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A voter places a ballot in an election voting drop box in Mesa, Ariz.,  Oct. 28, 2022. (AP) A voter places a ballot in an election voting drop box in Mesa, Ariz.,  Oct. 28, 2022. (AP)

A voter places a ballot in an election voting drop box in Mesa, Ariz., Oct. 28, 2022. (AP)

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles October 28, 2022

Arizona ballot error did not target Republicans

If Your Time is short

  • 1,000 voters in Arizona mistakenly received mail-in ballots that included only federal candidates, not state and local candidates. In Arizona, federal-only ballots are for people who have not registered to vote in state elections. 

  • The ballots were sent by county election officials, not Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office.

  • About 20% of those who received the federal-only ballots were Republicans, according to the secretary of state’s office.

As the midterm election quickly approaches, many social media users are pointing to election mistakes as misguided examples of fraud. 

A caption on an Oct. 23 Instagram post declared that Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is also the Democratic candidate for governor, "sent 6,000 wrong ballots to Republicans." 

"Vote for Kari Lake, Blake Masters if you want to have vote integrity," the caption also said. The post also included a screenshot of an article about Hobbs from the Gateway Pundit, a conservative news outlet. 

Hobbs will face Lake, a Trump-endorsed candidate and former Phoenix television news anchor, in the Nov. 8 election. The Trump-endorsed Masters is Arizona’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Mark Kelly.

The Instagram 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 Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) 

The post misconstrues key facts: some voters in Arizona did receive federal-only ballots that included no state and local candidates, but it was far less than 6,000. Hobbs’ office didn’t send the ballots, county officials did; and GOP voters represented just 20% of voters who received the federal-only ballots. 

An Arizona secretary of state’s office spokesperson told PolitiFact that up to 6,000 voters in Arizona were potentially misclassified as federal-only voters — meaning that their ballots would not include state and local candidates. In Arizona, federal-only ballots are for people who have not registered to vote in state elections. 

Of that number, about 1,000 people were sent the federal-only mail-in ballots. Several news organizations reported the error

The mistake happened because of a database system error, said C. Murphy Hebert, communications director for the Arizona secretary of state’s office.

The secretary of state’s voter database works in conjunction with a database from the state’s Motor Vehicles Department. If a person registers to vote online, the voter registration database checks with the motor vehicle department database to confirm whether the person has a state ID or driver’s license.

In some cases, Hebert said, the voters had additional motor vehicle records, such as car titles.  But those additional records do not include proof of citizenship. To receive a full ballot with state and local candidates, Arizona voters must have proved their U.S. citizenship, with documents such as a birth certificate. 

The additional motor vehicle records that lacked proof of citizenship were mistakenly transferred to the secretary of state’s database. So, those voters received federal-only ballots.

"Once we identified the issue, we were able to immediately isolate it to 6,000 potential records that could have been affected," Hebert said. "The counties went back and double-checked all of those records and found that less than 1,300 of voters were actually sent federal ballots to voters who qualified for full ballots."

And despite the claim, it wasn’t only Republicans who received the federal-only ballots. About 20% of those who received them were Republicans, 37% were Democrats and the remainder were independent and libertarian, according to a tweet from Hobbs.

Arizona counties have already begun correcting the problem, Hebert said. 

"The counties have done outreach to each of the affected voters, and each of those affected voters will be sent correct ballots. Or, if they’ve already mailed their ballot back, those ballots will be isolated and set aside while the counties try to reach the voter so that they can be given a full ballot," Hebert said. 

If voters confirm that they want full ballots, their federal ballots will be canceled, Hebert added. 

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed Hobbs "sent 6,000 wrong ballots to Republicans."

That’s inaccurate. 1,000 voters in Arizona mistakenly received mail-in ballots that included only federal candidates, not state and local candidates. 

County officials sent the ballots, not Hobbs’ office. And about 20% of voters who received the federal-only ballots were Republicans.

We rate this claim False. 

Our Sources

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Arizona ballot error did not target Republicans

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