Tabulation problems at approximately 30 percent of Maricopa County’s 223 voting locations in the 2022 midterm elections were the result of a technical printer issue, not fraud, county election officials told NewsGuard.
“It appears some of the printers were not producing dark enough timing marks on the ballots,” Maricopa County spokeswoman Amy Bolton told NewsGuard in a Nov. 8, 2022, emailed statement. She added that county technicians were able to resolve the issue by changing the printer settings at 17 locations, and that “technicians deployed throughout the county are working to resolve this issue at the remaining locations.”
Early on Nov. 8, conservative commentators including Charlie Kirk, Benny Johnson, and Tyler Bowyer shared videos on Twitter of poll workers in Arizona explaining that tabulators were not properly functioning. Hours later, several NewsGuard Red-rated websites began citing the videos of poll workers to baselessly claim that election officials were committing fraud. “They are stealing this right before our very eyes,” stated a Nov. 8 article from the GellerReport.com. A Nov. 8 BeforeItsNews.com article stated, ”Ballots being ‘misread.’ This is how elections are stolen.”
There is no evidence that the tabulation errors resulted from fraud. In a Nov. 8 video uploaded to Twitter, Maricopa County Elections Department chairman Bill Gates and county recorder Stephen Richer, both of whom are Republicans, stressed that while tabulators at multiple polling sites were experiencing technical issues, voters were given the option of visiting another polling location, or placing their paper ballot in a secure dropbox attached to the tabulators labeled “Box 3.” Ballots placed in that box would be tabulated the next morning, according to a Nov. 8 tweet from the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.
“Everyone is still … able to vote,” Gates told KPNX, a Phoenix-based NBC affiliate. “No one is being disenfranchised. None of this indicates any fraud.” An unnamed senior official with the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told CNBC on Nov. 8 that the technical issues “should not affect anybody’s ability to cast a ballot,” noting that Arizona is an “all-paper ballot state.”
While speaking to reporters on Nov. 8, Lake criticized her opponent, Katie Hobbs, for running for governor while overseeing Arizona’s elections as secretary of state, and suggested she played a role in the tabulation errors. “I think she should have recused herself. She’s unethical, she’s incompetent,” Lake said.
Other Republican figures including U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also alleged that Hobbs was responsible for the issues with tabulators. “It is unfortunate we have a 20% tabulator failure rate-@katiehobbs had one job—make sure the tabulators were in working order. She failed and now there are legitimate integrity concerns,” Gosar wrote in a Nov. 8 tweet.
Although Hobbs oversees and certifies Arizona’s elections as secretary of state, she is not directly in charge of voting equipment, and elections are administered at the county level. The election director of each county is responsible for ballot tabulation, overseeing polling locations, and conducting logistical and accuracy testing on voting equipment, according to the Arizona Clean Elections Commission. Arizona state law says the secretary of state’s primary duties include publishing a procedures manual, certifying results after they have been tabulated, and approving vote counting systems.
Sites promoting the claim about Maricopa County voting include GellerReport.com, BeforeItsNews.com, and En-Volve.com. NewsGuard sent emails to these sites in November 2022, but did not receive a response.
Correction: A previous version of this Myth misstated the number of voting centers in Maricopa County. There were 223 voting centers open on Election Day 2022, according to a post-election assessment published online by Maricopa County. NewsGuard apologizes for the error.
Editor’s Note: This Myth was updated on Dec. 15, 2022, to include an updated count of the number of voting centers with tabulation problems on Election Day 2022.