The claim: Video shows Maricopa County officials sabotaging voting machines
A May 28 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a Truth Social post from former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. The post includes a clip of people touching and moving voting machines.
"WE CAUGHT THEM," reads Lake's post. "This is VIDEO EVIDENCE from Maricopa County’s own live stream – they didn’t know we were recording – that shows officials breaking into machines AFTER they were tested & sealed. They re-programmed the memory cards right before Election Day, causing 60% of polling locations in GOP areas to stop working. This is SABOTAGE!"
The Instagram post generated over 700 likes in less than a week, and the Truth Social post received over 12,000 likes. Similar posts have garnered hundreds of interactions on Instagram. A Gateway pundit article with a similar claim received over 2,000 shares on Facebook, according to social media insights tool CrowdTangle.
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Our rating: False
The video shows election workers inserting new memory cards into tabulation machines as part of standard procedures, according to a Maricopa County election spokesperson. The workers reset the machines to ensure that the memory cards have no votes stored in them. The process is not evidence of sabotage. While printers at some polling places were affected by a glitch on Election Day, the glitches were not related to this process.
Maricopa County election workers did not sabotage tabulation machines
Lake’s claim about sabotage is “demonstrably false,” according to Matthew Roberts, the communications manager for the Maricopa County Elections Department. The county also debunked the claim on Twitter.
The clip in Lake’s post, dated Oct. 14, 2022, shows the installation of new memory cards into tabulators, which happens in each election, Roberts said. The process was conducted under live stream video cameras in the county’s ballot tabulation center.
In a May 10 court filing, Maricopa County stated that when inserting the memory cards, the county tabulated a small number of ballots on each tabulator to ensure that the memory cards were properly inserted. The process is not evidence of misconduct, according to the filing.
After the running test ballots, tabulators are reset to ensure no votes are stored on the memory cards, according to Roberts.
"The tabulators are subsequently affixed with tamper-evident seals and prepared for delivery to each vote center, where poll workers perform a verification to ensure that there are not ballots recorded on the tabulator and that all results equal zero,” Roberts said.
Robert said the memory cards had previously been certified through statutorily-required testing, where the county verifies that ballot-counting equipment is programmed correctly and ballots are accurately counted, according to the Maricopa County Election Department’s website.
Tammy Patrick, an elections expert who served as the federal compliance officer for Maricopa County Elections Department for 11 years, also told USA TODAY the video shows no evidence of impropriety.
"The tabulation center has been broadcast live during ballot processing for well over a decade, almost two, in Arizona," Patrick said. "This transparency of process comes at a cost when there are actors who want to take things out of context for their own gain, to support the narrative that they wish to promote. Voters in Maricopa County should have confidence in the legitimacy of their elections and trust the process − because it is transparent, observed and verified by the political parties' representatives present in the room."
Lake’s claim that 60% of polling locations in Republican areas stopped working is also inaccurate on multiple counts.
Printers at 70 of the 223 voting locations in Maricopa County produced formatting marks on some ballots that were too light to be read by tabulator machines, as the Arizona Republic reported. An independent review found the issue was not tied to fraud, however, and Roberts said the issue was "intermittent."
"In the cases where the ballots were not able to be read by a precinct tabulator, they were inserted into a secure ballot box to be counted at the ballot tabulation center," Roberts said. "The problems were 'dispersed' and not concentrated in a particular area. Previous reports clearly show that it is untrue to say that the voting centers that were impacted were only in Republican areas."
A Washington Post analysis found that the proportion of registered Republicans in the affected precincts was about 37%, which is about the same as the share of registered Republicans countywide.
USA TODAY reached out to Lake and the social media users who shared the claim for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Lead Stories also debunked the claim.
Our fact-check sources:
Tammy Patrick, May 31, Phone interview with USA TODAY
Matthew Roberts, May 30, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Maricopa County, May 30, Tweet
Maricopa County Elections, accessed May 31, Election Facts
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF MARICOPA, May 10, MARICOPA COUNTY DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE OPPOSING LAKE’S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT
The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2022, Arizona precincts with voting problems were not overwhelmingly Republican
Arizona Republic, April 10, Maricopa County's Election Day printer problems not tied to fraud, independent review says
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No proof of midterm election sabotage in Maricopa County | Fact check