The rump-endorsed Republican candidate’s recent attacks against Arizona’s election systems have been disproved by both the Arizona Attorney General and the Department of Justice.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a longtime proponent of conspiracy theories that allege fraud in the 2020 election, repeated several of these claims during a radio interview last month. During this interview, she went on to claim, without evidence, that elections have been rigged by “Marxist” Democrats.
“The Democrat Party changed so much it’s not even the Democrat Party of John F. Kennedy anymore. The Democrat Party, it’s Marxist,” Lake said. “And they know their ideas won’t work, they won’t sell, so they have to cheat. … So it’s this establishment swampy class that wants to keep the elections crooked so they can keep putting their people in place.”
The MAGA-Republican Candidate
Lake received the endorsement of former president Donald Trump last year, setting her up as the gubernatorial election’s go-to MAGA candidate. Since then, she has thrown her lot in with even more radical fringes of conservative politics, including QAnon adherents and nazi sympathizers.
Through the interview, Lake veiled her statements with concern for fairness in elections across the political sphere, while grossly exaggerating the number of fraudulent ballots that appear in any given election. In Arizona, for example, the Arizona Attorney General has only prosecuted 35 cases of voter fraud since 2010.
“I’m going to take all the political crooked people out of it,” Lake said. “I’m talking to the people of Arizona. I want every Democrat’s vote to count 100%. I want every Republican’s vote to count 100%. What I don’t want counting are dead people, fake ballots, the hundreds of thousands that are being poured in. And then we win or lose on our merits and our ideas.”
Lake went on to throw out a laundry list of goals to supposedly improve election integrity:
“Here’s what we need to do,” she said. “Clean the voter rolls … to make sure each and every person on there is an eligible voter living where they say they live. Ban all electronic election equipment. I’m working on that right now. … Voter ID with paper ballots only. Mail in voting should be banned. Early voting should be banned. We need Election Day, not election month. Small precincts. Ban ballot harvesting.”
Here are the facts behind Lake’s campaign platform and election claims:
Clean the Voter Rolls
Maintaining the list of registered voters, also known as the voter rolls, is already mandated by both federal and state law. Many Republicans have been quick to point out that ballots are sometimes sent to the location where an addressee no longer lives, or to the address of a now-dead voter, as a sign that voter rolls are not as clean as they should be.
However, this is actually part of the process that maintains the voter rolls. If mail from a county recorder, including a mail-in ballot, is returned as undeliverable, the county recorder is required by Arizona law to notify the recipient and give them instructions as to how they can revise their registration online. If the recipient does not respond within 35 days, they are then removed from the active voter roll.
Voting rights advocates have raised the issue that excessive cleaning of the voter rolls may actually do more harm than good. Voter purges have been frequently used by the GOP as a partisan tactic to disenfranchise Black and Brown voters.
Lake does not seem to believe that there is any racial disparity in voter suppression. Host Garret Lewis claimed that he had “never seen” any non-white person report that they were being barred from voting because of their race. Lake agreed, and added, “I did see people who were Black, White, Hispanic all over this country who were poll watchers turned away when they wanted to stop counting.”
Ban All Electronic Election Equipment
As of 2022, most of Arizona does not use electronic voting machines. Voters with certain disabilities can use electronic ballot marking devices, which allow them to mark and print a paper ballot with their vote choices. None of Arizona’s election systems record votes electronically.
The exception is Maricopa County, which uses electronic equipment from Dominion Voting Systems—the center of many baseless conspiracy theories following the 2020 election. These theories alleged, among other things, that Dominion machines were connected to the internet and susceptible to interference; however, multiple audits have shown that the equipment was not connected to the internet, and that no fraud took place at any point.
During the US House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol’s first public hearing Thursday night, a recording of former Attorney General WIlliam Barr was played, where he testified that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud and his allegations against Dominion “was crazy stuff, and they were wasting their time on that, and it was doing a great grave disservice to the country.”
According to the Maricopa County Elections Department, Maricopa County hosts 2.6 million registered voters, which accounts for more than 60% of voters in Arizona as a whole. Such a large number makes counting all votes by hand instead of by machine impractical. Multiple studies have found that the human error in counting votes by hand actually exceeds the chance of error from a machine count.
Furthermore, tests of Dominion equipment in Maricopa County found a 100% match between the machine count and a hand count.
Voter ID With Paper Ballots Only
Mail-in Voting—and Early Voting—Should be Banned
Voting by mail has been a mainstay in Arizona for decades since its introduction; in most election years, it accounts for 80% of all Arizona votes cast. Trump and his adherents have put this practice under intense scrutiny, claiming, without evidence, that it is a source of rampant fraud.
However, it has been extensively documented that mail-in voting is completely safe, and there is no evidence of significant fraud in Arizona or nationally.
This has not stopped Arizona Republicans from taking steps to completely ban mail-in voting. A GOP lawsuit attempting to end early voting in Arizona was declined by the Arizona Supreme Court in March. Also, multiple bills have been introduced to the Arizona legislature that would do away with mail-in voting and curbside drop boxes. While some of these bills contain exemptions for people with disabilities, advocates have warned that many disabled Americans would be disenfranchised anyway.
Ban Ballot Harvesting
“Ballot harvesting,” also known as ballot collection, refers to the collection of signed, sealed, and authenticated absentee ballots by a third party, to be delivered to a drop box on behalf of those voters. Ballot collection is already banned in Arizona, with the exception of family members and caregivers.
Supporters of this practice say that it expands access to voting, especially for senior citizens and disabled people. Despite intense conservative fearmongering around the practice, no evidence has been found to suggest that it caused significant fraud in 2020.
Lake went on to suggest that Election Day be made a holiday, to allow greater access to the polls. This is an idea that has gained considerable traction on the left; without this provision, Americans must take time off from work to vote, which decreases access for working-class voters.
Listen to Lake’s full interview with Garret Lewis here.