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Yes, an Arizona Election Worker Has Been Arrested for Stealing a Key
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Yes, an Arizona Election Worker Has Been Arrested for Stealing a Key

The digital magnetic key is used to access vote tabulation machines, but it has been recovered.

High speed tabulation machines for counting early ballots stand secured in the tabulation room at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on June 3, 2024. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/ AFP/Getty Images)

Several viral social media posts claim that an Arizona election worker was recently arrested for stealing from an election facility.

The story is true: A worker was arrested on Friday under suspicion of stealing from a Maricopa County election facility.

Last Friday, Maricopa County election workers discovered during an inventory check that a digital magnetic key was missing from the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) in downtown Phoenix. According to a Tuesday press conference, surveillance footage checked by election officials showed 27-year-old Walter Ringfield taking the item. Ringfield, who was employed as a temporary worker, was reported to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office on Friday and arrested later that day at his home. The key was also retrieved.

According to Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, who spoke during the press conference, the type of digital magnetic key taken from MCTEC is used to access the county’s vote tabulation machines. Election officials must have one of these keys to turn on a tabulation machine, but the key is only one part of a multilayered security system and cannot be used alone to turn on a machine. Gates also noted that Maricopa County election officials had already spoken with local political parties about the investigation and confirmed that no tabulators were tampered with by running logic and accuracy tests on the machines. MCTEC has also reprogrammed both its machines and keys to ensure their integrity.

“The recent incident at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center should reassure the public about the effectiveness of the security measures in place,” the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office said in a Monday press release. “While this event is unwelcome, it speaks the effectiveness of the security protocols built into Arizona’s election systems.”

Maricopa County was the target of disproven electoral fraud claims during both the 2020 presidential and 2022 gubernatorial elections by President Donald Trump and candidate for governor Kari Lake. Biden defeated Trump in the state by 10,457 votes.

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.