Protest outside the Maricopa election center was seeded by Kari Lake and her allies' baseless claims

Kari Lake, the Republican candidate in the unresolved race for governor in Arizona, has issued a steady drumbeat of accusations that the Maricopa County elections office is "slow-rolling" the ballot count since Election Day.

Lake and her allies are also weaving in a claim that local election administrators are somehow manipulating the count to front-load Democratic ballots to make her campaign look bad. The claim ignores the fact that since Donald Trump attacked mail-in voting in 2020, Republican voters have traditionally favored voting in person on Election Day — a pattern reinforced by supporters like Steve Bannon who urged “game-day” voting — and that other MAGA boosters have encouraged Republican voters to drop off their mail-in ballots at polling places in the last few hours on Election Day.

“I think, you know, there could be some intentional — there could be some intentional actions here to slow-roll this,” Lake told Turning Point USA executive director Charlie Kirk during his marathon show on Thursday. “They always intentionally have the early ballots ready to go. We roll those out on election night. They favor the Democrats, and they want to bring down the excitement for Republicans.”

In the same interview, Lake groused, “They always intentionally have the early ballots ready to go. We roll those out on election night. They favor the Democrats, and they want to bring down the excitement for Republicans.”

While all but accusing election officials of front-loading Democratic ballots, at the same time Lake has acknowledged that some of the ballots yet to be counted on election night were mail-in ballots that were dropped off at polling sites.

“We have about 622,000 votes yet to be counted,” Lake said during the same interview with Kirk. “And of those 384,000 are people who took their mail-in ballot and walked it in on Election Day. I think we all know how the majority of those people were going to vote.”

Kirk agreed: “You’re gonna win. These drop-offs are our people.”

By Friday night, the relentless messaging from the Lake camp hammering the two broad themes — suggestions and in some cases outright accusations that malfeasance was at play in overall delays in the ballot count, and unsupported assertions that election officials were holding back Republican ballots — had begun to yield a groundswell of calls on social media to reject the outcome of the election. And by early Saturday afternoon, protesters were on the ground outside the vote tabulation center in downtown Phoenix.

Lake appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Friday, making the same contradictory one-two claim, on one hand predicting that the remaining ballots will allow her to overtake Democratic opponent Katie Hobbs, and on the other suggesting there was something nefarious about Democratic votes getting counted earlier.

“And they’ve counted a lot of ballots, but there’s still about half a million left to be counted and these are primarily hardcore Republican voters, people who showed up and brought their ballots in on Election Day,” Lake told Carlson. “We’re starting to get a few of today’s numbers trickling in, and we’re getting from some of these drops 74 percent of the vote, 72 percent of the vote. These are heavy-duty Republican voters. And isn’t it convenient that they are the last ballots to be counted? They count all the Democrat votes early, and the really reliable Republican ballots are the last to be counted.”

After showing the clip on his show, Kirk asked Tyler Bowyer, the chief operating officer of Turning Point USA, for his take. Bowyer claimed, without evidence, that local election officials are exploiting knowledge about long-established partisan voting behavior to put their thumb on the scale for Democratic candidates.

“And this has been the reality of the scenario is that this is now subdividing our state up where we have Democrats vote first and Republicans vote second,” he said. “And so now you have a scenario here too where it’s easier to separate out which votes are Republican — what votes are predominantly Republican and what votes are predominantly Democrat. And this is really important because when you do that you can start to have fraud and manipulation and….”

Kirk nodded in agreement, adding, “Tabulation bias?”

“Yeah, I call it manipulation is what I call it because that’s what it is,” Bowyer said. “They’re bending the rules in order to help their guy out more than your guy, and that’s how a bad person at the Recorder’s office can allow that to happen.”

During the same show, Kirk, Bowyer and guest Jack Posobiec laughed out loud as Kirk played a clip of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Gates defending election workers.

“National networks out there and their hosts not being truthful about why it’s taking this period of time, that’s frustrating,” Gates said. “And these people back here are doing an incredible job working through Veterans Day weekend, and then to have that spread out there nationally — yeah, you know what, I’m gonna stand up for my state…. We’re not doing anything wrong at all. And that someone from here would suggest that we are doing something wrong, that’s frustrating.”

Countervailing assurances by Lake that were echoed by the Turning Point USA crew that remaining ballots were significantly favoring Republicans, a ballot drop between 9:30 and 11 p.m. on Friday expanded Hobbs’ lead over Lake from 0.8 point to 1.4 point. By 10:45 p.m., the Associated Press had called the US Senate race in Arizona for Democrat Mark Kelly and the secretary of state race for Democrat Adrian Fontes, denying victories for Lake’s fellow Republicans.

Kirk tweeted: “Hearing tonight’s Maricopa drop included nothing from Gilbert, Paradise Valley, Chandler etc. AKA the most conservative parts of Maricopa. This was from the voting centers nearest downtown tabulation center, 5-10 min out and Dem heavy. First in first out. Hold the line!”

Matt Roberts, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department, told Raw Story: “There’s no way of knowing where the ballots are coming from.” He added, “They would be from all over the valley and not one place.”

Kirk could not be reached for comment, but Roberts conceded that someone “politically involved with the parties” might “get reports about which ballots have been returned by early voting.”

Regardless of the accuracy of Kirk’s information, a cascade of calls for Republican candidates to not concede followed in the wake of his tweet.

Amy Kremer, who organized Trump’s rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, retweeted Kirk’s tweet.

“Do not concede!” she wrote, tagging Blake Masters and Mark Finchem, respectively the Republican candidates for US Senate and secretary of state.

Trump himself wrote on Truth Social: “This is a scam and voter fraud, no different than stuffing the ballot boxes. They stole the Electron [sic] from Blake Masters. Do Election over again!”

Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor and an inspirational figure for the 2020 “Stop the Steal” movement, joined the call at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday.

“#WeThePeople have one final line in the sand and it is Maricopa County, AZ,” Flynn wrote on Truth Social. They are going to cheat thru the weekend and then use the media to convince us that we are all ‘election deniers’ and the MSM will attack those of us fighting back.”

Closing the post, Flynn threw down a gauntlet: “Masters won. Finchem won. Lake won.”

Watch a compilation of clips of Kari Lake, Charlie Kirk, Tyler Bowyer et al claiming that local election officials are manipulating the vote count below. You may also watch it at this link.

Charlie Kirk comp