Footage of alleged “mules” stuffing ballots into drop boxes in Maricopa County, Arizona, has been circulating online, along with allegations of misconduct in the 2022 US midterm elections. This is misleading; There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the state, where the law allows residents to cast multiple votes at once.
“Video of ballot harvest in AZ. We all know what happened in Arizona,” reads a Nov. 17, 2022 Instagram post that shared surveillance video of a drop box in Maricopa County.
The footage was taken according to the timestamps on the clips before, during and after the November 8 midterm elections.
A screenshot of an Instagram post from November 22, 2022
Similar claims were circulated on Twitter and Rumble.
Democrats narrowly won the hard-fought US Senate and Arizona governor’s races, but technical difficulties reported in Maricopa County on Election Day pushed the state into the center of false cheating allegations — many of which reflected baseless conspiracy theories from the 2020 presidential race. A common narrative of “ballot mules,” people allegedly returning multiple illegal absentee ballots at once, was popularized by a debunked film by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza.
But Maricopa County has refuted claims that such activities are affecting the outcome of the midterm elections.
Casting multiple ballots at once — pejoratively referred to as “ballot harvesting” — is not illegal in Maricopa County, home of Phoenix. According to Arizona lawmakers, voters can return ballots for family members, people they live with, or as someone’s caregiver.
“There is no statute that limits the number of ballots someone can return if they meet the criteria set forth by the law,” said Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Department of Elections.
Two election couriers from different political parties are required to pick up signed and sealed early ballots at Dropbox locations each day, according to the county. The votes are then safely transported to the voting department.
“To ensure only eligible ballots are processed, each early ballot is signed by trained polling staff before it can be counted,” Gilbertson said.
Those who illegally collect and return ballots face criminal offenses, which can result in prison terms under Arizona law.
Pam Smith, president of Verified Voting, a bipartisan group that promotes the responsible use of technology in voting, also said the claims circulating online are unfounded.
“Even if a large number of ballots have been submitted to Dropboxes — beyond the stated rules — there are safeguards in place to prevent fraud,” she said.
Ballot validation methods vary from state to state, but all have tools in place to ensure vote security. Bar codes, secure mailboxes, tracking systems and post-election checks have increased the security of postal voting.
“The video does not constitute fraud,” Smith said. “Allegations of fraud – if they exist – need to be investigated. And that can take time, but you have to keep in mind that the number of fraud cases across the country is infinitesimally small.”
The federal agency for cybersecurity and infrastructure security said there were no verified reports of widespread wrongdoing affecting the 2022 interim periods.
“We have seen no evidence that any voting system has erased or lost votes, altered votes, or been compromised in any way at any race in the country,” the agency said in a Nov. 9 statement.
AFP has fact-checked other false and misleading claims about the Maricopa County midterm elections here and here.