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Maricopa County election security: Proactive steps to protect democracy detailed by sheriff

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and County Recorder Stephen Richer provided details on the "high level overview of the steps being taken to ensure public safety and protect the electoral process during the primary and general elections in Maricopa County" as the midterm election is just less than two weeks away on Aug. 2.

In a news conference on July 20, plans on keeping the county's election security at the highest level were detailed.

Penzone says the county is looking to promote "safe and healthy" elections." He says he never would have predicted that law enforcement would be heavily invested in the COVID-19 pandemic, like providing public safety measures in jails, as well as our democracy.

He says our democracy has been "challenged, questioned, threatened, intimidated."

The sheriff's office is dedicated to making sure people who can lawfully vote can vote without any form of intimidation. He says because of this, the sheriff's office was suddenly trusted into being a bigger part of the election process than ever before.

"We have always worked in this space, providing security at polling sites as needed should there be an issue of concern. An escalation of violence for whatever reason, provocation, intimidation. Things that could never be permitted in a free nation or democracy," Penzone said.

The sheriff says he wants to stay ahead of any security issues that may arise, rather than be reactionary, protecting people after the fact.

Penzone let his office know that deputies will not be allowed personal time off during the week of the primary and general elections to "ensure that we have enough staffing to meet whatever demand there may be."

"If you act accordingly, then that's wonderful. But if you act unfit with the law, then we will respond and address it," Penzone remarked.

Richer agrees with Penzone, saying his the Maricopa County Elections Department to wants safe, secure, transparent and fair elections.

"We want to show you how this process works, we believe in this process, we know that this process is tested, we know that this process is the result of bipartisan Arizonans working together in groups of up to 3,000 temporary workers for this election cycle," Richer said.

It wasn’t long ago crowds protested outside the former Maricopa County Recorder's Office while votes were being counted in November 2020.

Penzone said nothing has changed in the last few weeks in regard to why deputies are being asked to be ready, but simply they’re responding to the political landscape of the last two years.

"We’re just being more robust in this election to ensure there are plain clothes deputies who will be surveilling areas that are polling sites and make sure there are no issues that we believe will conflict with someone’s right to vote peacefully," Penzone explained.

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Watch the full news conference here: