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Arizona’s Maricopa County says printer problems did not prevent voting on Election Day

<i>Justin Sullivan/Getty Images</i><br/>Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on November 11
Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on November 11

By Maeve Reston, CNN

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office issued a letter on Sunday stating that the problems with printers on Election Day at some of their voting locations did not prevent voters from lawfully casting their ballots in Arizona’s most populous county.

Monday is the deadline for Arizona’s counties to certify their general election results, with statewide certification slated to follow on December 5. A number of defeated Republican candidates, including gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and secretary of state hopeful Mark Finchem, continue to cast doubt about the election results. Lake and Finchem have not conceded in their races.

Thomas Liddy, the division chief for the Civil Services Division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and a Republican, said in the letter that “no voter was disenfranchised because of the difficulty the county experienced with some of its printers.” Liddy was responding to a demand for information from the Arizona attorney general’s office about what that office described as “myriad problems that occurred in relation to Maricopa County’s administration of the 2022 General Election.” Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich is also a Republican.

“Every voter was provided a ballot by which he or she could record their votes, and all such ballots cast by lawful voters were tabulated, whether in the vote center or at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center,” Liddy said in the letter to Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright.

Problems with the county’s printers on Election Day caused some voters to place their ballots in a secure ballot box known as “Door 3” so they could be tabulated separately.

The letter notes that the attorney general’s office has suggested that the procedure may have violated the requirement for uniform and free elections. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has disputed that claim, noting that while Arizona must provide for uniformity in elections, “it does not mean that an election might be invalid if there are unexpected printing difficulties preventing on-site tabulation, when all the voters who attempted to vote were provided legal options for doing so.”

In a separate report, officials from the Maricopa County Elections Department also pushed back against the suggestion by several GOP candidates and state party officials that voters were disenfranchised — instead faulting prominent GOP figures for discouraging voters from depositing their ballots in Door 3 on Election Day.

The Maricopa County Elections Department notes in the report that the use of the Door 3 option has been a “decades-long practice” in the county when there are problems reading ballots with on-site tabulators.

“Despite this being a legal, secure, and reliable voting option, many high profile and influential individuals instructed voters to not deposit their ballots in Door 3,” the Maricopa County Election Department’s report states. “Consequently, some voters refused to use this viable voting option.”

An exhibit attached to the report showed tweets from prominent GOP figures like Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, who has 220,000 followers on Twitter, and Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of the right-wing group Turning Point USA who has 1.8 million followers, telling voters not to use the “door 3” option to cast their ballots on Election Day.

Ward has continued to insist that voters were disenfranchised. In response to the letter from Maricopa County Attorney’s office to the attorney general’s office, Ward tweeted on Sunday that the county “basically tells AG’s office to pound sand,” in its letter.

“They just don’t have time to address disenfranchised voters. These people are a disgrace,” she tweeted.

Report outlines Election Day problem

The Maricopa County Elections Department report also details the reason for the printer problems with some of the ballots on Election Day. It was not a problem with the ink or toner, but rather, “the fuser.” The report notes that printers have three profiles — one for the ballot, one for the receipt and one for the envelope.

The ballot “media weight” setting was set to heavy, as recommended, and the receipt and envelope were on a lighter setting, as recommended. To solve the problems experienced on Election Day, technicians set all three “media weight” settings to heavy and the printing problems were resolved at the 71 voters centers that experienced issues. (Those 71 centers represent about 31% of the 223 vote centers open on Election Day.)

In total, 16,724 ballots were placed in the Door 3 secure ballot box because they could not be read by the on-site tabulators, the county elections department reported.

The letter from the Maricopa County Attorney’s office notes that eight Arizona counties do not have any tabulators in their polling locations at all. “In Apache, Coconino, Gila, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yavapai counties, every Election Day voter places his or her ballot into a ballot box (much like door 3). All those ballots are taken back to a central, election headquarters to be tabulated (just like door 3 ballots are taken to the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center to be tabulated),” Liddy wrote.

The printer problem caused some ballots to be printed in a way that prevented some of the precinct-based tabulators from reading them, but they could still be read by the human eye. Overall, the county attorney’s office described the scale of the problem as minimal compared to ballots cast. “When compared to the total number of voters who participated in the 2022 General Election, fewer than 1% of ballots cast were affected by these printer issues. But importantly, every lawful voter was still able to cast his or her ballot.”

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