Dozens of vote-counting machines were reported to fail in Maricopa County, Arizona, prompting a wave of allegations of voter fraud across the right-wing media Tuesday morning, an early sign that electoral skepticism and conspiracy theories will continue to surface on Election Day.
The state of Illinois also announced that it was exposed to a cyber attack that will affect the voting mechanism in the midterm elections for Congress.
The state said, “The cyberattack we are being exposed to is aimed at destabilizing democracy in America.”
In Arizona, Maricopa County officials said problems with ballot sorting machines, including refusal of valid ballot papers or their failure to successfully read ballots, affected about 40 polling stations in the county’s 223 county.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Bill Gates and county registrar Stephen Richer, both Republicans, said the problems were disappointing, but voters could still cast ballots, and that the vote was not turned down. “None of this indicates any fraud, this is a technical problem,” Gates said.
But allegations of widespread voter fraud spread quickly on social media and in the right-wing media anyway, according to the New York Times.
Several right-wing influencers argued that problems with voting sites would disproportionately affect Republicans who generally favored voting in person due to mistrust of mail-in voting.
About six in 10 Arizona voters reside in Maricopa County, which has tilted increasingly toward Democrats since 2016.
“It’s really unfortunate that there are these bad actors who are spreading the lies that voting by mail is not safe,” said Taylor Moss, director of election protection at the Arizona Center.
A video recorded outside a polling station shows a polling official telling voters that one ballot reader is not working and another has misread about 25 percent of the ballot papers. The worker was seen telling voters that “no one is trying to deceive anyone”.
Another replied, “No, not on Election Day, no, that will never happen.” The person recording the video responds with a sarcastic tone.
The video, posted by Tyler Boyer, chief operating officer of Turning Point USA, a conservative youth organization, has been viewed more than 1.7 million times on Twitter.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, a Republican, shared the video on her official account and called for elections using “paper ballots only.”
Carrie Lake, the Republican candidate for governor who has cast doubt on the integrity of the election, posted the video on her Twitter account, adding: “This is why we must reform our elections.
During a live broadcast, Steve Bannon, a former aide to former President Donald Trump, suggested the flaw was a deliberate attempt to suppress the Republican vote on Election Day. “They’re doing it on purpose,” Bannon said.
And Ben Bergkam, one of the guests on the show, replied, “The only way to win is if they cheat.”
Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, has been the target of conspiracy theories since the 2020 presidential election when more than 150 Republicans broke into a vote-counting site and asserted that the county was committing fraud.
Maricopa election officials worked in the ensuing years to dispel concerns about voting issues in the county, bypassing a painful initial season that reignited conspiracy theories directed at officials and the election process.
“If you’re at a polling place and you’re having trouble, you have three options and your vote will be counted on each one,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Mr. Gates, posted on Twitter on Tuesday.