Pro-Trump media's latest story about Arizona election results is just another evidence-free conspiracy theory

Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward claimed to have found 2 improperly counted ballots out of 100 examined, and suggested this 2% error rate in a small batch of ballots was proof of a widespread conspiracy

Echoing Republican politicians, pro-Trump media outlets have been trumpeting claims that 3% of ballots in a 100-ballot sample in Arizona have been wrongly tabulated. Not only is there no evidence to back up these claims within the 100-ballot sample -- much less the rest of the millions of votes within the state -- but even the swing they mention among damaged votes in Maricopa County would not be enough to change the results of the election, which has already been certified.

After the Arizona Republican Party was granted permission by a judge to inspect a batch of “duplicate ballots” -- ballots intentionally duplicated by a bipartisan team to count votes that the machines initially could not read -- Chairwoman Kelli Ward suggested that the party found proof of widespread fraud. In a video posted to the Arizona GOP’s Twitter account, Ward claimed that two of the 100 ballots examined should have counted for President Donald Trump, but one was supposedly counted for President-elect Joe Biden instead and the other was not counted at all. Ward declared that “those media propagandists who say there’s no evidence of fraud can now shut up” because “this looks like this election has been attempted to be stolen from President Trump,” later claiming that Democrats “are potentially covering up fraud.”

Ward repeated the claim in a follow-up video on December 3, now calling her findings “a 3% swing for President Donald Trump” because “one vote was cast for Trump and given to Biden, so that’s two for Trump column. One was cast for President Trump and just discarded for who knows what reason, so that’s three.” Ward also claimed that “there are a lot of ballots out here, folks, that have the potential to be entered incorrectly -- I won’t say ‘fraudulently’ today, but potentially there’s fraud there as well.”

However, Ward’s videos contain no actual proof that her team did find any improperly allocated ballots. Even if they did, it’s also a considerable logical leap to suggest that two incorrectly counted ballots, out of a batch of 100 erroneous or damaged ballots, are somehow proof of a statewide scheme or even a national conspiracy to steal the election from Trump.

As The Associated Press noted, the Arizona Republican Party is suing to examine “nearly 28,000 ballots in Maricopa County that were duplicated by elections officials because voters’ earlier ballots were damaged or couldn’t be tabulated.” However, the AP continues, “The state’s election results were certified on Monday, showing Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes.” Even using Ward’s evidence-free claim that examination of those duplicate ballots in Maricopa County would show “a 3% swing” for Trump, the result would still fall thousands short of the votes he needs to overcome Biden’s margin of victory in the state.

Nonetheless, the Arizona Republican Party’s claim is spreading across right-wing media as one of the latest items allegedly proving that the 2020 election was stolen. 

The initial video was retweeted by Trump on December 2, as well as a conservative political consultant with over 100,000 followers on Twitter. The claim has also spread to (a pro-Trump forum originally at Reddit, then banned from it this summer) and the Parler account of Twitter-banned right-wing troll Bill Mitchell. The story has also been covered or aggregated by many staunchly right-wing media sites, including The Daily Wire, National File, The Gateway Pundit, and Infowars.

Ward is fluent in right-wing conspiracy theories. During the 2020 election, she boosted the campaign of a QAnon conspiracy theorist and pushed COVID-19 misinformation that led Twitter to limit her account. Before her current position as GOP chair in Arizona, Ward was the administrator of a racist Facebook group and had a cozy relationship with far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists, many of whom are now trying to subvert Biden's win.