Finchem: Finchem has emphasized improving election integrity and security.

  • His oft-repeated mantra is that the secretary of state must simply "follow the law," and he criticizes Fontes for actions he took as county recorder that were struck down by the courts.
  • Finchem's plans include cleaning up the state's voter rolls, quarantining ballots that are subject to legal challenges and investigating software used by ballot tabulation equipment.
  • He has said he would only certify the 2024 presidential election results if he believed there was no fraud, though state law does not empower the secretary of state to make such judgment calls.

Fontes: Fontes has focused on expanding ballot access, making elections accessible to as many people as possible and protecting democracy.

  • He wants to encourage all counties to use voting centers, where any eligible voter can cast ballots, which would eliminate the disqualification of ballots that are cast in the wrong precinct.
  • Fontes would urge the legislature to pass a law allowing voters to sign petitions for ballot measures online, which they can already do for candidates.
  • He argues that free elections in Arizona could be compromised if Finchem is elected, and questions whether Finchem will certify the 2024 election results if the candidates he supports don't win.

Catch up quick: Each person is critical of the other's records on election issues.

  • Finchem sponsored legislation to throw out legitimate election results in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties and to decertify Arizona's electoral votes for President Biden.
  • He's also a plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to ban ballot counting by tabulation machines, which was thrown out by a judge, and has been critical of no-excuse early voting.
  • Under Fontes' watch, the 2018 primary election faced serious problems, including 62 polling places not opening on time, broken check-in machines and printers running out of ink.
  • Fontes attempted to send early ballots to all eligible voters in the Democratic presidential primary as a COVID safety measure, which a judge found to be illegal.

Of note: The secretary of state is first in the line of succession if the governor leaves office early, which happens surprisingly often in Arizona.

  • Five of the nine governors who preceded Gov. Doug Ducey left office before the end of their terms.

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