PHOENIX — Votes are still being counted in Arizona, but MAGA world is beginning to get jumpy and already laying the groundwork to claim the election was stolen from them.
The most closely watched race in the state is for governor. And as of Thursday morning, GOP candidate Kari Lake, a former TV anchor and current 2020 election denier who received Donald Trump’s endorsement, continued to trail her Democrat opponent, Katie Hobbs, by 13,000 votes.
When the results of a batch of 62,000 votes in Maricopa County, announced Wednesday evening, failed to catapult Lake into the lead, some of her most ardent supporters reverted to a familiar line.
Moments after those results came out, “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, who’s been on the campaign trail with Lake, took to Telegram. “THIS IS CRIMINAL,” he wrote. While it wasn’t immediately clear what he was alluding to, many of his subscribers got the message. “They are hoping Kari will concede, it will never happen,” one replied.
Lake’s supporters are coalescing around one narrative in particular: that the temporary glitches in 20 percent of voting machines in Maricopa County on Election Day were part of a broader plan to weaken Republican voters, who were anticipated to largely vote in person.
A judge denied a request from Republicans to keep the polls open, because he saw no evidence that the temporary issues with some machines had prevented people from voting. The issue was that some of the tabulators were unable to read ballots because the printers hadn’t produced dark enough “timing marks.” People who experienced this problem were invited to use another machine, deposit their ballot in a secure bin under the machine (and it would be tallied later on), or go to another voting place.
“I mean, I’m not alleging a crime, but broadly speaking, it’s just criminal to screw it up this badly,” said Fox News host Tucker Carlson in an interview with Lake on Wednesday evening. “Did anyone know this was going to happen? It’s outrageous.”
“20 percent of those machines went down, they were primarily in Republican areas of town, Arcadia, Anthem, a lot of different areas, so it was really a shame,” said Lake. “We ended up voting in a very liberal part of town, and they said they’d had no problems.” (There were issues at 60 vote centers in Maricopa County in total, and there’s been no evidence to suggest that “Republican areas of town” were disproportionately impacted.)
In a separate appearance on right-wing streamer Steven Crowder’s show Thursday morning, Lake again talked about the machines. “I don’t know if this was intentional, or accidental,” she said. Even on election night, Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser and now convicted criminal, was stoking conspiracy theories about the machine glitches. "What happened in Arizona was clearly to suppress a game-day vote," he told viewers.
Much has also been made of Arizona’s drawn-out vote-counting process, an issue in 2020 and expected again for 2022, which has been a flashpoint for voter fraud conspiracies. “Allow me to explain where we are in Arizona,” wrote Seth Keshel aka “Captain K,” a former Army intelligence officer turned election fraud conspiracist, to his 125,000 subscribers on Telegram on Wednesday. “The uncounted ballots have certainly been counted. They favor the GOP candidates… We now inject ‘random mail-ins’ for some breathing room. This will happen a couple of times… this is like inserting extra cards in a card deck.”
There are some 600,000 votes left to tally in Arizona, and around two-thirds of them are in Maricopa County, (the state’s most populous county, encompassing Phoenix, which also happens to be purple).
According to the Maricopa County Recorder, over 275,000 of those votes were early ballots that were dropped off on Election Day. Little is known about the political leanings of that particular category of votes. Lake claims they swing Republican, because they reflect voters who don’t trust mail-in voting or the machines. Remaining uncounted votes also include ballots that were dropped off between Friday and Monday before the election.
The governor’s race in Arizona is very close and might be undecided for awhile—but that hasn’t stopped Republicans running in other key state races from prematurely preparing to assume the roles they’re vying for. When Abe Hamadeh, a Trump-endorsed election denier running for attorney general, took a slim lead over his opponent Wednesday, he essentially claimed victory, tweeting “I want to thank the people of Arizona for entrusting me with this great responsibility, I will NEVER forget who I’m fighting for.” His tweet didn’t age well: Hours later, his opponent retook the lead by 47 points.
And Lake, who has not once overtaken her opponent since ballots started being tallied, says she’s formed a transition committee. Other key races being closely watched are for the U.S. Senate (Republican candidate Blake Masters trails his opponent by 5 percent) and Secretary of State (Republican Mark Finchem, is lagging behind four percentage points).
Results out of smaller counties are expected to trickle out throughout Thursday and Friday. Data analyst Garrett Archer of ABC-15 reported that more results out of Maricopa will likely come out later Thursday.
“We will be going into next week,” Bill Gates, chairman of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, told CNN on Thursday, when asked if they were still on track to tally 99 percent of votes by Friday. More batches of results out of Maricopa County could drop later on Thursday.
Extremism researchers and federal agencies had been concerned that the midterm elections could result in political violence. Despite the fact that the “red wave” promised by GOP pundits didn’t materialize, and former President Donald Trump urging his followers via Truth Social to “protest protest protest” on Election Day in response to a fleeting absentee ballot issue in Detroit, things have been peaceful.
On Election Day outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, there was a huge police presence. Officers in light riot gear on horseback periodically trotted by the center where votes were being tallied, other officers were stationed on rooftops, and drones buzzed overhead as well as a helicopter with a searchlight. Just six right-wing protesters showed up on election night in Maricopa County. Nobody appeared to show up at all on Wednesday.