Website targets Arizona with false claim about missing ballots

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The most populous county in the US state of Arizona has certified its 2022 midterm results, but a conservative website claims the jurisdiction "lost" more than 290,000 ballots cast on November 8. This is false; the article is based on a misreading of data -- local officials say the supposedly missing votes are provisional and mail-in ballots that were returned on Election Day.

"IMPOSSIBLE: Maricopa County Lost 291,930 Election Day Votes?" says the November 28, 2022 article from the Gateway Pundit, a conservative website that has promoted false claims about voting in Arizona and other states, including Nevada, Michigan, Colorado and New Hampshire.

Screenshot from Truth Social taken November 28, 2022

Similar claims spread across social media on November 28 before the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to certify the jurisdiction's midterm election results. But the posts are false.

The Gateway Pundit article focuses on a line from a Maricopa County document that says: "On Election Day, over 540,000 voters visited a site."

Because local officials reported roughly 248,000 "Election Day" votes, the website concludes that "somewhere along the way Maricopa County lost 291,930 votes."

But Megan Gilbertson, communications director for the Maricopa County Elections Department, confirmed in an email that the 540,000 figure accounts for anyone who cast a ballot at a voting site on November 8 -- including those who submitted provisional ballots or dropped off mail-in ballots on that day.

The county, home of Phoenix, made a similar statement in a November 28 tweet: "A recent @maricopavote report noted that ~540K people visited Vote Centers on Election Day. To clarify for anyone confused ... these Vote Center visits include ~290K early ballots dropped off on Election Day and ~250K in-person election day votes."

Those votes were recorded in the final election results as "provisional" and "early vote" ballots, rather than under the "Election Day" category.

The breakdown tracks with what Jack Sellers, a Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in a November 28 statement after the results were certified.

"Registered voters in Maricopa County had 27 days to cast a ballot in this election. Nearly a million of them did so before Election Day," Sellers said. "Another 290,000 dropped their early ballot in a secure box at one of our 223 Vote Centers. And about 250,000 cast a ballot in-person on Election Day. No matter how you voted, all legal ballots were counted."

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, also a Republican, said several times during the canvassing of results that more than 290,000 mail-in ballots were returned at voting locations on Election Day. A slideshow presentation from the county says the same thing.

"The county was very clear that they were reporting how many voters went to a vote center on Election Day," said Tammy Patrick, a former elections official who worked in Maricopa County for 11 years. "This is different from votes cast as in-person, Election Day votes."

She added: "Special ballot drop boxes have been available to voters for their convenience ... it is common for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of voters to use this option. Those ballots have to be accounted for in the same method as they originated."

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, another Republican, said in a November 28 statement that he is "confident the canvass provides an accurate tally of all legal votes."

AFP has fact-checked other misinformation about Maricopa County's midterm election results here.