The votes from Tuesday are still being tabulated in a number of places since we apparently aren’t as smart as France when it comes to counting ballots. But malfunctions and discrepancies have once again raised suspicions or at least questions about the election equipment being used around the country. The most glaring example is obviously the breakdown in Maricopa County on Tuesday morning. The voting machines (we’re supposed to call them “tabulators”) in dozens of precincts across Arizona’s most populous county left people standing in long lines or being “checked out” so they could go find another location to “check” in and hopefully find a functional machine. Other voters were given provisional ballots to drop into a container with an assurance that election workers would absolutely scan them in when the equipment was back up and running. But the Associated Press has already leaped into action, warning people on social media not to ask any questions because that would just be dangerous misinformation.
Maricopa County remained the epicenter of election misinformation Wednesday after problems with voter tabulation machines in that Arizona county spawned conspiracy theories about vote rigging. The claims spread despite explanations from local officials — including ones from both parties — and assurances that all votes would be counted.
It’s understandable that people would go on social media to complain about long election lines or glitchy voting machines, said University of Washington professor Kate Starbird, a leading misinformation researcher.
“The problem is when their audiences pick that up with this assumed voter fraud implication,” Starbird said. “It gets picked up and reframed as voter fraud as it spreads.”
Imagine that. You terrible people with secretive mega-MAGA agendas had the nerve to actually raise questions about a situation that immediately smelled like seafood you order on a Monday in a New York City restaurant. This must be that “threat to our very democracy” that MSNBC was warning us about for months before election day finally arrived.
But let’s pause for a moment and think about the situation in Maricopa county. We’re not talking about one or two machines that someone forgot to plug in on Tuesday morning. Machines at more than sixty locations went down almost immediately. And these machines were brand new models from Diebold that had been installed at great expense because of the rampant failures of other voting machines (also made by Diebold) during the previous election.
Those machines were all supposedly tested only a couple of weeks earlier with witnesses from both parties supervising the testing. Is it really that crazy or conspiratorial to wonder how that many of them could have suddenly failed in a seemingly identical fashion when they had presumably just been sitting around for two weeks? We were later told that there was a problem with the printing function not using enough force on the paper and technicians were able to correct it.
Okay. Perhaps that’s fair enough. But rather than asking people to wait in line or come back later, voters were immediately offered a choice of filling out a ballot and leaving it for election workers to scan in later. Alternatively, they could “check out” from their polling place and go to a different location to “check in” once again at a site that was not expecting them. What could possibly go wrong?
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we have any sort of evidence of intentional tampering or vote rigging. But is anyone honestly shocked that people would notice all of this and have questions come to mind? That’s particularly trenchant when you consider that the majority of Arizona residents vote in Maricopa County and Joe Biden only carried that county by two points in 2020. And the results they managed to deliver on Tuesday night were really not lining up with what the polling experts had led us to expect. Plus, one of the most closely watched races there involved Kari Lake, who had repeatedly promised to be “the worst fricking nightmare” for the mainstream media, including the Associated Press.
So should we be questioning the voting equipment and the integrity of the people running the elections or demanding the scalps of the pollsters who said Kari Lake was up by anywhere from three to five points going into election day? She finished the early tally doing five or six points worse and trailing her opponent by a narrow margin. There are so many votes left to count that both Lake and Blake Masters could theoretically come back to secure victories, but it’s an uphill climb.
All I’m saying is that there were enough factors baked into the cake in Maricopa County that it’s almost impossible for people to not have questions at this point. So rather than preaching from the MSM soapbox and accusing everyone of having nefarious intents, perhaps the media could work toward answering all of those questions in a transparent fashion. That is how you will achieve the confidence in the outcome of the election that you claim to desire.
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