Maricopa County, Arizona, election officials indicated early on Tuesday that around 20 percent of its 223 polling places were experiencing issues with vote tabulation machines. The county offered voters options to either wait in line for the issue to be resolved, vote at another location, or place their ballot in a secure drop box for tabulation at county headquarters.
Donald Trump and other right-wing commentators responded by stoking conspiratorial fears of fraud, pushing misinformation, and discouraging voters from using the drop boxes.
“Reports are coming in from Arizona that the Voting Machines are not properly working in predominantly Republican/Conservative areas,” the former president wrote on Truth Social. “Can this possibly be true when a vast majority of Republicans waited for today to Vote? Here we go again? The people will not stand for it!!!”
“There’s a lot of bad things going on,” Trump said in a video message telling supporters that the issues in Maricopa county were part of an effort to “delay [them] out of voting,” and urging them to stay in line.
At the time reports emerged of the issues, county election officials told Rolling Stone in a statement that “technical staff are working to resolve an issue with tabulators and investigating the cause.” The county published a statement later Tuesday afternoon indicating that the issue had been caused by polling centers using incorrect printer settings that resulted in some printers “not producing dark enough timing marks on ballots” for the tabulation machines to be able to read them correctly.
Conservatives weren’t interested. Prominent accounts used the early troubles to cast doubt on the integrity of an election system that’s under Republican control. Arizona GOP Chairwoman Dr. Kelli Ward told voters to ignore the suggestions of officials, claiming that ballots submitted to the county via “Box 3” would not be tabulated on Election Day. Meanwhile, influential right-wingers like Charlie Kirk and Jack Posobiec told voters to “not trust” that their vote would be counted at all, and to instead wait until the issue was fixed at their polling place or find another location. Kirk and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich later called for officials to be jailed. “People need to be arrested for what is happening in Maricopa County,” Kirk wrote, “It’s criminal.”
Posobiec and others encourage voters to “storm the polls.” Donald Trump Jr. delivered a similar message, writing that voters should “overwhelm the BS.” Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller railed about a “third world situation” in the county, suggesting the malfunctions are a Democratic tactic to depress turnout in the county. Sen. Ted Cruz made a similar allegation, as did Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
Lake also incorrectly claimed that voters who had already checked in at a polling place could not leave and vote elsewhere. Voters do, in fact, have the option to check out of the polling place without casting their ballot and vote at another location.
Misinformation continued to spread throughout the day. Kirk claimed that there was a “2 hour wait minimum” at most voting centers in the county, a claim that was debunked by both fact checkers, and county officials themselves, who pointed out that the majority of polling places in the county had wait times of less than 30 minutes.
The county also debunked a false claim about votes not being counted.
Raising suspicion about voting systems is part of the GOP’s strategy to sow doubt in the integrity of the election, and it isn’t surprising that the party collectively pounced on the first sign of trouble to suggest it could be evidence that Democrats are cheating. “Hard to know if we’re seeing incompetence or something worse,” added Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters. “All we know right now is that the Democrats are hoping you will get discouraged and go home.”
Arizona has been a hotbed for claims about voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, including allegations that voting machines had been rigged to favor President Joe Biden. The Big Lie has been central to the campaigns of Republican candidates like Lake and Masters, and there were reports during the early voting period that individuals dressed in tactical gear were stationing themselves near ballot drop boxes in Maricopa County and intimidating voters.
Kirk said during a Tuesday interview with Steve Bannon that while Lake is likely to win, if Masters loses, it will be because of Democratic voter fraud, of which, again, no evidence exists. “If Blake Masters loses by 5,000 or 10,000 votes, it will be because of the voter suppression by design,” he said. “I hope those people at the Maricopa County recorder’s office, I hope they have some explanation.”
They did, but we have a feeling that won’t stop Trump, Kirk, or any of the other right-wing agitators from alleging fraud should Masters lose on Tuesday.