Right-wing media spread misinformation about Maricopa County voting machines

Conservative pundits are claiming that an apparent machine malfunction is evidence of election fraud

Right-wing media personalities and activists are spreading misinformation on social media about the reliability of voting machines in Maricopa County, Arizona, as voters go to the polls on Election Day.

Local affiliate ABC15 reported that poll workers were having an issue with a vote tabulation machine at the Phoenix central library, and the polling place had temporarily become a ballot drop-off site only until the machine was restored.

Maricopa County’s official Twitter account responded, confirming the issue and clarifying that a password had been entered incorrectly too many times, resulting in a short lockout from the machine.

The issue appeared to have been at least partially resolved shortly after it was identified. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer acknowledged on his personal Twitter account that some machines were experiencing issues, but “the backup plan allows those votes to still be tabulated.”

Washington Post reporter Yvonne Wingett-Sanchez tweeted that “about 10% of polling places are experiencing problems with tabulators” in Maricopa County, but “voters can still place their ballots in a slot in a locked container; they will be counted at the downtown tabulation center tonight.”

Yet by mid-morning, right-wing media personalities and activists had spread conspiracy theories about the issues with the machines, claiming they were proof of election fraud and ballot tampering.

Steve Bannon discussed the issue on his War Room: Pandemic podcast, a hub of election denialism and misinformation. In an update from Arizona, Real America’s Voice correspondent Ben Bergquam said that “we’ve already got some major issues going on” and suggested it’s “par for the course” for Democrats to commit election fraud. War Room co-host and executive editor Natalie Winters conspiratorially connected the reported tabulator issues to election monitoring efforts by the Carter Center, describing it as a “group that is globalist to its core,” funded by Pfizer and George Soros, and has “extensive links to the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Citation From the November 8, 2022 edition of Real America's Voice's War Room: Pandemic

Fox News contributor and Townhall editor Katie Pavlich wrote a blog post fearmongering about the malfunctioning machine titled “BREAKING: Votes in Key Arizona County Are Being 'Misread.'”.  

Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward tweeted about the machines, putting “malfunctions” in quotes to suggest something nefarious was at play and advising not to drop off their ballots “to be ‘tabulated downtown.’” She later implied the machines had been deliberately tampered with to prevent voters from being able to cast ballots on Election Day.

Ward later appeared on Bannon's War Room: Pandemic to discuss the issue as well.

Ward’s baseless warning about potential disenfranchisement was echoed by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.

Turning Point Action’s Tyler Bowyer shared a video of an election worker explaining the issue, which was then reshared by conspiracy theorist and neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec. 

Posobiec then implied there was some sort of conspiracy afoot and praised election denialist kook Mike Lindell.

Serial plagiarist and right-wing activist Benny Johnson also shared Bowyer’s video and followed up with an even more hyperbolic tweet.

Right-wing pollster and frequent War Room guest Richard Baris claimed the problems were “easily exploitable” by unnamed bad actors.

Stephen Miller, the racist and xenophobic senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, called the situation in Maricopa County a “third world voting system.” (Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake retweeted Miller’s post.)

Republican Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters suggested some undefined fraud was behind “the ‘hiccups’ with the Maricopa County tabulating machines.”

Other right-wing personalities weighed in as well, including some references to an emerging conspiracy theory that President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is poised to engage in fraud on Election Day.