Maricopa County claps back at what they say are false election claims
An elections worker scans mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on Nov. 7, 2022. Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
Republican commentators and candidates are espousing theories about elections in Maricopa County, unsupported by facts, that have spread like wildfire on social media.
And the county is attempting to quell them.
Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake said during an interview with a Newsmax reporter that Maricopa County is “slow-rolling” Tuesday’s election results to delay Lake’s inevitable victory.
Current results show Lake’s Democratic opponent, Katie Hobbs, with a slight lead at 50.5% of the vote to Lake’s 49.5%, but there are many votes left to be counted.
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“I do not want the people of Maricopa County to think we’re picking and choosing which ballots to tabulate,” Republican Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates said during a Thursday news conference.
The county tabulates and releases the counts in the order the ballots came in, he said, adding that perhaps Lake hasn’t followed elections in Arizona as closely as he has for the past 20 years.
“Quite frankly, it is offensive for Kari Lake to say that these people behind me are slow-rolling this, when they’re working 14 to 18 hours (a day),” Gates said, speaking from the county’s tabulation center.
Before running for office himself, Gates was a lawyer for the Republican Party who monitored vote tabulations in Maricopa County. Sixteen years ago, he said, he spent several days at the tabulation center waiting for the outcome of the close congressional race between Republican J.D. Hayworth and Democrat Harry Mitchell.
“I was here for days, because that’s how it works here in Arizona,” Gates said.
Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer said Thursday that results so far this election are being provided at the same pace as past elections in the county, adding that a full count typically takes 10-12 days.
As of Thursday, the county still had more than 400,000 ballots left to count. Although the county initially expected to have 95-99% of ballots counted by Friday, the large amount of early ballots dropped off at election locations on Tuesday has pushed that timeline back.
Around 290,000 voters dropped off their early ballots on Election Day in Maricopa County this year, about 100,000 more than in 2020. The county didn’t start processing those ballots until after polls closed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Before being counted, the barcodes on those ballots are scanned to ensure they are from registered voters who haven’t voted yet this election, then the signatures on each ballot envelope are compared to previous signatures from the voter. If the signature doesn’t match, the county attempts to contact the voter to ensure the ballot came from them. The county has until Wednesday to confirm with the voter that those ballots are valid.
“We will not compromise the signature verification process,” Richer said.
While Arizona has been criticized because its counting process takes longer than in other states, many states don’t allow early ballots to be dropped off on Election Day. And other states aren’t actually finished counting, but races have been decided and media outlets have declared winners because they’re not as close as the ones in Arizona.
Lake has furiously criticized elections in Maricopa County and is a 2020 election denier, believing that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president of the United States.
She ramped up that criticism on Election Day, when tabulators couldn’t read some ballots at around 70 voting centers in Maricopa County because of a printing issue. Lake said she believed the printer issues were happening more in Republican areas of the county than in Democratic areas, but provided no evidence of that.
Around 17,000 ballots could not be read by the tabulating machines on Election Day and were put in a secure box to be counted at the county’s central tabulation center. The county just began counting those ballots Thursday.
“I hope it wasn’t malice, but who knows with these people,” Lake said Thursday during an interview on The Charlie Kirk Show.
Gates said Thursday that the printer issues happened across the county, but did not provide specific locations. He and his fellow supervisors promised to look more closely into the issue after the county is finished with tabulation for this election.
Republican candidate for secretary of state Mark Finchem told his followers on Twitter Thursday to check the locations of Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs and his Democratic opponent Adrian Fontes to make sure they weren’t “in a back room” with ballots in Pima or Maricopa counties.
Many Republican pundits shared a screenshot of a woman seen on camera at the Maricopa County Election Center, saying that it was Hobbs inside the area where ballots were being counted. The county said the woman was not Hobbs, but an observer from one of the political parties.
“Not every woman with glasses is Katie Hobbs,” the county tweeted in response. “We can confirm this was a party Observer. Please refrain from making assumptions about workers who happen to wear glasses.”
Many of those watching the governor’s race in Arizona and across the country are frustrated with the rate at which ballots are being counted and counts are being released here, with only 62,000 more ballots added to Maricopa’s count Wednesday night. But Gates said to expect the same daily tabulation rate, in the 60,000- to 80,000-ballot range, for the next several days until all the ballots are counted.
He said he expected full results to be available sometime early next week.
Gates asked politicians and members of the public to cool their heated rhetoric and name-calling about the election, and to let workers do their jobs. In answering a question from a reporter, he said that elections workers in Maricopa County face consistent threats.
“That is now a part of life for me and my colleagues, and it shouldn’t be. And it shouldn’t be for all the elections workers and election officials across the country,” Gates said.
He added that more people need to speak out against such behavior.
“No one should be the subject of death threats, particularly not those who are simply trying to keep our democracy afloat and count the votes and make sure that every eligible voter’s ballot is treated with respect,” Gates said.
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