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Noah Y. Kim
By Noah Y. Kim September 27, 2021

No evidence Maricopa County audit found 17,000 “duplicate” votes

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• The Maricopa County audit didn’t find over 17,000 duplicate votes in the county’s files. It found 17,000 "duplicate" ballot envelope images, which are created when election officials reach out to voters to cure their signatures. Each group of "duplicate" images are only counted once. ​

After five months, Florida-based firm Cyber Ninjas released results from its GOP-backed audit of ballots in Maricopa County, Ariz., and found no significant differences from the official vote count. 

Nevertheless, in a presentation before the Arizona State Senate, officials involved with the audit put forth a wide range of unproven allegations about the election. Some of these allegations gave rise to claims on social media, which were presented without context as evidence that the 2020 election was rigged against Donald Trump. 

"The Arizona forensic audit found over 17,000 duplicates of votes," reads a Facebook post. "The election must be decertified & people should be prosecuted."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claim is wrong, even based on the audit’s own standards. The Maricopa County report didn’t find over 17,000 duplicate votes in the county’s files. Instead, it found 17,000 "duplicate" ballot envelope images, which are created during a routine election process called signature curing. Duplicate ballot envelope images don’t prove the existence of voter fraud in Maricopa County, said election experts and administrators. 

The presence of these images "is no proof of a Trump win," said Trey Grayson, a former Kentucky secretary of state and a Republican. 

Here’s why the county had these duplicate images on file:

Sometimes election workers receive a ballot envelope with a signature that raises questions. For example, it could have a blank signature line, or a signature that doesn’t closely resemble the one the county has on file. In this case, election workers are required by law to take a photo of this original, unopened envelope and then contact the voter who cast it to get a new signature. If the voter provides a valid signature, the county takes another image of the envelope. Only one vote is counted. 

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The presence of "duplicate" ballot envelope images in the county’s database does not prove that illegitimate votes were recorded during the 2020 presidential election, but that election workers were reaching out to voters with inconsistent signatures, said Megan Gilbertson, spokesperson for Maricopa elections. 

"The (presence of these duplicated envelopes) is normal and appropriate, and it’s a sign that our team is doing their job" she said. 

Some social media users have pointed to the fact that a number of duplicate images were created after the election as evidence of voter fraud. However, Arizona state law gives Maricopa County staff five business days after an election to contact voters with inconsistent signatures. As a result, said Gilbertson, there was a spike in duplicate envelopes after the election as workers contacted people who had cast their ballots on or shortly before Election Day. 

"We dedicated people to continue to call those voters ...  to try to cure their signatures," Gilbertson said. 

Our ruling 

Facebook posts claim that "the Arizona forensic audit found over 17,000 duplicates of votes."

This is factually inaccurate. The highly contested audit found 17,000 images of "duplicate" ballot envelopes.

Duplicate ballot envelopes are created when election officials contact voters with inconsistent or blank signatures to cure their signatures. 

We rate the claim False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Sep. 26, 2021

Arizona State Legislature, Receipt of voter's ballot; cure period

Interview, Maricopa County Elections Department communications director Megan Gilbertson, Sept. 27, 2021

Email interview, Trey Grayson, former Kentucky Secretary of state and former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and current managing director of CivicPoint, Sept. 27, 2021

Email interview, Matthew Weil, director of the elections project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Sept. 27, 2021

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No evidence Maricopa County audit found 17,000 “duplicate” votes

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