The claim: Malware and remote access caused printer problems; 200,000 ballots “rejected” in Arizona
A September 14 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a post on X, formerly Twitter, with a purported update on issues with ballot printers in the most large Arizona county in the 2022 midterms.
“BREAKING: Evidence shows Maricopa County Election Day printer ‘failures’ were caused by malware or remote access,” the post read. “200,000 ballots were rejected out of 248,000 votes cast.”
It was liked more than 500 times in five days. The original X post from the right-wing website Leading Report was shared more than 8,000 times in five days.
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Our rating: False
An investigation by a retired state Supreme Court justice found that the cause of those printer problems was a switch to larger ballots printed on thicker, thicker paper — not malicious actors. County officials have repeatedly said that all legally cast ballots were counted and included in the official results.
The new ballots were longer and thicker
The Leading Report’s post echoes a Sept. 12 post on X from former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who also claimed without evidence that more than 200,000 ballots were “rejected ”, an apparent typo in relation to his past claims regarding the rejection of ballots.
Printers at county polling places produce ballots on demand so voters can vote anywhere. But at about 60 of those locations on Election Day 2022, problems with those printers led to long lines, the Arizona Republic reported. It sparked conspiracy theories and led to an investigation by retired state Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor.
Maricopa County election officials say all legally cast ballots were counted and included in the official results.
But Lake, who falsely claimed she lost the state’s 2022 gubernatorial race due to fraud, filed a lawsuit, claiming that lineups and running times waiting deprived Republicans of their right to vote. She and her lawyers have blamed malware or remote access to Election Day printers for the tabulation problems, but they have yet to produce evidence showing that.
Lake’s latest social media post appears to be an attempt to echo debunked claims that nearly 250,000 voting attempts failed in that year’s election. County officials said previously about 248,000 people voted in person on Election Day that year.
McGregor’s review found no evidence of foul play, but instead determined that the problems were related to the printers themselves and a change in the paper fed into them. Measuring 20 inches long and weighing 100 pounds per 500 sheets, the new ballots were longer, thicker and heavier than the previous ones which measured 19 inches and weighed 80 pounds, according to the McGregor report.
Fact Check: Maricopa County ‘heat map’ has nothing to do with faulty vote tabulators
As a result, some of the county’s older Oki B432 printers failed to stay hot enough to consistently print ballots in a color dark enough to be read by precinct tabulators, according to the report. He said those ballots had to be taken to scanners in downtown Phoenix to be counted.
Thus, all votes “rejected” by the on-site tabulators were correctly counted.
“All legal ballots were counted and included in the official results, but printer problems caused frustration among many voters on Election Day, which the (Oversight) Board is committed to to be remedied,” county officials said in a statement following the investigation.
Jennifer Liewer, the county’s deputy communications director for elections, told USA TODAY about a subsequent internal review in July that found those problems were related to the performance of the fuser, the two heating rollers that melt the powder of toner on the paper.
The county changed the size of the paper to fit more than 70 races, and thicker paper was used because some voters complained that ink from markers used to vote leaked through the paper, the county reported. ‘Associated Press.
USA TODAY reached out to Leading Report and Lake for comment but did not immediately receive responses.
“People aren’t really aware of how printers and voting machines are set up or the multiple layers of security that are in place,” Patty Ferguson Bohnee, a law professor at Arizona State University, said in an email to USA TODAY. “People exploit this lack of knowledge to distrust elections. The lack of confidence in the results of our elections poses a threat to democracy.”
Our fact-checking sources:
- Patty Ferguson Bohnee, September 15, email exchange with USA TODAY
- Edward Foley, September 15, email exchange with USA TODAY
- Jennifer Liewer, September 18, email exchange with USA TODAY
- Maricopa County, April 10, Maricopa County 2022 General Election On-Demand Ballot Printer Survey
- Maricopa County, April 10, printer investigation completed
- Maricopa County, November 28, 2002, Message X (Twitter)
- Arizona Mirror, September 19, Kari Lake Appeals Again, Accuses Maricopa County of ‘Man-Made Election Day Chaos’
- Arizona Republic, November 9, 2022, Early problems with Maricopa County election machines frustrate voters
- Clerk of the Superior Court, Maricopa County, Arizona, December 9, 2022, CV2022-095403 – Special Action Complaint and Verified Statement of Election Contest – Part 1
- Maricopa County Elections, Internal Review of July 26, 2022 General Election
- The Associated Press, November 9, 2022, Arizona voting problems fuel election conspiracy theories
- The Associated Press, April 10, Paper changes caused printer outage in Maricopa County: report
- How Things Work, March 14, 2007, How Laser Printers Work
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