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Update, Jan 29: The Arizona Republican Party voted on Saturday, Jan. 27 to elect Gina Swoboda as chairman of the party.
A candidate to chair the Arizona Republican Party called on Maricopa County supervisors in 2022 to delay certifying the state’s midterm election, which would have violated state law, according to an email obtained by Votebeat.
Jim O’Connor, chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, sent an email to Maricopa County supervisors on Nov. 27, 2022, asking them to delay certifying the election. Maricopa County provided the email to Votebeat in response to a public records request.
“Please look over the attached and allow reason and prudence to lead you all to delay certification of your County canvass until all the facts come to light,” O’Connor wrote, asserting that he had attached evidence that the county’s voting equipment wasn’t properly certified. The Secretary of State’s Office has since provided evidence showing that the equipment was properly certified.
The supervisors rejected his request and voted to certify the election the following day, as planned, meeting the deadline in state law.
O’Connor is being floated as a potential replacement for Jeff DeWit, who resigned as chairman this week after Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, released a recording of him asking her to name her price to “take a pause” from running for election in the state. The GOP’s voting members could elect a new chairman at a mandatory statewide party meeting Saturday that was scheduled long before DeWit’s resignation.
It’s unclear if O’Connor’s letter was just sent to Maricopa County supervisors, or to other supervisors across the state as well. He sent the email from his personal account, but signed it “Arizona Corporation Commissioner.”
O’Connor did not immediately respond to a call requesting comment Friday.
Republican supervisors across the state were pressured by Republican politicians and residents in November 2022 not to certify the election, but Cochise County’s two Republican supervisors were the only ones in the state to actually delay the certification. That decision now has them facing felony charges after an indictment from a state grand jury.
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O’Connor has been an underlying force in Arizona for the push to get rid of ballot tabulation machines and, instead, to hand-count ballots. He’s a supporter of the “one day one vote” movement which would eliminate mail-in voting and early voting. And he’s long called into question the fairness of the state’s elections, including in multiple emails to county supervisors across the state since 2022.
Electing O’Connor could potentially lead to a change in tone for the state GOP. While prior Chairman Kelli Ward was focused on false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, DeWit often said he wanted to move the party forward.
O’Connor pressures county supervisors
In O’Connor’s Nov. 27 letter to the supervisors, he said the primary and general elections were “Null & Void,” because of the machine-certification issue. O’Connor attached documents that he believed supported his contention that the certifications were invalid.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has provided information showing that the certifications of the machines were valid for the state’s 2020 and 2022 elections.
It’s not the first time county supervisors had heard from O’Connor.
In May 2022, O’Connor encouraged people and organizations across Arizona to sign a declaration asking lawmakers to return to in-person Election Day voting, and stating that the “move to mail-in and drop-box voting in Arizona has undermined the integrity of our electoral process.”
On Aug. 30, 2022, O’Connor sent a letter to county supervisors saying that he had attended MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “The Moment of Truth Summit” and was “convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, no one can make a legitimate claim that our election machines and equipment are exempt from a cyber-attack creating an election outcome that cannot be trusted.”
In September 2022, O’Connor used his role as corporation commissioner, which regulates utilities in the state, to try to discuss blocking counties from using voting machines.
O’Connor had requested a meeting for the corporation commissioners to discuss recommending that county officials abandon their use, according to a story from The Arizona Republic at the time. The request was blocked by the chairwoman.
In October 2022, when voting had already begun for the midterm election, he wrote to Maricopa County supervisors and other elected officials twice again raising the certification issue and other issues with voting machines. He told them that they were not required to use the machines to count ballots, under state law. He urged them to acquire proof that the machines didn’t violate state and federal law.
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“We must remedy and prevent what is certain to otherwise be a catastrophic failure and injury to the people of Arizona,” he wrote.
A year after the midterm, in October 2023, he wrote to supervisors again asking them not to use machines to count votes in the 2024 election.
“Each of you shall be in my prayers and the prayers of all who join me, as you deliberate the merits of not using machines and tabulators in our 2024 elections,” he wrote.
He has also said that the Maricopa County supervisors cannot be trusted to run the 2024 election, and called on voters to vote them out.
GOP spokesperson Dajana Zlaticanin said that the acting chairman is preparing for a vote to take place on Saturday. The party’s bylaws say that upon vacancy, the acting chair can call for the election within 45 days. The voting members can also call for an election on the spot Saturday, she said.
Jen Fifield is a reporter for Votebeat based in Arizona. Contact Jen at email@example.com.