PHOENIX — Imagine this, mused Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, on Twitter last week: 1940’s-era election officials were able count all U.S. ballots on election night. So why, he implied, can’t Arizona’s modern-day election tabulators do the same?
The kicker: Hamadeh’s tweet showed the historic picture of Harry Truman holding up 1948 a front page headline blaring “Dewey defeats Truman” — which is, of course, historic for being wrong.
The apparent missed irony is just one example of the eagerness of Trump allies — many of whom subscribe to debunked conspiracy theories around voting machines and Democrats’ manipulating computer algorithms — to stoke suspicion of election results in the run-up to Election Day. Meanwhile, they’re encouraging voters to do the very things likely to cause vote-counting delays.
The most recent example is Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, who said in a recent interview that it will look “very suspicious” if states fail to determine results by election night or early Wednesday. Yet GOP party activists across the nation have been encouraging voters to wait until Election Day to cast ballots in person or turn in their mail-in ballots.
Arizona features perhaps the nation’s biggest and most competitive lineup of races — including contests for Senate, governor, secretary of state and attorney general. In Maricopa County, where the vast majority of the state’s vote is concentrated, supervisor Bill Gates has been stressing that results may not be knowable until Friday.
That’s because hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots are expected to arrive in drop boxes on Election Day. Those will require verifying voter signatures, a lengthy process that by law won’t start until Wednesday. If many people fail to vote early, there will also be long lines, further stressing voting centers and teams responsible for doing the counting.
Gates, a former election lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party, led an election-eve news conference in Phoenix on “misinformation.” Though he didn’t name names, Gates called out the type of messages that Hamadeh, Bobb and others have been espousing as the most problematic.
This misinformation campaign, Gates said, “kicked into high gear” the past week.
At the same time, GOP activist groups and even candidates have been instructing their voters to cast ballots in ways that could lead to long lines and processing delays. Mark Finchem, the GOP candidate for secretary of state and a staunch election denier, is among those encouraging voters to show up on Election Day.
The guidance to GOP voters echoes what Trump did in 2020, when Democrats were expected to vote in large numbers through the mail given concerns about the pandemic. Trump built a campaign around delegitimizing mail-in ballots and even tried to stop them from being counted, kicking off a flood of baseless legal challenges and even a draft executive order for the military to seize voting machines.
In an interview with POLITICO, Gates said he fears a repeat after voting day. If Republicans win, they “can say ‘we outvoted the fraud,’” as gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake did during her primary contest, Gates said. “If you lose, then you can say, ‘Ah, look at all these terrible things that happened on Election Day.’ I’m thinking it’s probably that,” said Gates.
“If you plan to complain about how long it’s taking to count ballots, which they are already doing, and yet you are working to make it harder to count ballots faster,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, “it makes you wonder if that’s intentional.” The center is a nonprofit that works with election officials.
In a sign of how concerned Democrats are about a slate of GOP “election deniers” sweeping the state’s top executive positions, it was at a Nov. 3 rally in this state that former President Barack Obama warned democracy “may not survive.”
It appears the push for last-minute voting is grounded in a conspiracy theory that Democrats can rig voting machines. State Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican who backed a partisan review of 2020 ballots in Maricopa County, told viewers of One America News Network last month that « we need to vote on the last day, the day of Election Day, so they don’t know how much to cheat by. »
Gates stressed all voting machines must pass tests before the election and hand counts of “statistically significant batches” are conducted by bipartisan groups.
Meanwhile, Finchem has suggested he won’t accept the results of his own race if he loses and will demand a hand recount. At the news conference, Gates was asked if any of the GOP candidates for governor, Senate, secretary of state and attorney general, in the past two years, accepted a standing invitation to take a tour of the tabulation center given their concerns. “Not one of them,” said Gates.
Calls to vote only on Election Day — while questioning longer count times — are running rampant. “Any state which doesn’t count all the votes and announce the winner on Tuesday night is incompetent,” Richard Grenell, a close Trump ally and former ambassador to Germany, tweeted last week.
Maryland Matters reported that an aide to Michael Peroutka, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, encouraged voters to “form long lines” by arriving two hours before the polls close on Election Day. “Vote on November 8th as late in the day as possible,” said campaign coordinator Macky Stafford. “If everyone could stand in long, long lines at 6 o’clock, that would actually help us.”
In Georgia, a recent online flier by one grassroots group read: « Voting in person and on Election Day is the only way to overwhelm the system,” the Associated Press reported.
More recently, some GOP candidates have contradicted those instructions. « If you have a mail-in ballot, I think that you should mail it in. I want people to vote, » Lake told reporters this month. « And vote whatever way you want to vote, but vote. »