Ballot Printer Delayed Maricopa Voting, Contrary to Unfounded Claims
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Tabulating machines at some polling locations in Maricopa County, Arizona, couldn’t process ballots during part of Election Day, though affected voters could leave their ballots in a secure box or go elsewhere to vote. But some conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, made the unfounded claim that the setback indicated an attempt to “steal” the election.
Printers in Maricopa County, Arizona, produced ballots that were too light for scanners to read at some polling locations for part of the day on Election Day, according to the Maricopa County Elections Department.
Election workers identified the problem and began fixing it by mid-afternoon, the elections department said in a post on Twitter. Tabulators at approximately 60 of the county’s more than 200 polling locations were affected.
Throughout the day, election officials advised that voters could leave their ballot in a secure box to be tabulated later, or they could check out of the polling location and cast a ballot at a different location.
Arizona’s elections have drawn national attention in this midterm cycle in part because a slate of election deniers were on the ballot for statewide office — including the Republican candidate for governor, Kari Lake, who started casting doubt on this year’s election as ballots were being counted in her close race. Arizona also had one of the tight races that could determine control of the Senate, between Sen. Mark Kelly, a Democrat, and Republican Blake Masters.
So it wasn’t surprising that conservative commentators with large followings on social media used the ballot situation to stoke anxiety about the integrity of the election.
Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, was among the first to do so, according to a graph compiled by researchers at the University of Washington that charted the rise of claims about the Maricopa situation.
One of Kirk’s tweets claimed: “2 hour wait minimum at most polling places in Maricopa. Democrats running elections here knew this would happen. Traffic jam by design. DONT LET THEM DO 2020 AGAIN.”
The county responded, sharing a screenshot of Kirk’s tweet with a post that said, “No part of the tweet below is accurate. The vast majority of Vote Centers are seeing wait times under 30 minutes, and whether by tabulator or secure ballot box, all voters are being served.” The county included a link to its election website, where voters could find information on polling places and wait times.
It’s also worth noting that elections in Maricopa County, contrary to Kirk’s claim, are run by a Republican-controlled board of supervisors and recorder’s office. Four of the five members of the board of supervisors, including the board chairman, are Republicans, as is the Maricopa County recorder.
So, there weren’t long lines at most polling locations, and the officials in charge of the election were almost exclusively Republican.
The county responded, sharing a screenshot of Kirk’s tweet with a post that said, in part, “No part of the tweet below is accurate.”
Still, others — including Donald Trump Jr. and commentator Candace Owens — amplified similar suggestions over the course of the afternoon, according to the University of Washington graph.
Former President Donald Trump, who has frequently spread election misinformation, made suggestive claims on his own social media platform. He claimed “they” — without identifying anyone — were trying to “steal” the election.
But from the time that the county posted a video of elections officials reporting the problem in the morning, it appeared to be an issue affecting a minority of locations and the county offered remedies for any voter who was affected.
Stephen Richer, the Maricopa County Recorder, reassured voters in a statement, saying: “Every legal vote will be tabulated. I promise.”
So, the combination of closely watched races with a malfunction in the election machinery was a recipe for widespread conspiratorial claims. Other largely innocuous glitches in election machines have led to similar claims elsewhere, including Detroit, where election officials explained that they had resolved a “harmless data error” that had caused confusion at some polling locations. As we have written, Trump had made misleading claims about that city, too.
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