The claim: Arizona had fraudulent ballot counts and drop box activity
On Election Day, roughly 60 voting sites in Maricopa County, Arizona, experienced a ballot printing glitch that spawned allegations of voter fraud. It’s far from the only such claim out of Arizona, however.
An Instagram post shared Nov. 10 includes a screenshot of a post on Gettr, a social media network run by an aide to former President Donald Trump. In the post, a poll watcher named Sarah O’Neill claims to have seen discrepancies with ballot activity at a vote center in Maricopa County on Election Day.
“1,018. # of Voters Checked in. 1,218 # of Total Ballots per tape + Door # 3,” reads the Gettr post. “Suspicious. Where did the extra 200 Ballots come from??? More than 250 vote centers = 50k. Reported to the AZ GOP.”
O’Neill claims that “drop boxes also had dozens of ballots already in them as they were placed, still sealed” and that sheriffs were called out to witness the activity.
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But officials from multiple agencies said there is no truth to any of O’Neill’s claims, as she did not contact people she claimed to contact and couldn’t have seen what she claimed to see.
Maricopa County officials told USA TODAY that no extra ballots were counted at any voting sites in the county, and they’ve seen no evidence any drop boxes were insecure. Officials with the state Republican Party and local law enforcement both said they were not contacted by O’Neill, though her post claims she did so.
USA TODAY reached out to O’Neill for comment.
County has process to ensure all legal ballots counted only once
O’Neill claims to have seen a discrepancy between the number of voters checked in and the number of ballots, but that’s impossible because poll watchers don’t have access to voter check-in data, said Megan Gilbertson, communications director for the Maricopa County Board of Elections.
None of the 223 vote centers in Maricopa County recorded 200 extra ballots, Gilbertson said.
“Additionally, there are processes in place every election to reconcile the total ballots against Election Day check-ins,” Gilbertson told USA TODAY in an email. “This ensures all legal ballots are only counted once.”
O’Neill claims in the post that she reported the allegation of the extra ballots to Arizona’s Republican Party, but the party has received no such report, Kristy Dohnel, the party’s spokesperson, told USA TODAY in a direct message.
Tammy Patrick, senior adviser to the Elections and Voting Program at the Democracy Fund, said there are checks in place to prevent ballot box stuffing.
“In order to get a ballot, you have to make a request or an application, whether that means it’s being mailed to you or you’re there in person, you have to sign in,” Patrick said. “You have to be registered already. If you’re not registered, it’s a provisional ballot.”
All drop boxes were secure
Contrary to the post’s claim, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was not at any drop box locations to witness any activity undertaken by elections representatives, Calbert Gillett, the agency’s public information officer, told USA TODAY in an email.
The post’s claim that drop boxes in the county already had dozens of sealed ballots inside them is vague, but officials say there’s no proof anything nefarious occurred with the ballot boxes.
There are two different types of ballot boxes used at voting locations, Gilbertson said. But all ballot boxes were secure on Election Day, and none were linked to any fraudulent activity.
The ballot box that goes with the tabulating machine had no ballots inside of it ahead of Election Day, Gilbertson said. It was sealed and locked by a poll worker. The only way to put a ballot in is for the precinct tabulator to be turned on and for a ballot to be run through, she said.
There are also drop boxes for early ballots, which accepted ballots until 7 p.m. on Election Day, Gilbertson said. Bipartisan ballot couriers picked up those early ballots from voting locations daily.
Lead Stories also debunked the claim.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Arizona had fraudulent ballot counts and drop box activity. Multiple officials said O’Neill didn’t contact who she claimed to contact and couldn’t have seen the voter data she claimed to cite. No extra ballots were counted at any voting sites in Maricopa County on Election Day, officials said. There are also checks in place to make sure each ballot is associated with a legitimate voter. All drop boxes were secure on Election Day, and none were linked to fraudulent activity.
Our fact-check sources:
- Calbert Gillett, Nov. 15, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Megan Gilbertson, Nov. 15-16, Email exchange and phone interview with USA TODAY
- Tammy Patrick, Nov. 16, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- Kirsty Dohnel, Nov. 16, Text message exchange with USA TODAY
- Lead Stories, Nov. 14, Fact Check: Arizona ‘Poll Watcher’ Did NOT Have Access To Voter Check-In Data — 200 Extra People Did NOT Cast Ballots
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