Arizona ballots that couldn’t be counted due to broken machines were mingled in some locations with already tabulated ballots, according to the Elections Integrity Unit of Arizona’s attorney general’s office. State officials listed numerous ways Maricopa County, Arizona, election officials failed to properly segregate, count, tabulate, tally, and transport ballots during the midterm 2022 elections, which likely resulted in significant disenfranchisement of Election Day voters.
In a letter sent to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright, the Elections Integrity Unit of Arizona’s attorney general’s office notified the county that they had “received hundreds of complaints since Election Day pertaining to issues related to the administration of the 2022 General Election” and as a result, are demanding Maricopa County election officials provide answers for the chaos, confusion, and mismanagement of the voting process in a report to be submitted on or before Nov. 28, when Maricopa must send its official canvass to the secretary of state for certification.
The complications raised in the letter include issues with the configuration settings of ballot-on-demand printers at 60-plus voting locations in the county, “which appeared to have resulted in ballots that were unable to be read by on-site ballot tabulator.” In sworn statements provided to the attorney general’s office, numerous Maricopa election workers claimed that the printers in question experienced no problems when tested the day before the election on Nov. 7.
As instructed by Maricopa election officials, voters whose ballot wouldn’t tabulate correctly were to place their ballots in a bin called “Door 3.” Despite claims from Maricopa Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer that the “Door 3” ballots would be tabulated at a central tabulation location after polls closed on Election Day, the county seemingly failed to adhere to state law when transporting and counting the ballots.
“Maricopa County appears to have failed to adhere to the statutory guidelines in segregating, counting, tabulating, tallying, and transporting the ‘Door 3’ ballots,” Wright wrote. “In fact, Maricopa County has admitted that[,] in some voting locations, ‘Door 3’ non-tabulated ballots were commingled with tabulated ballots at the voting location.”
“Further, we have received a sworn complaint from an election observer indicating that more than 1700 ‘Door 3’ non-tabulated ballots from one voting location were placed in black duffle bags that were intended to be used for tabulated ballots,” she added.
Also included in the letter are claims that election workers and voters had problems with “check out” procedures, wherein voters trying to “check out” of a voting location due to the ballot printer problems were “having difficulties” doing so. Many of the voters who left to cast their ballots at another voting center in the county reported having to cast a provisional ballot, as the “e-Pollbooks” system utilized by Maricopa “maintained the voter had [already] cast a ballot in the original voting location.”
The reported issues and sworn allegations raised in Wright’s letter are not the only documented concerns over Maricopa’s 2022 election misadministration. In a report released by the Election Integrity Network, election workers and poll observers alike reported experiencing widespread chaos on the day of and those following the election, with many pointing to faulty vote tabulator machines and a lack of an effective response from Maricopa election leaders.
“Tabulators would not scan ballots on the first try or many tries. Voters either spoiled their ballot and tried again or drop the unscanned ballot in box 3. … Or some people just gave up and left. 40 % of the ballots would not scan properly,” a poll observer report from Nov. 15 said.
“Tabulators aren’t working. There was literally chaos in the poll. Many voters left without voting,” another reported the same day.
According to a poll taken by the group, 84 percent of surveyed Maricopa poll watchers, election workers, and other volunteers said that they were “not at all confident” that Arizona’s election results are “completely accurate and honest.” In another survey question, 94 percent said that their biggest concern with Maricopa’s election administration was the “voting technology.”
In the weeks following the election — which was overseen by Arizona Secretary of State and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs — Gates has regularly attempted to normalize Maricopa’s delayed election results and downplay the apparent disenfranchisement of voters on Election Day. In a recent video posted to Maricopa County’s Twitter account, for instance, Gates dismissed claims that the locality’s tabulator issues constituted “voter suppression,” while ambiguously adding that “we know what voter suppression looks like in our country.”
“The inconvenience and the lines that people experienced were unfortunate,” he said. “But the fact is, every voter had the opportunity to cast a vote on Election Day.”
Maricopa infamously resisted the forensic audit of the 2020 presidential election overseen by Republicans in the Arizona State Senate that was released last year.
Despite his attempts to dump cold water on the justified anger of Maricopa voters, the impact of the county’s election administration failures throughout the 2022 elections cannot be overstated, especially given the close nature of the state’s 2022 races. While votes are still being tabulated in Maricopa as of this article’s publication, GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake currently trails Democrat Katie Hobbs by roughly 17,000 votes. The state’s contest for attorney general is even closer, with Democrat Kris Mayes leading Republican Abraham Hamadeh by less than 900 votes.
As the second-largest voting district in the country, Maricopa County is where over 60 percent of Arizona’s population currently resides. With at least 20 percent of voting locations experiencing tabulator issues and Republican-leaning voters more likely to vote on Election Day, the misadministration of Maricopa’s elections could have disenfranchised enough voters to swing the results of either one of these elections.