PHOENIX – Election officials assured voters that every ballot would be counted after a printing malfunction at about one-quarter of the polling places across Arizona's most populous county slowed down voting.
The snag on Tuesday fueled conspiracy theories about the integrity of the vote in the tightly contested state as former President Donald Trump, GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and others tried to make the case that Democrats were seeking to subvert the vote of Republicans, who tend to show up in greater numbers in person on Election Day.
About 17,000 ballots in Maricopa County, or about 7% of the 275,000 dropped off Tuesday, were affected, officials said. There are about 4.5 million people in the county, which includes Phoenix, and about 2.4 million registered voters. More than 80% vote early, most by mail.
At issue at 60 of 223 vote centers were printers that did not produce dark enough markings on the ballots, Some voters who tried to insert their ballots into tabulators had to wait to use other machines or were told they could leave their ballots in a drop box. Those votes were expected to be counted Wednesday.
Officials changed the printer settings to address the problem.
After polls closed, Republican Bill Gates, chairman of the county's board of supervisors, apologized and said “every voter had the opportunity to vote and have their vote counted.”
The majority of Arizona counties do not count ballots at polling places. Officials bring the ballots to a central facility for counting.
At the county's tabulation center on Wednesday, workers wore purple gloves to protect the paper from dirt and sweat and used metal carts to carry stacks of boxes containing ballots to be scanned into election machines. Election adjudicators observed the tabulation process before workers placed the ballots into cardboard boxes, labeled them and sealed them with red tape for storage pending possible future challenges.
There were no protests outside the building by midday.
As part of the security Tuesday night outside the county’s tabulation center in downtown Phoenix, 11 officers patrolled the area on horseback, a fairly common practice at protests in metropolitan Phoenix in the past. No protesters were seen there even hours after polls had closed.
“There’s nothing that happened here today that would indicate a need to be out here, a need to address some injustice,” Gates said. “We had an issue with printers that has been addressed by the good people of Maricopa County.”
The problem slowed down voting in both traditionally Democratic and Republican areas, especially at an outlet mall in conservative far-flung Anthem. Some voters there reported waiting several hours to be able to vote with the only one of two tabulators working.
Lake and several other candidates on the Arizona ballot have pushed false claims about the 2020 presidential race, amplifying Trump’s lies about a stolen election. But election officials from both political parties and members of Trump’s own Cabinet have said there was no widespread voter fraud and that Trump lost reelection to Democrat Joe Biden.
Associated Press writers Bob Christie and Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.