Minor polling issues converted into misleading US election claims
On Nov. 6, 2022, a lady attends an event for Democratic candidate for Florida governor Charlie Crist at an early voting location in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
On Election Day, there were no major issues for voters. That hasn't prevented former President Donald Trump and other Republicans from fabricating small glitches at polling stations in order to erode trust in the results.
Two years after spreading the "great lie" about President Joe Biden stealing Trump's win, conspiracy theorists are now spreading lesser ones about the 2022 midterm elections.
Trump and his Republican friends are twisting the truth about election glitches that experts say were handled successfully, such as voting machine problems in Arizona's largest county and inaccuracies in poll books used to sign in voters in Michigan's largest city.
"While I believe yesterday's election was well-run," said David Levine, elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy and former Ada County, Idaho elections director.
In 2020, false claims of suitcases loaded with counterfeit votes at a Georgia vote-counting facility and "ballot mules" filling up drop boxes with fraudulent ballots fanned conspiracy theories of a rigged election.
Since then, the GOP has maintained its tone and built the basis for a midterm election campaign to cast doubt on Democratic triumphs. Before Election Day, more than 100 lawsuits were filed around the country. These cases focused on mail-in voting regulations, voting machine security, and political poll monitors' access.
However, issues did not arise on Election Day. Jen Easterly, the head of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, stated on Wednesday that the agency has "found no indication that any voting system deleted or lost ballots, altered votes, or was hacked in any race in the country."
Jennifer Morrell, a former Colorado and Utah municipal election administrator who now consults federal and state authorities on election security and administration, said election officials were able to fix concerns promptly, demonstrating that protections to assure an accurate ballot count are in place.
After Trump lost Arizona to President Joe Biden by just over 10,000 votes two years ago, he and his followers sold a slew of election-fraud charges that fell apart under investigation.
Two years later, the state is still crucial. Democrats had slim leads in too-close-to-call elections for governor and the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.
Trump and some of his followers attempted to exaggerate difficulties with ballot scanning at around 25% of voting places in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and the bulk of the state's population.
"The most troubling issue is how those isolated occurrences are being utilized to disseminate misinformation and lies surrounding the election in an attempt to undermine people's trust and faith in the election," said Sylvia Albert, voting and elections director for the nonpartisan group Common Cause.
The uncertainty was generated by codes on ballots that were written too lightly to be seen by computerized tabulators. Affected voters were given the option of leaving their votes in a secured box at their polling location to be tallied at a central office on Wednesday, or taking them to another voting location on Tuesday.
In a tweet on his social network, Trump seized on the issue. He said that the incident, which resembled a voting issue in New Jersey's Mercer County, was an attempt by Democrats to "steal the election."
"Every national election has difficulties like this someplace," said Lawrence Norden, senior director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Elections and Government Program. "The fact that we're still talking about them the next day indicates that there was a concerted attempt to weaponize these sorts of things."
The Republican official in charge of the Maricopa County election apologized for the inconvenience and promised that every lawful vote will be counted regardless of the method voters choose.
However, Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, advised her supporters that they should only leave the ballot to be counted later if they were unable to wait – and that they should not carry it to another polling station.
Lake's late-night message to supporters on Tuesday was solely focused on electoral problems.
"The system we have currently does not function," she explained. "We the people deserve to know who won and who lost on election night, and we will restore that sort of election back to Arizona." I guarantee you that."
As voter fraud increased in recent years, election workers got death threats, several GOP-led states prohibited mail-in voting, and public trust in U.S. voting systems eroded. Efforts to delegitimize electronic voting machines sparked demands to abandon the technology.
A small group of spectators heckled a local election official Tuesday as she and her colleagues used a flash drive to export data from vote tabulators at the city's central ballot-counting facility.
Skeptics of the election also pointed to a problem in Detroit. Some computerized poll books used for voter registration flashed an erroneous message claiming that the numbers on ballots had already been assigned to an absentee ballot. When the electronic poll books failed, poll workers were allowed to utilize paper backup poll books.
"It was detected and corrected pretty quickly," said Jake Rollow, a spokesperson for the Michigan secretary of state's office, and voters who were incorrectly marked were handed ballots.
Because Detroit is a Democratic stronghold in a swing state, turnout there can be critical in determining election outcomes. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, was re-elected governor on Tuesday. Democrats also defeated Republicans who questioned the 2020 election results in the contests for attorney general and secretary of state.
The Republican candidates for governor and attorney general both resigned. Trump nevertheless encouraged his followers to demonstrate in Detroit. Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's secretary of state and a Democrat who was re-elected, expressed relief that Trump's request was disregarded.
"The past president encouraged people to protest, and no one did," Benson said, adding that she was happy to see concessions from some of the statewide candidates who had echoed Trump's lies about the 2020 election.
"That, to me, is a sign of a good election — that we were able to organize an election that was transparent, smooth, and secure enough that even individuals who were upset with the results accepted them."