Key Arizona election official to step down amid harassment and conspiracy theories

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, a high-profile election official who has faced heavy scrutiny and harassment in one of the country’s largest counties over the last two cycles, is stepping down at the end of his term.

Gates, an Arizona Republican, announced his intention on Thursday to not run for reelection in 2024, saying in a statement that he intends to “pursue other interests and opportunities.” His decision was first reported by The Washington Post.

A spokesperson for Gates pointed POLITICO to Gates’ statement when asked for further comment.

Gates, who, along with his family, has been the target of threats and attacks during his tenure from those trumpeting false election claims, previously said that he suffers from PTSD. He is just one of many election administrators choosing not to run again following years of harassment from conspiracy theorists and a widespread lack of support for their work.

“Regardless of personal partisan preferences or external pressure, I remained focused on making our region the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” Gates said in Thursday’s statement. “My will to fight for the truth remains unhindered, and I look forward to Maricopa County running the 2024 election.”

Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county that’s home to close to 5 million people, has been in the center of litigation and conspiracy theories about the validity of election outcomes.

Gates has drawn criticism from defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who tried unsuccessfully to get the county to redo her contest, claiming that “hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots infected the election.”

“Mr. [Gates’] malicious incompetence has been an albatross on Maricopa County,” Lake’s campaign account tweeted in response to the announcement. “We encourage Mr. Gates to never involve himself in representative politics again.”

The county experienced issues with its printers in the midterm elections. But an external investigation completed earlier this year found those problems were due to equipment failure — not intentional misconduct.

Those election fraud conspiracy theories aren’t new. Following the 2020 presidential race, a Republican-backed audit of Maricopa County’s election debunked former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was rigged.

Gates is one of four Republicans on the county’s five-person Board of Supervisors — all of whom the county’s Republican Party censured following the 2022 midterms due to claims of “avoidable errors” that lead to “significant voter disenfranchisement.” All of the supervisors are up for reelection in 2024.

Gates was first elected to the board in 2016, and served as chair of the board in 2019 and 2022. Prior to joining the board, he served on the Phoenix City Council.