As Arizona Counts Votes, Republicans Exploit Election Day Difficulties

As Arizona Counts Votes, Republicans Exploit Election Day Difficulties

Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, capitalised on technological issues at numerous polling places in a crucial county to call for a special legislative session on Thursday to restructure the state’s voting infrastructure, which she would have the authority to do if elected.

As she did in 2020 when President Biden won the state, Lake hasn’t yet said that the election results can’t be accepted. However, her argument that the system needs rapid revision came as officials proceeded to count votes, a process they had previously warned might take up to 12 days. According to the data thus far made public, Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state and Lake, a former television news anchor, are in a tight race.

The election will be decided by the voters, not by how loud a deranged former television reporter can shout conspiracy theories, Hobbs said on Twitter. More than 60% of the state’s voters and Phoenix are located in Maricopa County, where nearly a third of polling places on Tuesday experienced issues with the printers that print votes for specific people.

Vote-counting machines began rejecting ballots printed by printers at 70 of the county’s 223 polling locations early on Tuesday morning because the ink was too light to be properly seen by the machines. Prior to now, these officials had claimed that fewer sites experienced issues.

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The printers passed the necessary logic and accuracy tests prior to Tuesday, and they had been used during the August primary election and the 2020 elections with identical settings, with no issues, according to the officials, who said they had not yet determined the reason for the printer problems.

Waiting for the issues to be resolved, visiting alternate polling places, or placing their ballots in lockable boxes that were transported to downtown Phoenix and counted there were the options available to voters. More ballots than in past elections—roughly 17,000—were deposited in the safe boxes by voters, according to county officials. They said that all votes would be counted, that everyone who want to vote could do so, and that the printer issues would not have an impact on the results.

Maricopa’s issues were still a mystery. According to two persons following the situation, Washington authorities have been unhappy since Election Day by the absence of a clear explanation provided to both voters and the organisations in charge of overseeing the election. Due to their lack of press credentials, they talked on the condition of anonymity.

After President Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020, Arizona became a focal point for numerous conspiracy theories, and some Republicans used the issues in Maricopa County to push for the deletion of early voting and vote-counting devices.

Despite the fact that early voting has long been a favourite in Arizona, processing votes returned in the days before and on election day always takes time, and they are handled in the order in which they are received. County officials urged voters to return their ballots, which included more races than ever before, as soon as possible for weeks in order to broadcast results more promptly.

By Thursday night, poll workers had gone through roughly 400,000 ballots in Maricopa County. Although they had anticipated reporting at least 95% of the findings by Friday, local officials indicated they had always anticipated the count to take up to 12 days. County authorities announced on Thursday that it will take longer to reach that objective and that they would continue to work through the weekend and the federal holiday of Veterans Day.

The most ballots ever released were cast on Election Day, when around 290,000 ballots were cast. A large number of late drop-offs indicates that many voters might have followed advice from Republican candidates and officials who pushed people to cast their votes in person or hand-deliver early ballots at polling places.

Republicans contended, without providing any evidence, that the county authorities’ drip-drip publication of results—which occurs during every election here—suggested they sought to stall Lake and possibly other Republican candidates from winning, as they believed.

Tucson’s home county, Pima County, officials dismissed such claims. The county recorder, Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, stated that it was taking time to process the large number of early ballots that weren’t received until election day. She declared, “We are abiding by the law.

Due to Arizona’s status as a swing state and the close margins in statewide elections, Bill Gates, the supervisor of Maricopa County (R), remarked that tabulation in the county frequently takes days to complete. Lake might not be aware of the county’s tabulation procedure, according to Gates, who previously led the state GOP’s efforts to ensure election-day integrity.

He gripped a lectern sometimes throughout a 45-minute news conference, saying, “Quite frankly, it is offensive for Kari Lake to suggest these individuals behind me are slow rolling when they’re working 14 to 18 hours.” “I sincerely hope that this marks the end of that.

We can wait patiently and honour the outcomes. Arizonans shouldn’t believe, according to Gates, that “we are picking and choosing which ballots to tabulate,” he said. First in, first out is an accounting principle that we apply.

Election fraud tales gained less support in the early aftermath of the vote, according to researchers looking at attempts on social media to undermine election results. Others, though, cautioned that an extended count in Arizona might give rogue actors or false narratives a chance to seize control of the situation.

In Arizona, Republican politicians and their allies used the technical problems as an opening to prepare the public for significant legislative changes. During the primary election, Lake ran on a plan to manually count millions of ballots instead of using machines, which election experts say is less accurate. She is in support of “one-day voting,” which entails voting in designated precincts. In Maricopa County, Arizonans can cast a ballot at any polling place and by mail.

In the last weeks of the campaign, Lake was noticeably less specific about her intentions for electoral change. The Sunday before election day, she made a stop southeast of Phoenix and merely assured reporters that she intended to “work with our fantastic legislature, and we’ll come up with great laws that secure the vote.”

Even her staunchest allies appeared to be wavering. Wendy Rogers, a far-right state senator who has advocated for the “decertification” of the 2020 election, which experts say is not permitted by state or federal law, refused to support a system that would only permit voting on one day, an idea that has been promoted by far-right activists in this country. She said, “Essentially,” when questioned about the suggestion at the same gathering.

However, Maricopa County’s issues afforded Lake and her followers a new target for their wrath. Lake made the request for a “task force to investigate what went wrong, how these anomalies transpired” during an interview on a radio programme sponsored by Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of Turning Point USA, based in Phoenix.

She continued, “That’s either bad management or incompetence, we don’t know what it is.” Without providing any supporting evidence, Kirk continued, “I believe that was a traffic gridlock by design.” But Lake disagreed, performing a sophisticated dance in which she criticised the conduct of an election that, according to her supporters, will put her in the governor’s office.

It’s a broken election system, she declared. We were aware that the only way to win was to slog through it. Republicans running for office were put in a tough situation by that statement. According to a Republican familiar with the discussions, other campaigns looked to Lake for guidance on how to handle the ambiguity in the days following the election.

The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, Blake Masters, made a hint on Tuesday that something sinister was going on, but he generally disappeared from social media as Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) took a lead over him in unofficial results.

While not alleging improper behaviour, Masters’ campaign said in a fundraising appeal on Thursday that “some of the issues we’ve seen occur during this election are concerning.” “We’re expecting a tough route forward and judicial battles to come,” the statement continued. The Republican candidate for attorney general, Abraham Hamadeh, blasted Maricopa County but did not claim that the vote was rigged because it showed him and Kris Mayes neck and neck in the polls.

The exception was Republican Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem, who, according to early returns, was losing to Democrat Adrian Fontes. Democrat Fontes and other party members may be “in the back room with ballots,” according to Finchem’s Twitter speculative post. Fontes responded by saying, “Stop with this conspiracy bullshit,” and added, “I’m having coffee with an old buddy.”

The top Democratic candidates in the state generally advised patience, with Hobbs tweeting, “Accurate election results take time.” On social media, Kelly thanked his followers and wrote, “I’m convinced we’re going to win. However, the final results are still pending.

On Wednesday, Lake was cooped up in meetings with advisors, allies from outside the administration, and potential employees. According to two persons involved with the conversation—one of whom claimed it was an advising meeting—among them was Floyd Brown, a longtime conservative operative and the creator of the news and opinion website the Western Journal

To disclose private conversations, they agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. The technical problems in Maricopa County, according to Brown, who did not reply to a request for comment, were an “attempt to halt” Lake, he claimed on social media.

Lake also met with Danny Seiden, the head of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and a senior aide to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, Eileen Klein, the former director of staff for former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, and Tyler Bowyer, the chief operations officer of Kirk’s Turning Point USA’s political arm. No one spoke about the meetings.

Maricopa authorities stated that although they were unsure of what was causing some votes to print faintly, the issue appeared to be resolved by late Tuesday afternoon after technicians adjusted a setting to accommodate heavier paper. “Fusers” are hot rollers found in printers like those the county uses to melt the toner and adhere it to paper. For the toner to adhere correctly, different paper weights require different temperatures.

According to Megan Gilbertson, director of communications for the county’s elections department, there are around 760 printers in the county that can print ballots on demand. About 600 of those were produced by the Japanese company Oki, which stopped selling all of its printers in the US in March 2021. According to Oki, it still offers services like software upgrades and other items. Gilbertson claimed that those printers were the ones that experienced issues.

Gilbertson stated that it is “standard practice” to keep using equipment as long as a company can maintain it. Oki Data Americas’ president and chief executive, Dennie K. Kawahara, stated in an email that the company has not received any questions or requests for customer assistance on the issue in Maricopa County. Prior to the election, the printers were tested, and they passed with flying colours, according to Kawahara.

According to Maricopa’s election plan for 2022, each of the 223 polling locations in the county will have two to three printers, ensuring sufficient capacity in the event that one or more break down. Each ballot printer, according to Gilbertson, was only connected to a laptop; they weren’t interconnected or connected to the internet.

She claimed that changes to the printers’ settings could only be made manually and required a password. Davis and Swaine provided updates from Washington. This report was assisted in Washington by Cat Zakrzewski.