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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke October 28, 2022

Phoenix TV station accidentally airs mock election results

If Your Time is short

  • A Phoenix television station accidentally aired a graphic that appeared to show it calling the election in favor of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs. The numbers were randomly generated mock election results released by The Associated Press as part of a system test. 
 

Social media users are seizing on a Phoenix TV station’s accidental broadcast of mock election results to fuel suspicions about election interference. 

With Arizona’s gubernatorial election more than a week away, KSAZ-TV, Channel 10, a Fox affiliate in Phoenix, aired a graphic that showed a photo of Democratic candidate and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs next to the figure 53% and a checkmark, and a photo of Republican candidate Kari Lake next to the figure 47%.  

Some Lake supporters were upset by the graphic and suggested it was evidence of a plot to illegally steal the election from her.

"HOLY CRAP," conservative commentator Charlie Kirk tweeted. "Fox10 — Kari Lake’s former station — just displayed a graphic showing Katie Hobbs won the Arizona governor’s race 12 DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION." Lake was a longtime news anchor at the station before running for office.

One Instagram account, sharing a screenshot of the tweet, suggested this was evidence of election interference. 

Another said: "They will try everything to steal it." 

These posts were 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.)

But the station, also called Fox 10, said that airing the graphic — which featured mock election results that had been randomly generated by The Associated Press as a part of a system test — was a mistake. On Oct. 27, the day the graphic aired, the station tweeted about what happened.

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"At 5:50p during the Fox 10 newscast today a small graphic appeared on the lower left side of the screen showing test results for the upcoming election. These were generated by the Associated Press which distributes results to clients," the station said. "This graphic was never meant to go on air — the numbers were only part of a test. The station has taken steps to make sure this cannot happen again."

For more than a century, The Associated Press has counted the votes in elections and declared winners in races. Those results are provided to local news outlets.

Leading up to an election, The Associated Press provides local news outlets with randomly generated sample numbers that it uses in system tests. In summer 2022, after two Michigan TV stations accidentally published the mock election results a week before the state’s primary, the AP issued a statement saying the mock results are clearly labeled and not for publication.

"Before any election, AP sends clearly labeled test data to its customers as part of its routine testing," the July 22 statement said. The test data is randomly generated and is not based on any predictive analysis or polling. It is not for publication. The test data is in no way representative of actual votes." 

During the KSAZ broadcast, when the graphic appeared on screen, the anchor was talking about expensive rental prices in some Arizona cities, not the election.

Just a day earlier, the station had reported on poll results that showed Lake leading the governor’s race. It aired a graphic that showed Lake with 54% of the vote, according to the poll. Hobbs, meanwhile, had 43%. 

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate claims that a Phoenix TV station prematurely called the election for Hobbs Half True.

Our Sources

Instagram post, Oct. 27, 2022

Instagram post, Oct. 27, 2022

Instagram post, Oct. 28, 2022

Associated Press, OUR ROLE IN US ELECTIONS, visited Oct. 28, 2022

Associated Press, Release of test election results fuels unfounded fraud claims, July 27, 2022

Associated Press, EXPLAINER: Calling a race is tricky: How AP does it, Oct. 30, 2020

Fox 10 Phoenix, 2022 Arizona Election Poll: Lake leads governor's race, Senate race tightens, Oct. 26, 2022

Charlie Kirk tweet, Oct. 28, 2022

Fox 10 Phoenix tweet, Oct. 28, 2022

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Phoenix TV station accidentally airs mock election results

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