ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — As election season gets underway, officials in a key battleground state said they are prepared to handle the task of counting and certifying ballots despite a rise in threats.

Nearly four years ago, the staff at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix was hounded by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, who pushed his false claims that votes in his favor were not counted.

Maricopa County election officials and workers have been harassed and threatened over those false claims long after the election was certified, according to Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer.

“This isn’t just a normal political lie,” he told ABC News. “This is a lie that then leads to targeting of people.”

Richer, a Republican who has been in his position since 2021, said he has taken steps to ensure that his office completes the certification process properly and transparently.

Richer has been offering public tours of his facility and posting live streams of many of the processes that take place there — from tabulating votes from voting machines to hand-checking the thousands of mail-in ballots that come in every election.

During a tour of the facility with ABC News, Richer showed how the ballot processing team takes on counting those mail-in ballots and how every aspect is thoroughly vetted.

“These are teams of different parties, so by the lanyard that they’re wearing, either Republican or Democrat — or yellow is an Independent,” he said of the ballot workers.

Richer said “millions of dollars” have been added since 2020 to help improve his office. But despite the transparency and extra resources, Richer said the police have made arrests against people who have threatened him and his staff.

“We’re talking about the stuff like, ‘we are coming to hang you, we are coming to shoot you,’” he explained.

Richer is facing a reelection challenge from State Rep. Justin Heap (R), who has been backed by state lawmakers who have also denied the outcome of the 2020 election. Heap did not respond to ABC News for comment.

When asked by ABC News about the large number of election denial claims coming from his own party, Richer said, “We’re better than the drivel that you might see on the 27th comment on a blog post.”

“But some of that has been elevated by people who are in positions of power and words matter, and words matter from these people,” he added.

Those words have already affected some Maricopa election officials’ future.

Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman said he won’t seek reelection this year following threats against him and his family since 2020. He is one of two Maricopa election officials who declined to run for reelection.

“Your own party is shoving knives in your back when you walk out the door. And it’s very difficult. It’s been very difficult to deal with for myself [and] my colleagues,” Hickman, a Republican, told ABC News.

Hickman said he received several death threats and at one point 100 people came to his house while he, his wife and children were home. Two sheriff’s deputies were stationed outside to guard his home.

“It’s horrible to talk to citizens and say, ‘Hey, can you come out and help run an election? Can you observe the election?’ I don’t want any part of that because of bad behavior, because of criticism,” Hickman said. “It’s ridiculously horrible. If you can’t get the best, expect the worst.”

Richer said that despite the threats, he is confident he and his team will conduct their duties this November.

“The board is committed. Their side of the operation is committed. Everyone understands the game plan. Arizonans are going to be able to participate. Their votes are going to count. It’s going to be valid. It’s going to be bipartisan. It’s going to be fair, and it’s going to be certified eventually,” he said.

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