By Trevor Schakohl
Election day tabulator or printer issues affected more Maricopa County, Arizona, voting centers than authorities had previously claimed, according to a memo by an attorney who observed the voting process.
On Nov. 8, the day of the midterm elections, 11 of the roving attorneys tasked with observing election processes in the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) Election Integrity program in Arizona collectively visited nearly 52% of the county’s voting centers, according to a memo sent to party officials and candidates by roving attorney Mark Sonnenklar and obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. The memo alleged that 72 of those 115 visited centers, or roughly 60%, saw “material problems with the tabulators not being able to tabulate ballots,” resulting in “substantial voter suppression.”
The findings of the memo would indicate that tabulation and printer problems at Maricopa County voting centers were more widespread than elections officials had previously claimed. Though the memo does not address whether tabulation and printer problems may have occurred at the Maricopa County voting centers that the attorneys did not visit, a significant number of those locations may have seen similar issues, given the large sample size of voting centers visited by the roving attorneys.
Sonnenklar wrote that the findings in the memo “directly contradict the statements of County election officials that (1) printer/tabulator issues were limited to only 70 of the 223 vote centers, (2) the printer/tabulator problems were resolved as of 3:00 p.m., and (3) the printer/tabulator issues were insignificant in the entire scheme of the election.”
For instance, Maricopa County’s main Twitter account said Nov. 9 that an issue with printers had affected an estimated 17,000 ballots across 70 (about 31%) of the county’s 223 voting centers, with tabulators unable to read some ballots lacking dark enough timing marks.
“In many cases, the printer/tabulator issues persisted from the beginning of election day until the end of election day,” Sonnenklar wrote. “It seems very clear that the printer/tabulator failures on election day at 62.61% of the vote centers observed by 11 roving attorneys, and the resulting long lines at a majority of all vote centers, led to substantial voter suppression.”
Tabulators rejected ballots’ first insertion almost every time at many voting centers, and many ballots could not be machine-tabulated no matter how many attempts a voter made, Sonnenklar stated.
“The strong consensus regarding why the tabulators would not read certain ballots was that those ballots, in particular the barcodes on the side of the paper, were not printing dark enough for the tabulators to read them,” he wrote, claiming to have personally visited ten voting centers.
Material problems caused voters to either deposit their ballots into a box for later counting, spoil their ballots and re-vote, or “get frustrated” and leave without voting, the memo said. Many voters had to wait an hour or two to receive a ballot for voting, with the roving attorneys reporting “significant lines at 59 of the 115 vote centers” they collectively visited, it claimed.
The DCNF has not verified the claims in this memo, and the Maricopa County Elections Department did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
“It is certainly safe to assume that many voters refused to wait in such lines, left the vote center, and did not return to vote later,” Sonnenklar added. “A survey of the electorate could easily confirm such an assumption.”
Sonnenklar quoted the ten other roving attorneys in the memo, and five of them confirmed to the DCNF that they provided information to Sonnenklar that was included in the memo.
“Some of the issues I reported (in real time and later to Mark Sonnenklar) were based on the reports that I received from the Republican observers at the respective sites, except those which I specifically indicated that I witnessed myself,” Roie Bar, one of the roving attorneys and a Scottsdale-based lawyer, told the DCNF. “Each site only allows one observer from each party and all the locations I covered had Republican observers present all day (2 in each location, covering 2 shifts – morning and afternoon). I was in communication with the observers throughout the day and was receiving reports from them in real time.”
The memo quoted one roving attorney as reporting long lines at three of 15 voting sites they visited. Another reported that five of the nine centers they visited had long lines.
“To sum it up, it was a complete mess!” a third roving attorney said of observations they made, according to the memo. “There is no other way to put it.”
Sonnenklar was not the only legal professional to raise concerns over the voting process; Arizona Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright sent a Saturday letter describing reports of similar tabulation and printer issues.
“Due to the widespread problems in non-uniform printer configuration settings, many voters were unable to tabulate their ballots on Election Day using on-site tabulators. Instead, voters were instructed to deposit their ballot in ‘Door 3,’” Wright stated. “Maricopa County appears to have failed to adhere to the statutory guidelines in segregating, counting, tabulating, tallying, and transporting the ‘Door 3’ ballots.”
Despite the findings in the memo, Maricopa County election officials have attempted to characterize the voting issues as relatively minor and insubstantial.
Nearly a million County residents voted early in the November General Election,” the county’s main Twitter account stated Friday. “On E-Day, most Vote Centers experienced no printer issues, most had wait times under 30 min. and @maricopavote gave voters the freedom to cast their ballot at any one of 223 locations.”
The DCNF obtained the memo from former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen.
“I worked at a polling location,” Pullen told the DCNF. “The tabulators were not working.”
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake refused to concede Thursday after Democratic opponent Katie Hobbs was projected the winner in their race. Lake claimed “nearly half of all polling locations had problems with tabulating machines and printers,” forcing voters “to wait in line for hours.”