False Arizona ballot fraud claim revived ahead of 2024 election

Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in the US state of Arizona by just over 10,000 votes, a margin social media posts claim is dwarfed by the number of mail-in ballots Maricopa County unlawfully counted. This is false; ballots received after the deadline were rejected, and the image in the posts reflects the date envelopes received on Election Day were transferred for signature verification, not the day they arrived from the postal service.

"Maricopa County's OWN election records show they unlawfully counted over 20,000 mail-in ballots received on Nov. 4, 2020 and later. That's more than twice the election 'margin.' Arizona's elections are rigged. They have to arrest you in order to keep their corrupt power," said Liz Harrington, political commentator and former Republican National Committee spokeswoman, in an April 24, 2024 X post.

The post includes an image of a receipt dated November 4, 2020, with "Election Day," handwritten above a header that says, "MC INBOUND - RECEIPT OF DELIVERY."

<span>Screenshot of an X post taken April 26, 2024</span>
Screenshot of an X post taken April 26, 2024

Several other posts making the claim can be found elsewhere on X and Facebook.

US President Joe Biden won Arizona, a critical election battleground, by around 10,400 votes during the 2020 election (archived here).

Some Republicans alleged -- without evidence -- fraud and that the victory was stolen from former US president Donald Trump. Since then, Arizona has been a hotspot for so-called election deniers.

On April 24, 2024 Arizona's Attorney General Kris Mayes announced charges against 18 people over a scheme to subvert the 2020 election results in favor of Donald Trump (archived here).

AFP has debunked several of the most widespread election fraud claims but some still resurface online –- despite reviews by government officials and independent audits failing to find evidence (archived here and here).

Harrington's latest claim, which has previously circulated on social media, is similarly false.

Whether mailed in or dropped off at a voting location or drop box, all Arizona ballots must be received by 7 pm on Election Day, which in 2020 was November 3 (archived here).

However, the form pictured does not indicate when the ballots were received by the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center, as the post suggests. Instead, it documents when they were transferred from the center to a private vendor for verification.

Stephen Richer (archived here), Recorder of Maricopa County, addressed Harrington's post directly on X (archived here):

"That receipt of delivery sheet is between Maricopa County and Runbeck Election Services, which is why it says 'RES' under the employee signature. These are NOT pickups from USPS."

He continued: "Rather, these are early ballots dropped off at voting locations on Election Day. Then, after polls close, they're brought back to Maricopa County. Then we take them to Runbeck to use Runbeck's high speed scanning and image capturing machine. And then we take them back. That transportation is what is reflected in the image."

<span>Screenshot of an X post taken April 30, 2024</span>
Screenshot of an X post taken April 30, 2024

Runbeck Election Services, headquartered in Phoenix, is Maricopa County's printing vendor (archived here). The company also conducts an inbound scan of affidavit envelopes to verify signatures before sorting ballots for election officials to review.

In 2022, Jeff Ellington, the company's CEO, confirmed to other fact-checking organizations that the receipt establishes when the company received a batch of ballots from the elections department.

AFP reached out to Runbeck Election Services multiple times for comment, but a response was not forthcoming.

According to Maricopa County, approximately 934 ballots were received late in the 2020 election, but those were rejected and not counted toward the final tally (archived here).

More of AFP's reporting on misinformation surrounding US politics can be found here.