Arizona’s largest county is launching an investigation into the issues that caused chaos on Election Day.
The probe will be “an important step in our efforts to get to the bottom of the printer issues that affected some Vote Centers on Election Day last November,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Vice Chairman Clint Hickman said in a joint statement on Jan. 6.
Voters across the county found their ballots could not be processed by machines in the 2022 midterm elections, a problem that led to long lines at voting centers and workers having to tabulate the votes at a later date. At least 70 of the county’s polling sites were affected, at some 17,000 ballots. Maricopa County was one of the last counties to produce results in the midterms.
During a trial held for a lawsuit brought by Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a cyber expert who examined ballots said he found 19-inch images printed on 20-inch paper. Clay Parikh, an information security officer with Northrup Grumman, said that the printers would not process the 19-inch images.
Parikh said there were only two ways the situation could have happened.
“One way is by changing the printer adjustments that would make the printer adjustments and settings override the image file that was sent, the other is from the application side, the operating system side,” Parikh said.
County officials said they weren’t aware of the county using 19-inch images and said that the printers were programmed to print 20-inch ballots. They’ve denied accusations that the problems stemmed from intentional actions.
Richard Baris, a pollster, testified that the problems disenfranchised enough voters to swing the election. Republicans vote at much higher numbers on Election Day, while Democrats favor early and mail voting. Democrat Katie Hobbs beat Lake by 17,117 votes, according to the official election results.
Arizona Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson, who oversaw the trial, ultimately rejected the case, saying he had not been presented with convincing evidence of misconduct. The Arizona Supreme Court later turned down a request to transfer the lawsuit, meaning an appeal will be heard before the state court of appeals.
The new investigation will be headed by Ruth McGregor, a former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. McGregor has led probes in the past, including an investigation into problems with locks on cell doors in state prisons.
McGregor will hire a team of independent experts “to find out why the printers that read ballots well in the August Primary had trouble reading some ballots while using the same settings in the November General,” Gates and Hickman said. “Our voters deserve nothing less.”
The officials said previously that the printer settings were the same for the August primary and the November general election, and that the paper was the same thickness.
Election Task Force
Gov. Hobbs, meanwhile, announced on Friday an elections task force that she said would advise officials on improving elections.
The task force will “study and make recommendations to strengthen election laws, policies, and procedures in the State of Arizona,” an executive order from Hobbs stated.
The entity will be chaired by the governor or a designee and include Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, or his designee; a county recorder nominated by the Arizona Senate president; a county recorder nominated by the Arizona House of Representatives president; and two election directors picked by the Election Officials of Arizona Association.
The task force was directed to submit a report to Hobbs by Nov. 1, 2023, that identifies specific recommendations for legislators to improve the state’s election laws, including recommendations to ensure “consistent, secure, and accessible election administration and voter registration practices across the State.”
Hobbs said that Arizona’s elections “are fair, secure, and free” but that “more can be done to strengthen and clarify the laws around Arizona’s democratic process.”
Lake said that the task force would be a “cover-up” unless it probed the problems in Maricopa County, including the 19-inch images printed on 20-inch paper.
Fontes said that he looked forward to working with Hobbs to make sure the task force “is set up for success” and suggested it would help improve voter confidence.
Allan Stein contributed to this report.