New Election Day Conspiracies Are Already Running Wild

After some voting machines in Arizona malfunctioned, extremists and mainstream GOP figures like Kari Lake began spreading false election conspiracies.
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks during a get out the vote campaign rally on November 7, 2022 in Prescott, Arizona.
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks during a get out the vote campaign rally on November 7, 2022 in Prescott, Arizona. (Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

It took only minutes after the polls opened Tuesday for pro-Trump conspiracists to begin spreading false allegations about voter fraud in Maricopa County, Arizona.

There were reports from multiple polling stations of issues with tabulation machines not accepting ballots soon after the polls officially opened, at 6 a.m. These reports were confirmed by the Maricopa County Election Office, with 20 percent of polling places in the county affected. At a press conference about the issue, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chairman Bill Gates said the issue is not centered on any one particular area of the county, and that they are still trying to establish why the machines are malfunctioning.

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Election officials reassured voters that they had several options to consider if confronted with malfunctioning voting machines. They could post their ballot in a secure drop box to be counted later in the day, they could wait for the machine to be fixed, or they could find another polling location nearby.  

But within minutes of the issues arising with the machines, conspiracies claiming that issues were only impacting GOP strongholds flooded social media platforms like Twitter and Telegram. Conspiracy theorists claimed this was part of a scheme to prevent people from voting in person, part of a Democratic conspiracy designed to steal the election from pro-Trump candidates. 

It’s not just fringe figures on extremist message boards spreading these theories. Mainstream GOP figures including Arizona GOP chairperson Kelli Ward and Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake weighed in.

“Maybe they are working great for cheating?” Kelli Ward, the chairperson of the Arizona GOP, tweeted in response to a message about issues with the tabulation machines, which count votes.

(Twitter)

(Twitter)

Ward, who has been one of the most vocal proponents of election conspiracies for the last two years, is urging voters not to place their ballots in the secure drop box, claiming that the votes won’t be counted, which is entirely inaccurate.

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This is a message being repeated by many Republican lawmakers and candidates in Arizona on Tuesday morning, as it ties in with the GOP’s plan to “overwhelm the system” on Election Day by getting everyone to vote in person.

Kari Lake, the far-right gubernatorial candidate, replied to the official Maricopa County Twitter account’s attempt to debunk conspiracy theories, writing: “This makes us feel so much better.” Lake also said, without evidence, that Democratic areas in Arizona are experiencing fewer problems.

(Twitter)

(Twitter)

Steve Daniels, the head of the far-right Patriot Party of Arizona, tweeted: “This is why people don't have confidence in our ‘Elections.’ We tried to tell you guys.”

On the far-right conspiracy outlet the Gateway Pundit, a story about the misfiring machines in Maricopa County begins with the line: “The fix is in.” The publication also baselessly claimed that the machines were “misreading” the ballots despite no credible reports of this happening. In fact, the official Maricopa County Twitter account tweeted that some machines were malfunctioning because a “Password [was] entered too many times, so built-in security measures locked the machine.”

On Telegram, star of the election denial movement Seth Keshel tweeted a video from one polling location in Anthem, Arizona, suggesting without evidence that the malfunctioning machines are targeting “GOP strongholds.”

Jack Posobiec, a professional far-right troll and Pizzagate promoter who is in Arizona for the election, also posted a video of issues at one polling location in the county. “Do not leave the line no matter what they say, hold the line,” Posobiec wrote on his Telegram account.

“Secretary of State [Katie Hobbs] needs to be put to trial for this. All those idiots down in Maricopa need to be held accountable for these actions cuz you can't be this incompetent, not possible,” one Telegram user wrote.

It might not be surprising that these conspiracies are emanating from Maricopa County, the site of the bogus recount from the 2020 election that dragged on for five months, cost millions of dollars, and found that President Joe Biden had, in fact, beaten former President Donald Trump by more votes than the original count.