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- Vote counting machines were unable to read ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona, because of printer issues, while an unknown glitch brought down tabulators in Mercer County, New Jersey. Those issues did not prevent people from voting.
- Several polling sites in Bell County, Texas, opened late because of an issue with its voter check-in machines that was caused by daylight saving time. The sites stayed open late to account for the delay.
Conspiracy theories about the midterm elections proliferated on Election Day, and an Instagram post added to the chorus by claiming that technology issues related to voting in several states were proof that the voting process was rigged.
The Nov. 8 Instagram post featured what appears to be a screenshot of a social media post by conservative commentator Emerald Robinson with a link to her blog post about how the election "was already being stolen" in the U.S.
"The voting machines have already stopped working in Maricopa County, AZ and Mercer County, NJ and Bell County, TX and the election just started," the screenshot shared on Instagram read.
A caption on the Instagram post says, "Imagine my shock. Rigged elections, real results."
The Instagram post was flagged as part of Instagram’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
It’s not the first time Robinson — who was suspended from Twitter and taken off the air by the right-wing network Newsmax after spreading COVID-19 misinformation — questioned the integrity of elections.
The issues experienced in Arizona, New Jersey and Texas did not prevent anyone from voting or having their vote counted.
Voters in Arizona’s Maricopa County typically cast their votes by printing out completed ballots at a polling location and inserting them into vote-counting machines, known as tabulators. Scanners in the tabulators record each vote.
On Election Day, around a quarter of Maricopa County’s 223 polling locations reported that their tabulators stopped reading completed ballots. Some of the ballot printers didn’t use enough ink, making the ballots unreadable by a tabulator’s scanner.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates offered a workaround for voters unable to have their ballots counted by tabulators. They could insert their completed ballots into a secured slot, similar to a dropbox, and their votes would be counted after polls closed.
Gates said voters also had the option to go to different polling locations in the county that had working tabulators.
Technicians eventually fixed the problem, but it didn’t stop baseless claims from spreading that Democrats were stealing the election by tampering with ballots placed into the slots.
Megan Gilbertson, communications director for the county’s election department, told PolitiFact the printer issue impacted around 17,000 ballots, or 7% of Election Day votes.
"All ballots will be counted securely and accurately," she said.
Mercer County, New Jersey, experienced problems similar to Arizona after tabulators throughout the county were unable to read ballots because of an unknown glitch.
Instead, voters deposited their paper ballots into secure collection bins, Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello told PolitiFact. Ballots were then taken to the Mercer County Board of Elections office to be scanned.
"Of course, it is not optimal when your scanners do not work on-site, but we are pleased that we have a paper-based election system that allows every voter to cast a vote and have that vote count," Sollami-Covello said. "Every vote was counted."
In a separate social media post, Sollami-Covello said the glitch doesn’t appear to be a deliberate attack on Mercer County’s voting system, but a full investigation would be conducted to rule out the possibility.
Eight of 42 voting centers in Bell County, Texas, delayed their opening on Election Day because of an issue with several check-in machines, known as electronic poll books, which scan voters’ IDs and issue their ballots.
James Stafford, Bell County’s public information officer, told PolitiFact the machines’ clocks weren’t automatically updated to reflect daylight saving time, which prevented them from accessing the county’s voter database for security reasons.
Election officials were able to resolve the problem, and polling places in Bell County stayed open for an extra hour to account for the delay.
Stafford said there were no issues with the county’s voting machines, contrary to the claim in the Instagram post.
"There is no concern about any (voting) security issues involved with this situation," he said. He called the mishap with check-in machines an inconvenience that frustrated voters.
An Instagram post said glitches with voting in Arizona, New Jersey and Texas were proof the election is rigged.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, several printers that produced ballots didn’t use enough ink, making the ballots unreadable by the machine’s scanners. The workaround was to insert completed ballots into a secured slot, similar to a dropbox, to be counted after polls closed. Alternatively, voters could go to other polling places where machines were working.
Machines that read and collect ballots malfunctioned in Mercer County, New Jersey, but voters were able to deposit their paper ballots into secure collection bins to be counted when polls closed.
In Bell County, Texas, several check-in machines that allow voters to receive ballots were not functioning correctly because of daylight saving time. The problem was resolved, and voting centers stayed open for an additional hour to make up for the lost time.
None of the issues in any of the states prevented people from voting, and election officials in each jurisdiction said all votes were counted.
We rate this claim False.
PolitiFact, "The Pants on Fire claim that 'nobody in any election in America gets 74% of the votes,'" June 1, 2022
The Daily Beast, "Newsmax Benches Star Who Claimed COVID Vaccines Contain Satanic Trackers," Nov. 4, 2022
PolitiFact, "No, COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain luciferase," Nov. 19, 2021
The Washington Post, "Problems with voting machines in Arizona’s Maricopa County trigger unfounded fraud claims," Nov. 8, 2022
Maricopa County Elections Department Twitter post, Nov. 8, 2022
PolitiFact, "No, Maricopa vote tabulators didn’t lead to ballots with ‘no chain of custody,’" Nov. 8, 2022
Email with Megan Gilbertson, Maricopa County Elections Department communications director, Nov. 9, 2022
CBS News, "Voting machines down in Mercer County due to glitch," Nov. 8, 2022
Email with Paula Sollami-Covello, Mercer County Clerk, Nov. 9, 2022
Gothamist, "Mercer County, N.J. clerk calls to investigate voting scanners after Election Day 'glitch,'" Nov. 9, 2022
Phone interview with James Stafford, Bell County public information officer, Nov. 9, 2022
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