State Watch

Arizona Republicans propose breaking up Maricopa County

A group of Arizona Republican legislators led by a staunch backer of former President Trump has proposed breaking the state’s largest county into four smaller counties after a partisan GOP-ordered audit confirmed President Biden carried Maricopa County and the state’s electoral votes in 2020.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Jake Hoffman (R), would divide Maricopa County into three counties that favored Trump by wide margins in the 2020 election, and one that contained concentrated Democratic voters in and around the county’s largest city, Phoenix. 

Hoffman is one of eleven Republicans drawing scrutiny for signing onto a document falsely claiming to be official electors who planned to cast the state’s Electoral College votes for Trump. That document, like those signed by Republicans in other states, is under investigation by the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and the Department of Justice. 

Arizona Republicans who support unfounded claims undermining Biden’s victory in the state have been at war with Maricopa County since last year, when the GOP-controlled state Senate ordered a partisan audit of the county’s vote results.

The audit pitted those Republicans against the County Board of Supervisors, four of five of whom are also Republicans. The audit, led by a firm that had no experience auditing elections, did not uncover any evidence that supported Trump’s case; it also resulted in its own profound miscount of the county’s votes. 

The sponsors of the bill called it “a legislative proposal with bipartisan support designed to ensure that Arizona governments remain accountable and representative to the community for generations to come,” said Andrew Wilder, communications director for the state House Republican Caucus.

The bill was dropped on the final day in which legislators could introduce new proposals this year, a sign that it is unlikely to advance, according to legislative insiders.

“You look at what happened here in the last election and folks who couldn’t let it go continue to not let it go,” said state Rep. Lorenzo Sierra (D), who represents several neighborhoods in the southwestern corner of Maricopa County in the legislature. “This is big government conservatives trying to force government down our throat.” 

Maricopa County is shaped like a capital P. The proposal would jam Democratic voters in and around Phoenix into a new, smaller Maricopa County that favored Biden by 30 points in 2020. A second county, Hohokam, would stretch through fast-growing suburbs and exurbs from Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert that favored Trump by eight points.

A third county, Mogollon, would run north and east of downtown Phoenix, including Scottsdale and the Superstition Mountains. It backed Trump by about eight points, according to one calculation. And a fourth county, O’odham, would take in Sun City and rural Maricopa County, west to Tonopah and Wickenburg and south to Gila Bend. That county backed Trump by 17 points.

Biden became the first Democrat since Bill Clinton to carry Arizona’s 11 electoral votes in 2020, by a margin of about 10,500 votes. He won Maricopa County, home to about 60 percent of Arizona’s registered voters, by about 45,000 votes.

Maricopa County Republicans, including County Recorder Stephen Richter (R), who won his seat in the same election Trump lost, have been among the most vocal in defending the results of the last election. Members of the Board of Supervisors have repeatedly disclosed threatening messages they and their families received in the wake of the election and the partisan audit.

Hoffman’s proposal is one of dozens of bills introduced this year that would overhaul Arizona election provisions and practices, a dramatic increase in the attention paid to election administration driven by Republicans infuriated by Trump’s loss and their inability to prove anything went wrong.

“If this was a serious effort to take a look at how to apportion the county, it wouldn’t have been done in this manner,” Sierra said.

Tags Bill Clinton Donald Trump Joe Biden

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