Nov 9, 2022 - Politics

Maricopa County vote center issues were exacerbated by misinformation

Illustration of a misprinted ballot with ballot elements in the background.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A printer issue plagued about 60 vote centers in Maricopa County during much of Election Day.

Why it matters: The issue prompted concerns about voter access and also gave fodder to candidates who still do not believe the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and have tried to sow doubt in the county's capabilities.

What happened: Tabulation machines at about a quarter of the voting centers across the Phoenix metro area rejected ballots that were printed onsite. The markings the tabulators use to read ballots were too light.

State of play: The issue was resolved after 2pm.

  • Voters were still able to cast their ballots by placing them in a secure drop box that was transported by a bipartisan team to the downtown election center.
  • Additionally, people could vote at any location, so they could have gone to another vote center.

What they're saying: "I think one thing to keep in mind here is that really this is normal. New issues and minor errors come up. Technology issues and human error can't be entirely prevented," said Jenny Gimian, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney with Informing Democracy, an election education nonprofit.

  • She said contingencies, including the secure drop box, are built into the election process to make sure voting can continue despite issues.

Yes, but: The issue caused confusion and left some voters concerned about whether their ballot was counted.

  • Several Republican candidates unsuccessfully sued the county last night to try to keep polls open an extra three hours.
  • During arguments, GOP attorney Kory Langhofer said he'd heard from at least three voters who had tried to go to another vote center but were told they couldn't vote because the system showed they had already checked in at another polling place.

Between the lines: GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and others who have promoted false claims that the 2020 election was rigged, were quick to portray the issue on social media as evidence that the election was mismanaged and that Arizona election laws are in need of an overhaul.

  • In a speech late last night, Lake said that if she wins her first action will be to "restore honesty to Arizona elections."
  • Lake and Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, unsuccessfully sued the state earlier this year to bar the use of machines to count ballots.

What they're saying: "We do not believe that anyone has been disenfranchised because no one has been turned away," Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates told reporters at a press conference.

Zoom out: Sam Oliker-Friedland, the executive director of the Chicago-based Institute for Responsive Government, told Axios Phoenix "minor issues" like this happen across the country and are more of an indication that election officials need more resources than anything else.

  • He applauded the county's election officials for the transparency in their response.
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