Did the Maricopa County Audit Find 17,322 Duplicate Ballots?
After the results of Maricopa County’s unofficial election review were released last week, baseless rumors about alleged election fraud have been circulating on social media. A popular Instagram post, for example, claims that “over 17,000 duplicate ballots were found JUST in Maricopa county. Trump won.”
This is a false claim.
The claim comes from Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, a known conspiracy theorist and promoter of baseless voter fraud claims, who also appeared as an expert panelist at Mike Lindell’s failed cyber forensic symposium. Ayyadurai was hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to work on the Maricopa County election “audit” conducted by Cyber Ninjas. At last Friday’s presentation of the Cyber Ninjas’ report, Ayyadurai claimed that there were 17,322 duplicate ballots in the Maricopa County election dataset. The claim was soon promoted on Twitter by Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers.
The confusion appears to surround affidavit envelopes used for mail-in ballots and not the ballots themselves. Ayyadurai incorrectly based his analysis on images of affidavit envelopes, as opposed to actual ballots.
Affidavit envelopes are postage-prepaid envelopes that contain a ballot, Benny White, a Republican elections expert and data analyst in Tucson, explained to The Dispatch Fact Check. The affidavit envelope, which is simply the outside envelope containing the ballot, is required by statute, and explained: “The early ballot shall be accompanied by an envelope bearing on the front the name, official title and post office address of the recorder or other officer in charge of elections.” The affidavit form is printed on the back of the envelope, and voters are supposed to sign over the sealed envelope flap.
The images used in Ayyadurai’s claim, says White, “were of every affidavit envelope processed by Maricopa County, not just the envelopes that were eventually verified, the ballots enclosed taken out and counted.”
When an affidavit envelope is missing a signature or has a signature in the wrong place, White explained, the voter is contacted and is sent a new ballot package that contains a new ballot, affidavit envelope and instructions. When the affidavit envelope is returned it is rescanned.
Ayyadurai mistakenly interpreted these envelopes for duplicate ballots. “However, the first envelope [containing the ballot] was never opened, the ballot was not taken out and there were no duplicate votes involved,” said White. “No voter was able to cast more than one ballot and have it counted.”
Maricopa County officials also addressed this false rumor on Twitter: “Every time a voter has a questioned signature or a blank envelope, we work with that voter to cure the signature. That's our staff doing their job to contact voters with questioned signatures or blank ballots. Only one ballot is counted.”
Because, as the Associated Press notes, the Senate’s subpoena requested all the ballot images, both the original and duplicate ballot image were included. But, the fact remains that only a single ballot was counted.
Maricopa County officials also noted on Twitter that “‘Duplicated’ ballots were challenged and the accuracy of Maricopa County’s process was confirmed in court. Signatures on mail-in ballots were challenged and expert review found no forgeries.”
White called Ayyadurai’s presentation: “just another example of people commenting who know nothing about election administration.”
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