A glitch at Maricopa, a gift to Holocaust deniers


Not much can grow naturally in the arid desert landscape of Arizona’s Maricopa County, but given its pivotal role in shaping national politics, it’s fertile ground for conspiracy theories to take root.

“We anticipated legitimate errors and issues with election infrastructure reframed as fraud,” Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington who studies the spread of misinformation, told CNN.

This appears to be precisely what happened in Maricopa County on election day.

Right-wing figures, who have spent the past two years convincing millions of Americans not to trust their democracy, pointed to the Election Day problem with printers at some Maricopa polling places as evidence that everything they said was true. The printer problem was not a mistake, they suggested – a fraud was going on.

The reality of any election day in the United States is that problems will arise at the polls. One wonders if this is unacceptable or inevitable, the result of incompetence or aging infrastructure. But it’s another thing to suggest, without evidence, that these problems are the result of a nefarious and sophisticated effort to “steal” an election.

2020 election deniers attributed the nastiness to the commonplace, repeatedly claiming that videos showed election workers stealing the election, when in fact the videos showed them doing their job. After researching this, Starbird and colleagues at the University of Washington and the Stanford Internet Observatory released a report last month on “implicit intentionality.”

“In elections, honest human errors can be exploited opportunistically to imply intentionality and to support unsubstantiated narratives of intentional and widespread fraud, undermining the legitimacy of election results. However, as research shows, voter fraud is extremely rare and such errors are unlikely to impact election results,” they wrote.

It all started early this Election Day when a Republican activist posted a video on Twitter showing a Maricopa poll worker explaining there was a problem that could cause delays.

For those who had waited to claim the election was a fraud, it was a gift and it could hardly have come better.

Maricopa, Arizona’s most populous county, became the center of the election conspiracy theory universe after then-President Donald Trump lost the state in 2020. Republicans have called to have the votes audited and audited again, eventually even bringing in the infamous “Cyber ​​Ninjas” – they also concluded that Joe Biden had won there.

As the video began bouncing around on social media, Maricopa election officials explained that the printer issue would not prevent anyone from voting. Instead of putting their ballots in a machine, voters were asked to deposit them in a secure ballot box. A Maricopa County judge who was asked to rule on the matter Tuesday night said there was no evidence anyone who wanted to vote was unable to.

Naturally, for those who didn’t want to hear it, these facts fell on deaf ears.

Data collected by researchers at the University of Washington showed that the discussion of the tabulator problem began to gain traction after Republican activist Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, shared the video on their social media accounts.

Even though neither of them said outright that the video was evidence of fraud, their followers and many others, having heard so many false allegations of a stolen election in 2020, were quick to come to that conclusion. .

Trump sent a flurry of messages about the issue on Truth Social, beginning with a 2 p.m. post, stating, “Maricopa County, Arizona looks like a complete DISASTER of voter integrity.” In other posts, he implied, without evidence, that only “republican areas” were impacted.

“There is no partisan bias in what happened,” Bill Gates, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said Tuesday night, pointing out that the board was controlled by Republicans and that the recorder of the Maricopa County is a Republican. Gates himself is a Republican.

That this video appeared in the first place and went viral so quickly was no accident. Like many things that grow in Maricopa County, this too has grown artificially.

Holocaust deniers had spent many months encouraging people to go to polling stations and look for fraud. It’s exactly the kind of video they wanted to see, although it doesn’t show any fraud.

Baseless lies about elections have wreaked havoc in this country. They convinced a third of Americans that Biden was not legitimately elected president. They provoked violent threats against election officials and their families, leading many officials to resign. And, of course, they led to a violent attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Election Day 2022 lies are already taking root in the darkest corners of the internet — on the same forums used by people who have committed violence before, including attacking the Capitol.

Responding to a post about alleged fraud at Maricopa on Tuesday, an anonymous user on a pro-Trump forum wrote, “We are well past jail time at this point. Another asked, “How about the execution?”

About Harold Hartman

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