Republican candidates and conservative media organizations seized on reports of voting issues in Arizona on Tuesday to reiterate their case that the state’s elections are broken and in need of reform, even as state and county officials said the complaints were overblown.
“We have irregularities all over the state,” said Mark Finchem, who won the Republican nomination for secretary of state in Arizona, before his victory was announced.
Gateway Pundit, a conservative website that relentlessly covered election rumors Tuesday, wrote that Arizona’s largest counties were apparently “riddled with serious irregularities occurring throughout the day, raising even greater concern about election integrity.”
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in Tuesday’s election. But the concerns expressed were heightened by a series of problems in Pinal County, the state’s third most populous county, located between Phoenix and Tucson. More than 63,000 ballots were mailed with the wrong local races, requiring new ballots to be issued. On election night, at least 20 of the 95 districts Pinal County was running out of ballots or they ran out completely.
Sophia Solis, the deputy communications director for the Arizona secretary of state, said voters could still cast ballots in those precincts using voting machines commonly used by voters with disabilities.
“We haven’t heard of widespread problems,” Ms. Solis said, adding that “one of the main themes we saw yesterday was the spread of misinformation and disinformation.”
Kent Volkmer, the Pinal County attorney, said there were more registered voters in the county than they had seen before, including many more independent voters. He added that many voters submitted their ballots by mail so they could vote in person, possibly motivated by the ballot printing issues.
“We don’t think there are as many people who were adversely affected as those related to the community,” Mr. Volkmer said.
A common talking point on Tuesday resurrected a false theory from 2020 known as Sharpiegate, which claimed markers provided by poll workers were bleeding and invalidating ballots. Election officials they have said this the machines can read ballots marked with pens, markers and other instruments, and any problems can be reviewed manually.
“This is Sharpiegate 2.0,” Ben Berquam, a conservative commentator, said on a live stream. Mr Finchem shared the conspiracy theory on his Twitter account. The campaign for Ron Watkins, a congressional candidate for Arizona’s Second District who came in last in his race on Tuesday, also suggested that Mr. Watkins’ votes were being artificially trimmed.
Many theories of voter fraud have centered on the gubernatorial primary race between Cary Lake, the former news anchor endorsed by Trump, and Karyn Taylor Robson, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence. Ms Lake badly trailed her rival for most of the night, sparking theories of voter fraud among her supporters. He finally took the lead.
Allies of Ms. Lake suggested during a live broadcast that the results were suspect because many other Trump-aligned candidates were winning their races. In Arizona, mail-in ballots received before Election Day are counted first, and polls suggested they would slightly favor Ms. Taylor Robson. Personal votes were counted on election night and Ms Lake’s supporters preferred to vote in person.
As the count continued late into the night, Ms Lake won while trailing Ms Taylor Robson.
“When the legal votes are counted, we will win,” Ms Lake said at her election night party. The Associated Press has yet to call the fight.