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Arizona has been a hotbed for election denialism since 2020, and misinformation is now disrupting what is typically a routine election procedure. One of the state’s 15 counties failed to meet Monday's deadline to certify this year’s midterm election results and Kari Lake, who lost the election for governor, filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County. Stephanie Sy reports.
Arizona has been a hotbed for election denialism since 2020. And misinformation is now disrupting what is typically a routine election procedure. One of the state's 15 counties failed to meet yesterday's deadline to certify this year's midterm election results.
Stephanie Sy has the details.
Judy, that's right.
It was the Republican-dominated Board of Supervisors in Cochise County who voted not to certify the election results by last night's deadline. In response, Arizona's highest election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, filed a lawsuit. She is a Democrat and will be the next governor of Arizona after she beat Trump-endorsed opponent Kari Lake in the midterms.
Lake has also since filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County for its handling of the election. All those lawsuits underlie the anger among some Arizonans who spoke out at a public session with Maricopa County's Board of Supervisors this week.
This is a war between good and evil, and you all represent evil.
You are vote traffickers. You are a vote trafficker. Criminal. So, a curse upon you. A curse upon all of, you smug, smug people.
I will just say that the voting booth is supposed to be…
Your time is up.
… a time for a peaceful revolution. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution necessary.
Right there in the middle of that panel of election officials, the man who joins us now, the chairman of Maricopa County's Board of Supervisors, Bill Gates, a self-described lifelong Republican.
Chairman Gates, it's good to have you back on the "NewsHour" here.
Describe the acrimony you felt at that meeting last night. And did the truth about the midterm election come out in the end?
Bill Gates (R), Chairman, Maricopa County, Arizona, Board of Supervisors: Yes, well, thanks for having me.
Look, we — my colleagues and I agreed that it was very important to have public comment, to have people come and speak about their concerns about this election. It's an important part of the process. And we were actually just looking at some of our statistics on last night's meeting. It was the most people we have ever had watch one of our meetings from looking at YouTube. So there's a lot of interest in it.
And there were some strong words, no question about that. But, again, that's everyone's right to say those things. Now, unfortunately, a lot of those people who had a lot of bad things to say about Maricopa County, once they spoke, they left. So they didn't stick around to hear the explanation of the election by our two co-directors of elections, in which they responded to a lot of those questions and issues that were raised.
But, in the end — this is the important thing for everyone to understand — is that everyone who wanted to vote had the opportunity to vote, their vote was counted if they were an eligible voter. And that's why my colleagues and I voted yesterday to certify the canvass of the election.
Yes, we should say that four out of the five on your board in Maricopa County are Republicans, like yourself.
But, sir, you did have printer problems on Election Day at 70 of the more than 220 voting locations. Do you think that the printer issues provided a pretext for unleashing misinformation? And do you have any regrets about not staying more on top of the equipment?
Well, we stayed on top of the equipment. We tested them in advance. And we were obviously surprised by these issues with the printers.
But I give great credit to our team who went in, and they determined what the issue was on Election Day and were able to get those printers back online and to get the tabulators accepting the ballots. And here's the important thing for people to understand. Even if those voters who showed up on Election Day were unable to run the ballot through the tabulator, they had another option. They could put the ballot in a secure ballot box.
In fact, in the majority of counties in Arizona, that's exactly how it's done on Election Day. They don't have a tabulator on site. And, instead, they put their ballot into a ballot box. And it's counted back at central count.
I understand that, but were you concerned about the perception?
You knew that this needed to be an airtight process. You already had election denialists at the top of the ticket for the Republican Party. You had thousands of Arizonans who — many of whom I have interviewed questioning the integrity of the election. You knew it had to be airtight.
Yes, no — no question about that. We're disappointed that this happened. I said yesterday during this meeting there's no such thing as a perfect election. And it certainly was not a perfect election on Election Day.
But what people need to understand is that there were redundancies in place. So it was a technical issue, which created inconvenience for people. But, again, people had that opportunity to cast their vote.
And, here in Maricopa County, we have a hybrid system. So you can vote by mail, and we have hundreds of thousands of people who choose that option. Also, for 27 days, people could vote in person. And then, finally, Election Day was that final option. In addition to the people who did show up on Election Day to vote in person, they could also…
I just want to move on to the issue of Cochise. I'm sorry. I want to move on to the issue of Cochise County, because that is the one county that has not certified the election results. And I know you have a background in election law, Chairman.
So, I want to ask you, have the Cochise County officials, have they committed a felony by not fulfilling this duty? And do you think it's possible that votes from Cochise could be left out of the final state tally next month?
Well, I'm not sure whether they committed a felony. But I can tell you this. It's the statutory responsibility of the boards of supervisors, all 15 of them for the 15 counties in Arizona, to certify the canvas by yesterday. We have 20 days from Election Day.
So, by choosing not to, we are now into unchartered territory. We haven't seen this before. And that's one of the reasons why there has been — there have been two lawsuits that have been brought against the Board of Supervisors down in Cochise County.
My understanding is, they have a hearing scheduled for this Thursday at 1:00 p.m., and the court will rule there. The reality is, this probably ends up going up through the appeals courts up to the Supreme Court to make a decision, because, under Arizona law, the canvass must be certified at the state level by the end of next week.
Bill Gates, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."
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Stephanie Sy is a PBS NewsHour correspondent and serves as anchor of PBS NewsHour West. Throughout her career, she served in anchor and correspondent capacities for ABC News, Al Jazeera America, CBSN, CNN International, and PBS NewsHour Weekend. Prior to joining NewsHour, she was with Yahoo News where she anchored coverage of the 2018 Midterm Elections and reported from Donald Trump’s victory party on Election Day 2016.
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