Arizona officials work to build public trust after 2020 election

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — Arizona officials are working to rebuild the public’s trust after the 2020 election sparked concerns about voter fraud.

In Maricopa County, which is the most populous in Arizona, the aftermath of the 2020 election drew national attention. Speculation of voter fraud plagued the county for months, although no evidence of voter fraud was found.

Already this year, there has been voter intimidation at the ballot drop boxes in the county.

Republican nominee for Arizona governor Kari Lake has based much of her campaign on election integrity, supporting former President Donald Trump’s claim that he won the 2020 election. The claims have not been proven.

Lake’s opponent, Democrat Katie Hobbs, has called Lake’s comments “dangerous” and has refuted Lake’s claims of election fraud.

“This is part of an ongoing attack on our democracy that we have seen play out since the 2020 election,” Hobbs said.

Despite no evidence of voter fraud, election officials are working to make sure registered voters in the county know their vote will be secure.

“We are the second-largest voting jurisdiction in the country. We have a well-oiled machine here in Maricopa County and really dedicated election officials that are working hard to make sure that the vote is secure, counted accurately and that we can provide the results to the public,” Megan Gilbertson, the communications director for the Maricopa Elections Department, said.

Inside the tabulation center, where the majority of the ballots in the county will be counted come Nov. 8, there are bipartisan pairs of voters hired to oversee some of the 630,000 early ballots that have come in. Also, there are computers with no internet connection to prevent anyone from messing with election results.

“We’ve added port blockers to every single computer terminal,” Gilbertson said. “We also have a security canister that has a lock so no one can take out your mouse or your keyboard or plug anything into the computer.”

In recent weeks leading up to the election, there have been many reports of voter intimidation at drop boxes, prompting election officials to navigate new safety precautions for voters.

“We have a very strong partnership with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and with security services and with local police departments as well. And so we are monitoring, we are watching,” Gilbertson said.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered armed members of Clean Elections USA, a group monitoring ballot drop boxes in Arizona, to stay at least 250 feet away from the locations following many complaints that people wearing masks and carrying guns were intimidating voters.

“Today’s U.S. District Court decision is a victory for the voters of Arizona who have the right to cast their ballots free from intimidation, threats, or coercion,” Pinny Sheoran, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, said in a statement.

This change comes after a federal judge had originally rejected the request for a restraining order against the group last week.

The race between Hobbs and Lake is narrowing, putting Lake only 2.8 percentage points above Hobbs on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Lake was up 3.8 percentage points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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