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Maricopa County report rebuffs claims by Republicans who sowed doubt on election integrity

Some prominent GOP politicians and pundits pushed misleading or false information amid issues with malfunctioning vote tabulation machines in the county on Election Day.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates speaks at a press conference at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Bill Gates, the chairman of the Maricopa County board of supervisors, at a press conference in Phoenix, on Nov. 12, 2022. Jon Cherry / Getty Images file

Officials in Arizona's largest county are blaming prominent Republicans for sowing doubt about a secure alternative for voters who encountered malfunctioning vote tabulation machines on Election Day.

Maricopa County issued a report on the voting glitches Sunday, a day before it is set certify the results of the November election and a week after the state's Republican attorney general's office demanded answers on widespread voting machine glitches on Election Day. Some GOP politicians and pundits swiftly seized on those issues to push misleading or false information.

In its report, the county said a “root cause analysis” of printer issues that prevented some vote tabulators from accepting ballots on Election Day remains underway, but noted that all printers “had updated firmware, were installed with uniform settings, and used the same settings that were used in prior elections.”

The report noted that voters were instructed to put their ballots in a secure ballot box — termed a “Door 3” option — if tabulators could not read them, a “decades-long practice” in the county. But despite it being a “legal, secure and reliable” voting option, “many high-profile and influential individuals instructed voters to not deposit their ballots in Door 3.”

“Consequently, some voters refused to use this viable voting option,” the report said.

In a letter accompanying the report, Tom Liddy, a Republican and head of Maricopa County’s civil division, said that eight other counties rely on secure boxes in elections because they “do not have any tabulators in their polling locations at all,” and their ballots are instead taken to a centralized location to be tabulated in every election.

“It cannot be the case that the limited use of the Door 3 ballot box for some voters in Maricopa County violates the Constitution, while the required use of a ballot box by every voter in over half of the state’s counties does not,” Liddy wrote in response to the attorney general's office.

Election officials at the time of the malfunction urged voters at polling sites where machines had malfunctioned to exercise other options, including either dropping their ballots in a secure box to be counted later in the day or going to another location to vote.

Kari Lake, the GOP candidate for Arizona governor endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward were among several prominent Twitter users who sowed doubt on the platform about the election process following reports of the glitches. Lake, who lost to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, attacked Maricopa County officials over both the technical issues on Election Day and the prolonged vote count.

Last week, Maricopa County confirmed that Bill Gates, the chairman of the county’s board of supervisors, had been moved to an undisclosed location for his safety following threats on social media related to the midterm elections. County Sheriff Paul Penzone told reporters that he’d recommended Gates and his family go to a safe location for one night because of the threats.

Penzone, a Democrat, called on political leaders to be more responsible.

“There’s a lot of candidates who say things they shouldn’t,” including “people who politically maybe didn’t see the outcomes they were hoping for," he said. "Have some courage and speak out and say these types of threats aren’t OK against our opponents any more than they would be against us.”