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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 19, 2021

Trump claim about Ariz. mail-ballots is based on misunderstanding of early voting

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  • Officials say the claim is based on confusion over the early voting process and a misuse of Maricopa County documents.

Persisting in the quest to dispute his loss in the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump claimed that tens of thousands of mail-in ballots in Maricopa County, Ariz., were improperly counted without a record of them having been sent to voters.

In a statement on July 15, the day the GOP-controlled Arizona Senate held a hearing on an ongoing partisan audit of the county’s election processes, Trump said: 

"While this, according to the Senate, is preliminary, with results being announced at a later date, it seems that 74,243 Mail-In Ballots were counted with ‘no clear record of them being sent.’"

This and other audit findings, he claimed, showed Biden didn’t win Arizona or other battleground states. 

Trump’s claim stems from remarks at the hearing made by Doug Logan, head of Cyber Ninjas, a company that was hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to conduct the audit. Logan was part of the "stop the steal" conspiracy theories about the election that culminated in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Cyber Ninjas has no prior experience auditing elections.

At the hearing, Logan indicated that a clerical error could explain the 74,243 figure. He said:

"We have 74,243 mail-in ballots where there is no clear record of their being sent. ... That could be something where documentation wasn't done right — there was a clerical issue, there's not proper things there — but I think when we've got 74,000, it merits, you know, knocking on a door and validating some of this information."

Knocking on a door is a reference to the auditors’ suggestion that voters be visited door to door as part of the audit.

Logan claimed that what are known as EV32 files are "supposed to give a record of when a mail-in ballot is sent" and EV33 files are "supposed to give a record of when the mail-in ballot is received."

In fact, the two documents aren’t just for mailed ballots, and they capture only a limited time period. The EV32 file includes all requests that voters make for early ballots, either by mail or in person, up to 11 days before Election Day, and the EV33 file includes returned early ballots up to the Monday before Election Day, the Associated Press reported.

That means there is a 10-day period between the final day of each report, during which thousands of mail-in votes are submitted and thousands of additional voters go to early-voting centers, request ballots in person and submit them. Furthermore, the files don’t include any early ballots that came in on Election Day.

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Maricopa County responded to Logan’s claim via Twitter, suggesting that the auditor didn’t understand early voting and used the wrong reports to calculate the number of ballots sent out by mail.

Because early voting can be done by mail or in-person, where ballots are provided at the location where voters vote, "it's not unusual that we would have more early votes than mail-in ballots sent," the county said.

The county said the two files  "are not the proper files to refer to for a complete accumulating of all early ballots sent and received."

There’s no evidence that any mail-in ballots were improperly counted.

Joe Biden won Arizona by about 10,000 votes, flipping the state after Trump’s win in 2016.

Findings of the audit, which began in April, will not affect the  election outcome, because the results were already certified by state officials and accepted by Congress.

The state is one battleground where Trump and his allies have spread the baseless allegation that the election was stolen by Democrats. Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, has the most registered voters in the state. 

We rated False a claim by Trump, citing the audit, that "the entire database of Maricopa County" was deleted. We also fact-checked a  False Trump claim that the audit exposed fraud.

Trump’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Our ruling

Trump said that in the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County, Ariz., "74,243 mail-in ballots were counted with 'no clear record of them being sent.'"

Maricopa County says that because early voting is done in person as well as by mail, it’s not surprising that there would be more early votes counted than mail-ballots sent out. The county also said auditors used the wrong files in trying to calculate how many early ballots were sent and received.

We rate Trump’s claim False.

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More by Tom Kertscher

Trump claim about Ariz. mail-ballots is based on misunderstanding of early voting

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