Right-Wing Figures Spread Baseless Claims About Maricopa Votes: NPR

Bill Gates, right, chairman of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, speaks Tuesday about voting machine malfunctions at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Bill Gates, right, chairman of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, speaks Tuesday about voting machine malfunctions at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

John Moore/Getty Images

Follow live updates and results for the 2022 midterm elections here.

About 1 in 5 polling places in Maricopa County, Arizona had a technical problem with their ballot tabulators in the early hours of Election Day – but officials assured voters their ballots would still be counted, thanks to redundancy protocols.

“We have about 20% of the locations there where there is a problem with the tabulator,” Maricopa Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, a Republican, said in a video. put online. Describing the problem, he said that after some voters filled in their ballot, the machine would not accept it.

In the meantime, voters could slip their ballot into a “secure box” just below the tabulator, Gates said. Those ballots would be collected and sent to “central tabulators” in Maricopa, County Clerk Stephen Richer said.

“That’s actually what the majority of counties in Arizona do all the time on Election Day,” Richer added.

By mid-afternoon local time, the county said it had “identified the solution to tabulation issues at approximately 60 polling centers. County technicians changed the printer settings, which which appears to have fixed this issue. It appears that some of the printers were not producing dark enough timing marks on the ballots.”

Fuel for baseless right-wing claims

Issues with tabulators were quickly used by right-wing influencers as fuel for their claims that the 2022 midterm elections are vulnerable to voter fraud, according to the Election Integrity Partnership, a research coalition that focuses on misinformation around the elections.

“Attention increased after a tweet from Charlie Kirk, which fueled others who claim these machine failures are deliberate,” the research group said.

“It’s highly likely that these stories about machine malfunctions will gain traction in other states,” the Election Integrity Partnership said, adding that influencers and their audiences seek to amplify such stories.

It’s not uncommon for machine malfunctions and other balloting issues to arise around election time, when millions of people rush to cast their ballots.

Such hiccups can elicit a range of reactions from politicians and pundits, from encouraging voters to endure the delay to suggesting that the problems are a sign of a coordinated plot.

Far-right figures from Arizona senatorial candidate Blake Masters to Republican National Committee member Tyler Bowyer tweeted about the issue on Tuesday. Former President Donald Trump – who has spent the past two years sowing doubts and falsehoods about the US electoral system – also weighed in, saying that in Maricopa there were reports of problems in GOP-leaning areas.

“Here we go again?” Trump said on the Truth Social platform. “The people won’t stand it!!!”

“It’s hard to know if we’re seeing incompetence or something worse,” The masters wrote. “All we know right now is that Democrats are hoping you get discouraged and go home.”

The issue has also been at the center of the gubernatorial race: Republican Kari Lake is an election denier who is running against Democrat Katie Hobbs (the current Secretary of State).

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