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PHOENIX (Reuters) -Problems with dozens of electronic vote counting machines in the battleground state of Arizona on Tuesday were seized upon by former Republican President Donald Trump and his followers, who falsely claimed it was evidence of election fraud by Democrats.
Just a few hours into Election Day, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer told reporters that about 20% of electronic vote tabulation machines in the state’s most populous county were malfunctioning, and technicians were being deployed to fix them.
The problem was that ballots were not lining up properly inside the machines and were not being read, Richer said, adding that despite the problems all votes would be counted.
Richer called the malfunctions “disappointing” and correctly predicted that election deniers and conspiracists such as Trump would “exploit” the issue.
Maricopa County officials said the problem affected about 60 machines, at a quarter of voting locations in Maricopa County, and that by 2 p.m. - 8 hours after voting started - 17 had been fixed by changing the printer settings.
The state’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who has echoed Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election, also seized on the machine problems, issuing a “voter alert” on her Twitter account.
Lake later told reporters that she had encountered no issues when she voted in what she described as a left-leaning area of the city.
“We were right to come to vote in a liberal area,” she said. “They’ve got to fix this problem.”
Trump, Lake and other election deniers have been calling for the end of electronic voting machines, Election Day-only voting, and the use of just paper ballots and hand counts, a process that is time-consuming, costly and far less accurate than machine counting.
Biden narrowly won Arizona in 2020 by just 12,000 votes. The state has been central in the false claims by Trump and his followers that the presidential election two years ago was rigged against him. All of Arizona’s main Republican candidates this year are election deniers, including Lake.
The machine malfunctions fueled distrust among many Republican voters in Arizona that fraud was involved, especially after Trump issued a statement on his Truth Social platform.
“Reports are coming in from Arizona that the Voting Machines are not properly working in predominately Republican/Conservative areas,” Trump said, adding: “Here we go again? The people will not stand for it!!”
Barbara Russell, 70, a volunteer Republican poll observer at a voting location in Wickenburg, a town in rural Maricopa County, told Reuters that both tabulation machines there had been malfunctioning and rejecting ballots.
“This is the total disenfranchisement of rural voters,” Russell told Reuters.
Paul Penzone, the Maricopa County Sheriff, said additional deputies had been deployed to polling locations. Barricades were erected around the county’s elections office in central Phoenix in anticipation of potential protests.
Reporting by Tim Reid in Phoenix; additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Tyler Clifford and Susan Heavey; editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis