Maricopa County sees problems with ballot tabulators on Election Day. But votes will still be counted
'A Man's Hand Putting His Vote In The Ballot Box' [Shutterstock]

The machines that tabulate ballots at Maricopa County vote centers are having widespread issues, with about 20% of locations affected.

The affected vote-counting machines are rejecting about one ballot out of every five ballots inserted, Maricopa County Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said at a news conference on Election Day, about three hours after polls opened.

Officials do not know yet what is causing the problem, but they are offering voters other secure options while they work to determine it. In an attempt to get ahead of conspiracy theories, Gates said that “none of this indicates any fraud or anything of that sort,” and assured the public that ballots cast at affected locations would be properly counted.

“Everyone is still getting to vote,” Gates said. “No one is being disenfranchised. And we have redundancies in place.”

Technicians throughout the county are attempting to address the issue, he said, and machines at some locations have been successfully fixed.

There are two machines at each of the 223 vote centers spread out across the county. If both machines are having problems, voters are offered a few options.

First, if they want to vote immediately, they can place their ballot into a secure box underneath the machine where the ballot will be kept until polls close. At that point, the ballots will be transported by a bipartisan team to the county’s central elections center and they will be counted there. This is the same way all mail-in ballots are counted.

If voters do not want to do that, they can either wait for the machines to start working again or travel to another nearby location to vote. If a voter decides to leave, they must have a poll worker sign them out of the first location before they leave. That will allow them to vote at the second location.

Gates said the longest wait the county was seeing was about 30 to 40 minutes, which he said was not out of the norm. Voters can look up the nearest location to them, and check wait times, at

Update, 11:19 a.m. MST:

But Republican leaders were already declaring malfeasance. Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward took to Twitter to slam Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Democratic Secretary of State and gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs over the issue.

Republican Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem, one of the state’s leading promoters of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, used the problem to urge a “return to paper ballots, hand counting, at the precinct on election day.” In fact, all ballots in Arizona are paper ballots.

The problem appears to be affecting tabulators spaced across the county, and voters and poll workers from Scottsdale to Goodyear have called in to the Election Protection hotline run by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to file complaints about the machines.

While stressing the county is still troubleshooting the cause of the problem, Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to the elections program at Democracy Fund, said the most likely cause would be that printers are creating misaligned ballots that the tabulators cannot read, or that the feeding mechanism on tabulators are pulling ballots askew.

Votebeat freelancer Hank Stephenson contributed to this report. Jen Fifield is a reporter for Votebeat based in Arizona. Contact Jen at

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.