Arizona Republicans Are Pushing Conspiracy Theories About the 2022 Election — Here’s What Actually Happened

arizona elections

AP Photo/Matt York

By Robert Gundran

December 16, 2022

Most candidates across the country who were labeled as election deniers bucked the label, for now at least, by conceding races after they lost. 

Herschel Walker conceded after he lost in Georgia. Doug Mastriano conceded after he lost in Pennsylvania. Tudor Dixon conceded after she lost in Michigan. The cadre of candidates who helped further the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump bowed out with varying levels of grace after their campaigns failed. 

Most of them, anyway.

Kari Lake has elected to go in the opposite direction. The former Republican gubernatorial candidate has committed to bring the Big Lie to 2022, along with a host of new conspiracies and specious claims as to why she lost to Governor-Elect Katie Hobbs by roughly 17,000 votes. Mark Finchem, who lost the secretary of state race by over 120,000 votes to Adrian Fontes, has also refused to concede, instead electing to tweet conspiracy theories about George Soros, Runbeck Election Services, and FTX. 

RELATED: Latinos and Young People Voted Blue to Save Democracy in Arizona

To his credit, Blake Masters, who lost a US Senate contest to Sen. Mark Kelly, did concede.

Both Lake and Finchem have filed lawsuits asking the courts to either name them the winners of the races they lost, or order a brand new “redo” election, something that isn’t outlined in state law. 

Here are some of the claims we’ve seen the most on social media, and what the reality of those claims are:

Claim: Voting Machines Went Down on Election Day

Reality: Voting tabulators worked perfectly, rejecting ballots that did not meet the standards for counting. 

In Maricopa County, the ballot printers pushed out ballots with lighter ink than what tabulators would accept. Since the tabulators would not accept anything other than a perfectly printed ballot, it showed it is nearly impossible to fool tabulators to accept potentially fraudulent ballots.

The Lake and Masters campaigns sued to keep polls open past the deadline, but a judge in Maricopa County declined to keep polls open because the campaigns could not show that anybody was unable to vote as a result of the tabulators rejecting ballots.

So what happened? Why were the printers operating this way?

According to a Votebeat analysis, one of the major issues was that Maricopa County used thicker and heavier paper than recommended when printing on both sides of the paper. 

The thicker and heavier paper resulted in printed ballots with lighter ink on the timing marks along the edges of the ballots. 

Voters were given the choice: try and insert their ballot into the tabulator until it was accepted, or place their ballot into a secure drop box so that it could be counted at Maricopa County’s Tabulation and Election Center.

Claim: Voting Tabulators Weren’t Certified

Reality: They were

Two members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby, initially voted to delay certification of the election in their county after hearing unsubstantiated claims from self-identified experts that tabulators were not properly certified. 

Arizona Election Services Director Kori Lorick spoke to the board of supervisors and let them know all the tabulators were properly certified, and a lawsuit claiming something similar was already tossed out. 

Lake and Finchem filed a lawsuit before the election claiming that voting machines were not secure because they were “untested and unverified.”

That lawsuit was tossed out by US District Judge John Tuchi. He noted in his ruling that the lawsuit falsely alleged that Arizona’s voting systems weren’t evaluated by experts. 

The Cochise County Board of Supervisors eventually certified their election 2-0 in accordance with state law. Supervisor Crosby chose not to attend the meeting to certify.

Claim: Tabulators Were Down in Predominantly Republican Areas

Reality: As noted earlier, tabulators worked fine everywhere. The issue was with printers. 

According to data analysis from the Washington Post, voting locations that experienced problems were not overwhelmingly Republican. 

Republican leaders have claimed, without evidence, since the election that printer problems only affected Republican precincts and areas with mostly Republican voters. 

Lake said that no predominantly liberal or Democratic areas experienced printer issues, which is false. 

WaPo’s analysis of the data found that Republican voters made up about 37 percent of the electorate in precincts with printer issues. That is roughly the same as registered Republicans across all of Maricopa County, which sits at 35 percent. 

Meme Roundup: Kari Lake Gets Roasted for Loss to Katie Hobbs

In fact, any printer issues may have been more of a hindrance for Democrats than Republicans. According to a map from Votebeat, areas with printer issues skewed heavily Democratic. 

Again, the issues at locations did not appear to prevent anyone from voting in the 2022 election. Voters had to wait in longer lines, travel to another area to vote, or put their ballot into a secure drop box that was counted at the tabulation center in downtown Phoenix. 

Issues with longer lines can and should be addressed moving forward by the Arizona Legislature, but it didn’t prevent anyone from voting. 

Claim: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs “Ran the Election” or “Counted Her Own Votes”

Reality: The secretary of state’s office does not conduct elections. Elections are run at the county level by each county’s board of supervisors, recorders, and elections directors. 

Board of supervisors in each county determine where polling places will be on Election Day. They also set the budget for county recorders and elections departments and certify county election results. 

County recorders are responsible for voter registration and early voting. They maintain voter registration records at the county level. They also send out early ballots and verify early ballot affidavits. County recorders are responsible for verifying mail-in ballots to confirm the identity of voters. 

County elections directors are responsible for conducting elections on Election Day. They also tabulate ballots. Election directors secure polling places, hire and train poll workers, and conduct logic and accuracy tests on equipment at the county level. 

As Arizona’s secretary of state, Hobbs was responsible for certifying the state’s election results that were conducted by Arizona’s 15 counties. She was also responsible for creating the elections procedures manual. It details the procedures elections officials are required to follow to keep things consistent and efficient throughout the state. 

The secretary of state’s office also certifies election equipment, conducts logic and accuracy tests on election equipment, and maintains the state’s voter registration database. 

In short, Arizona counties run elections, and the secretary of state certifies their results.

Claim: Maricopa County Lost Chain of Custody for Ballots 

Reality: The chain of custody was never broken. When ballots were transported, it was done safely, securely, and in accordance with local and state laws.

Maricopa County Staff made up of registered Republicans, Democrats, and independents transport ballot envelopes from vote centers to secure locations  constantly during elections. One of the locations those sealed envelopes are taken to is Runbeck Election Services.

Runbeck provides elections services for Maricopa County during elections, such as printing mail-in ballots and scans the outside of ballot envelopes for future audits, and has its headquarters in Phoenix. 

RELATED: Katie Hobbs to Be Arizona’s Next Governor

Maricopa County said Runbeck scans the exterior affidavit envelopes in order to capture a digital image of voter signatures for staff from the elections department to use. Election workers use those images to compare to other signatures on someone’s official voter registration file. 

This information can be found in the Maricopa County Elections Department 2022 Elections Plan on pages 44 and 45. 

When these envelopes are brought to Runbeck, the bipartisan election staff and Runbeck workers both sign slips to maintain chain of custody. Bipartisan election staff, as well asRepublican election observers, were at Runbeck on Election Day, and could report any wrongdoing when it happened. 

Envelopes were not opened at Runbeck or by Runbeck staff. They remained sealed until they were delivered to Maricopa County’s election office for tabulation.

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  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

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