Sharpe to the Point: Election Security

Jim SharpeSeptember 6, 2022
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I recently talked to Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone about how safe voters and election workers felt during the primary election in August, and if he was planning anything different security-wise for Election Day this fall.

He told me on Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR that he will “turn it up a notch, because we know that the turnout is going to be more, the intensity is going to be higher.” That’s a wise move – because the people who most loudly grouse about “election security” (read: disgruntled Donald Trump voters) seem to be the ones most eager to “go higher.” 

Penzone told me that his (mainly plain-clothed) deputies witnessed behavior during the primary that – while not blatantly criminal – could certainly be viewed as “bullying.” He says election workers found themselves being recorded on cellphones as they went in and out of polling places and the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office on Election Day. And some had their license plates recorded as well.

These self-appointed security teams explained they were only “protecting the vote” for like-partied candidates.


There’s no law against taking video of someone in public – because there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy in public – but that doesn’t mean the bullies won’t distribute the lawful images without lies attached to them. 

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University released a survey this spring showing that, nationwide, one in three election officials know someone who left their job because of threats and intimidation – and one in six had experienced a threat themselves.

Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, whose office oversees the country’s second-largest electoral district, has faced slander and out-and-out threats for his (perceived) part in Trump’s 2020 downfall… even though he wasn’t in office in 2020.

I feel terrible for him – but at least he’s a 30-something dude in decent physical condition with a public platform to defend himself from the lies election deniers tell about him.

I’m much more worried about the sweet, old ladies who seem to be the majority of workers at polling locations on Election Day. Are grown-ass, pickup-truck-drivin’, muscle-shirt-wearing, Trump-lovin’ men really trying to scare them off the job? That ain’t right.

Rather than trying to physically intimidate frail widows who pose a much bigger threat to drivers doing the speed limit than they ever will to democracy, I have a few suggestions for the tough Trumpers, so they can keep things civil. 

Get the mostly Trump-aligned Arizona Legislature to pass a law that states any Election Day volunteer or worker found to be cheating will heretofore be denied senior discounts, banned from purchasing Engelbert Humperdinck LPs, blocked from posting grandkid pictures on Facebook and forced to surrender their flip phone.

That oughta scare ’em straight! Faced with the horrific thought of not being able to buy a 65-cent coffee at McDonald’s and nurse it for three hours will surely keep them from getting on their secret computer to manipulate Italian satellites, email the ballot mules or help land the choppers with bamboo ballots from Asia behind the church where I vote.


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