After it trained upwards of 50,000 poll watchers, poll workers, and other roles for ongoing citizen engagement in the election process over the year leading up to the 2022 midterms, the Election Integrity Network sent out a survey to its on-the-ground volunteers following Election Day to gauge how things went.
The responses from election workers in key battleground districts and states around the country showed a mostly calm election cycle compared to 2020, with one massive and overwhelming exception. In Maricopa County, Arizona, election workers were appalled and aghast at how things had been run there.
“As soon as we sent the survey out, we were flooded with responses showing that they had no confidence in how the election had been run there,” Executive Director of the Election Integrity Network Marshall Yates told The Federalist.
According to Yates, unlike the rest of the country, where survey respondents espoused general confidence in their respective elections, the responses from Arizona were overwhelming, with Maricopa poll watchers and poll workers saying they had “zero” confidence in the election.
Maricopa, which is home to almost 62 percent of Arizona’s 7.2 million people, was already in the news on Election Day for its hours-long lines and broken machines. After its close and contentious 2020 election, Maricopa County officials refused to cooperate with an audit of the election by state senators and dismissed concerns about how it conducts elections. This year, it took the county just under two full weeks to count ballots.
Election Day workers flooded the survey response team with stories of incompetence, chaos, and mismanagement that resulted in the disenfranchisement of voters.
“The printers were not properly calibrated so the tabulators did not read the ballots and were rejected. Many voters left because of the delays and either did not vote or had to go to other vote centers to vote,” one Maricopa poll observer reported. “Some voters did not want to place rejected ballot into misreads box. Some voting centers may have mixed tabulated ballots with misreads.”
“This was a horrible thing to experience. Poll workers conveyed a shocking lack of competence — it actually looked like willful incompetence,” another said.
Unfortunately, these accounts are among many reported incidents of failed election administration seen throughout Maricopa on Election Day and in the days following. From finicky ballot tabulator machines to probable violations of state law, the seemingly endless slew of problems witnessed by Maricopa residents was a clearcut example of how not to run an election.
A County Filled with Chaos
Unlike most states, where citizens vote at their local neighborhood-based precinct, Arizona allows for its counties to adopt a vote center model, where voters are permitted to cast their ballots at any center within their voting jurisdiction, regardless of their address. Upon arriving at one of these centers, Maricopa voters check in by providing their state-approved ID, at which point a ballot-on-demand printer produces a ballot that is filled out by the voter and run through a vote tabulation machine.
As county election officials have admitted, however, this is not the process experienced by thousands of Maricopa voters on Election Day, when printers with misconfigured settings in at least 70 of Maricopa’s 223 voting locations printed ballots that were rejected by many of the center’s vote tabulator machines.
“The vote center model failed most spectacularly because it relies on this ballot-on-demand printer model, and you can’t pre-order paper ballots and have them ready for voters ahead of time,” Gina Swoboda, executive director of the Voter Reference Foundation, told The Federalist. “It’s just a bad system. It does not function well in Maricopa County and leads us to be exposed to a complete failure of the system on Election Day.”
While Maricopa Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates told voters experiencing difficulties that they were permitted to leave and cast their ballot at a different voting center, the unfamiliarity among voters and election workers with the official “check out” procedures led to more pandemonium. According to the Arizona attorney general’s office, many of the voters who left their original vote center without properly checking out were told upon arriving at another location that the county’s e-Pollbook system had marked them as having already voted.
Maricopa voters were furthermore told by Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer that they had the option of placing their non-tabulated ballot in a bin called “Door 3,” which would be taken to the county’s central counting center after polls closed to be processed. Maricopa election officials, however, allegedly botched segregating, transporting, and tabulating the ballots, leading to a potential violation of state law and some of the estimated 17,000 “Door 3” ballots getting mixed with ballots already tabulated.
How Are Republicans Responding?
On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee (RNC), along with GOP attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh, whose close race is headed to a recount, filed a lawsuit in Maricopa’s Superior Court against his Democrat opponent Kris Mayes, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and the county recorders and board of supervisors of Arizona’s 15 counties, alleging that “erroneous” vote counts and misconduct by Maricopa election officials resulted in the disenfranchisement of Arizona voters.
“The  election … was afflicted with certain errors and inaccuracies in the management of some polling place operations, and in the processing and tabulation of some ballots. The cumulative effect of these mistakes is material to the race for Arizona Attorney General, where the candidates are separated by just 510 votes,” the suit reads. “Immediate judicial intervention is necessary to secure the accuracy of the results of the November 8, 2022 general election.”
In their filing, Hamadeh and the RNC asked the court to order Maricopa to “process and tabulate all provisional ballots and early ballots submitted by qualified electors who had ‘checked in’ at a voting center but did not cast a regular ballot” on Election Day. Moreover, the plaintiffs requested that an injunction be issued to prohibit or nullify any attempts to certify the results of the attorney general race.
While speaking with The Federalist, an RNC representative said the group is continuing to work with Hamadeh’s campaign in gathering affidavits and other facts required to hold Maricopa election officials accountable for their mismanagement of the 2022 general election.
The lawsuit comes days after Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright sent a letter to Maricopa election officials demanding they submit a full report answering for their incompetent election administration on or before Nov. 28, when counties must send their official canvass to the secretary of state for certification. The request has since prompted Cochise and Mohave Counties to delay their respective election certifications until the 28th.
Arizona Senate Republicans have requested similar information, with state Sen. Kelly Townsend issuing a subpoena to Maricopa’s board of supervisors on Tuesday, seeking records and explanations over the county’s handling of the 2022 general election.
Arizona’s Election Results Deserve Scrutiny
Coupled with the tendency among Republican voters to cast their ballots on Election Day, the incredible mismanagement by Maricopa election officials potentially disenfranchised enough voters to swing the results of some of Arizona’s most contested elections.
In addition to the attorney general’s race, the gubernatorial contest between Hobbs — who oversaw the conduction of her own election — and Republican Kari Lake was also relatively close, with Hobbs beating Lake by roughly 17,000 votes.
Try as they might to downplay their administrative failures, Gates and Richer can’t hide the effect Maricopa’s abysmal voting problems had on the state’s elections. Even 84 percent of surveyed Maricopa election observers and workers reported they are “not at all confident” that Arizona’s election results are “completely accurate and honest.”
“Printer problems, tabulation errors, three-hour-long lines and even longer, and confusing instructions given by election officials made this Election Day the most chaotic in Arizona’s history,” said Lake in a video recently posted to Twitter. “The 2022 general election in Arizona was botched and broken beyond repair. … This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. This is about our sacred right to vote; a right that many voters were sadly deprived of on November 8th.”
“I will continue fighting until we restore confidence and faith in our elections,” she added.
Shawn Fleetwood is a Staff Writer for The Federalist and a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood