A report on controversies surrounding the 2020 general election in Maricopa County by One America News Network, a right-wing cable news network known for spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation, contains troves of false information
In her “Arizona Election Heist” report, OANN host Christina Bobb makes a number of dubious or demonstrably false claims about the election.
Bobb claimed that more than 36,000 non-citizens voted in the November election. She alleged that there were 11,000 more votes than registered voters in Maricopa County. She claimed votes were “pre-loaded” in the county’s ballot tabulation machines. And she alleged that the county “shifted” Election Day ballots to become “absentee ballots” as the count continued.
The host and guest Phil Waldron, a purported information warfare expert who has repeatedly spread false claims about the election, did not say where they obtained their information. Bobb did not respond to a message from the Arizona Mirror. However, some of the claims can be traced.
For example, Bobb alleged that there were 11,676 more votes than registered voters in the county. In reality, the official statewide and county canvasses of the 2020 election, which are readily available on Maricopa County and the Arizona secretary of state’s websites, shows that 2,089,563 of 2,595,272 registered voters in the county cast ballots in the general election. Statewide, 3,420,565 of 4,281,301 registered voters cast ballots.
On several occasions, Bobb referred to those 11,000-plus votes as “overvotes,” and in doing so wildly misrepresented a phrase that’s commonly used in election administration circles. An overvote is when a voter chooses more candidates than permitted for a race.
In a lawsuit it filed alleging that some voters may have been disenfranchised, former President Donald Trump’s campaign noted that there were 11,676 overvotes, which came up during hearings for the case. A Maricopa County judge dismissed the case as moot because the relatively small number of ballots at issue wouldn’t have affected the presidential race, in which President Joe Biden won Arizona by 10,457 votes.
A report published in December by former White House advisor Peter Navarro falsely describes the overvotes as the number of votes cast in excess of the total number of registered voters, though he cites that number for the entire state, not just Maricopa County.
Bobb alleged that 36,473 noncitizens voted in the election, a number that also appears to come from the Navarro report. Navarro did not cite a source for that number. Fields Moseley, a spokesman for Maricopa County, said the allegation is false.
One possible source is a Facebook post in mid-November by Republican state legislator Kelly Townsend, who claimed there were 36,473 voters registered in Arizona who were unable to establish their United States citizenship. Townsend did not say those voters all cast ballots, however.
Arizona requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, but federal voter registration laws don’t, so the state uses a bifurcated system in which people who are unable to show proof of citizenship can still register but can only vote in federal races. There are nearly 23,000 such voters registered in Arizona, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, 13,271 of whom are registered in Maricopa County.
Statewide, only 7,628 of those voters cast ballots in the November election, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Though they register to vote without providing proof of U.S. citizenship, state and county election officials do take steps to ensure that all registrants are citizens who are eligible to vote. C. Murphy Hebert, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, said election officials compare all voter registrations to driver’s license records to weed out people who have licenses for non-citizens.
Registered voters who say on jury duty questionnaires that they’re noncitizens also get flagged by election officials, and they must provide proof of citizenship within 35 days or else they are unregistered. If there is no driver’s license, officials try to confirm their identities through the Social Security Administration. And if those checks are inconclusive, officials also check registrations against foreign identifications.
Hebert noted that federal-only voters must still attest on their registration forms that they’re U.S. citizens, and that lying on the form is a felony. Federal-only voters must also still show proof of identity to vote in person or request a mail-in ballot, which would further frustrate federal-only voters whose identities haven’t been confirmed.
Bobb made other puzzling claims. She alleged that votes were pre-loaded into Maricopa County’s tabulation machines, though she presented no evidence to back that up. She and Waldron claimed that hundreds of thousands of ballots cast in-person on Election Day were “shifted” to become “absentee ballots” as ballots were counted in the days after the election. They presented no evidence, nor did they explain how that would affect the results of the election.
Arizona does not use absentee ballots. The majority of the state’s voters receive early or mail-in ballots, which, unlike absentee ballots, do not require voters to be unable to go to the polls in person. Many voters choose to drop off their early ballots at polling places on Election Day — those ballots typically take at least a week to count.
The OANN segment included several comments from Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward, who noted that a lawsuit she filed over the election results found that 3% of duplicated ballots — ballots that were unreadable by machines, forcing a bipartisan panel of election workers to copy a voter’s choices onto a new ballot — contained errors in the presidential race. The Arizona Supreme Court concluded those errors could have cost Trump as many as 153 votes out of about 28,000 duplicated ballots in Maricopa County.
Bobb falsely stated that the errors could have cost Trump as many as 90,000 votes, though Ward had just said that there were only 28,000 duplicated ballots.
Bobb used the false allegations of improprieties in the election to demonstrate the need for a full forensic audit of the election in Maricopa County, which Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen have attempted to do. The county is fighting their subpoenas for the ballots and tabulation machines used in the election, arguing that the Senate has no authority to demand those materials.
A judge will hear arguments in the case on Thursday.
Fann had sought to hire Waldron’s firm, Allied Security Operations Group, to conduct her proposed audit, despite a well-documented history of false statements and misinformation about the 2020 election.