Heading into Election Day 2022, Maricopa County election worker Erin Smith was feeling cautiously optimistic about the administration of Arizona’s elections. With a motivated team of fellow election workers from all political backgrounds, a smoothly run election seemed like a real possibility.
But nothing could prepare Smith for what happened on Election Day.
“I was in Ukraine in March within a week of the war starting and … at no point was it ever as overwhelming as it was on Election Day in Maricopa,” Smith told The Federalist.
Within hours of polls opening in Arizona, election workers at roughly 30 percent of Maricopa’s voting centers began reporting that their respective vote tabulation machines were rejecting voters’ ballots, leading to long waiting lines and widespread confusion among voters and poll workers alike. While county officials ultimately determined the source of the problem to be misconfigured ballot printer settings, the chaos had already been set in stone.
“The energy instantly changed when the tabulators [stopped] working,” said Smith, who served as a troubleshooter for three of Maricopa’s voting centers. “[Voters were] righteously mad … it was just complete chaos.”
With so many voting centers experiencing the same issue, Maricopa Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates told voters that they had the option of traveling to another voting center to cast their ballot. Due to the unfamiliarity among voters and election workers with the proper “check out” procedures, however, many voters who left their original centers did so without properly checking out and were informed upon arriving at another voting location that the county’s e-Pollbook system had classified them as having already voted.
“Voters this cycle have in fact been disenfranchised,” a purported Maricopa poll worker said during a county Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday. “They [were] told they can’t check in because they weren’t able to properly check out at the previous polling center they were at.”
“We as poll workers were not taught how to check out voters,” he added.
With so many finicky tabulators, Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer also gave Maricopa voters the option of placing their non-tabulated ballots in a bin called “Door 3,” which would be taken to the county’s central counting center after polls closed to be tallied. Due to the tabulator problems, however, some of the bins storing the non-tabulated Door 3 ballots began to overflow.
As a proposed solution, county officials sent out an email to election workers around 3:30 p.m. on Election Day with instructions to designate one of their on-hand, black zipper bags — which are normally used to transport already-tabulated votes — as a “misread ballot” bag to store the Door 3 ballots until they could be moved and counted after polls closed. But once again, anarchy ensued when the convoluted directions led to an alleged commingling of tabulated and non-tabulated ballots by county election workers.
“I [didn’t get] the email [until] later, but they called one of my sites … and I get over there and they had all the misreads in a black bag and I’m like, ‘What are you doing?'” Smith said.
“[I knew] this [was] going to be an issue because you’ve got all these [bags] that are supposed to be for cast ballots and [now] you’re gonna put misreads in them,” he added. “I was very uncomfortable with that.”
Where Arizona’s Elections Stand Today
Despite the concerns of numerous poll observers, poll workers, and voters, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to certify the results of the locality’s elections on Monday, with Gates claiming that the 2022 contest “was run extremely well.”
Richer also spoke at the meeting, using his time to smear Americans concerned about incompetent election administration as “fighting over conspiracy theories promoted on social media.”
Unlike Maricopa and Arizona’s other 13 counties, Cochise County’s board of supervisors voted on Monday to delay their certification of the 2022 election until Dec. 2. Under state law, counties are required to certify election results within 20 days of the election.
As a result, Arizona Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — who oversaw her own gubernatorial race against Republican Kari Lake — has filed a lawsuit demanding that Cochise certify its results. According to Just the News, Hobbs plans to certify the state’s election by Dec. 8, “with or without the Cochise County results.”
In addition to Hobbs, Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh, whose close race is headed to a recount, has also taken legal action over the 2022 election. Last week, Hamadeh, along with the Republican National Committee, filed a lawsuit in Maricopa’s Superior Court against his Democrat opponent Kris Mayes, Hobbs, and the county recorders and boards of supervisors of Arizona’s 15 counties, alleging that misconduct by Maricopa election officials and “erroneous” vote counts resulted in the disenfranchisement of Arizona voters.
As The Federalist previously reported, the suit asked the court to order Maricopa to “process and tabulate all provisional ballots and early ballots submitted by qualified electors who had ‘checked in’ at a voting center but did not cast a regular ballot” on Election Day, as well as issue an injunction “to prohibit or nullify any attempts to certify the results of the attorney general race.”
A local judge dismissed the case on Tuesday, arguing that Hamadeh couldn’t file such a suit until after the election has been certified by the state.