Gina Swoboda, executive director of Phoenix-based Voter Reference Foundation (VRF) discussed election problems and what to do about them recently on the Jenny Beth Show. Jenny Beth Martin was an early leader in the Tea Party movement as co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. In this third part of a three-part series from the interview, Swoboda delved deeper into the problems that occurred during Maricopa County’s 2022 election, many which were caused or exacerbated by election officials, and the hurdles to fixing them.
She observed that switching from precinct voting to vote centers did not increase turnout as election officials claimed it would, which they did in order to convince voters the switch would be beneficial. Republican legislators ran bills that would have made precinct voting easier, she said, like holding voting on a school holiday so the schools could be used as voting locations, but the bills were unsuccessful.
“And then the pushback from advocates on the left end of the spectrum was, well, now you’re making it impossible,” Swoboda said. “If the kids have the day off, then how am I gonna get the time to go vote now, now I can’t work. So people that were not concerned about shutting down every school in the United States of America for 22 months during COVID, and did not care about how those parents were gonna go to work, suddenly think having one day as a holiday — and these are the same people who say it should be a national holiday.”
“I’ve come to the conclusion after the last session of a legislature that the county election officials in the state of Arizona are not going to do anything to improve the Election Day process because they do not want to, because they do not have the will to continue to have in-person voting,” she said.
“They [Maricopa County] just do what they want,” she lamented. “ They’ve been not fully signature verifying those early in-person ballots. That’s why you see videos like click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click,” referring to an infamous video of a Maricopa County signature verifier clicking through the process spending less than a second on each signature match.
She warned regarding election officials, “By not adhering to the law, they have the effect of changing the law on a whim, on their whim. And there’s no checks and balances with that.” Swoboda urged people to choose other county recorders and county supervisors in the next election in order to “effectuate change,” since the executive branch is not up for election in 2024. “There is no way to rationalize what took place in Maricopa in 2022,” she declared. “The gaslighting is profound. The refusal of the officials to acknowledge their failures is disgraceful.”
She explained how 300,000 ballots that were dropped in the infamous “Door 3” on Election Day in Maricopa County due to being rejected by the tabulators were then improperly handled. Swoboda said, “300,000 people walked in on Election Day, dropped it in the bucket, in the envelope. Now what should have happened is the county recorder staff supposed to pick up those drop offs, take them back to central count, log how many there are, and only then can you take them to your vendor, in which, in the case of of Maricopa is Runbeck to scan the signatures. They said they were overwhelmed. I’m sure they were. And so were the voters in their ‘perfect election.’ They were so overwhelmed at the number of drop offs, they didn’t bother to go back to central count, although that is required by statute. They just drove them straight to run back and drop ’em off. So now, now you know, your chain of custody is screwy. “
Swoboda predicted that the problem is going to get worse if it’s not fixed; even more people will be dropping off their mail-in ballots in future Maricopa County elections, “in excess of 300,000, could possibly be 400,000 or more. So we’re not gonna have like three and a half weeks. We’re gonna have like four and a half weeks [to count ballots] if, if this continues.”
Swoboda commended longtime former Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, who adhered to the law during elections and didn’t try to make last minute changes that were likely illegal like former recorder Adrian Fontes and current recorder Stephen Richer have done. “The Supreme Court of the United States has the Purcell principle of which is like, if you’re too close to the election, you don’t wanna start to change the process ’cause you can confuse the voters. So to have one county that’s just kind of doing their own thing out there, when that’s not what the process is, is confusing to the voters.”
She said challenging the county’s changing of procedures at the last minute has been difficult, since the courts either claim the challenges are too premature; “not ripe,” or they’re brought too late, barred by the “doctrine of latches.” Consequently, “And there thus far has not been any successful attempt to force them to abide by the rules.”
Trolls are spreading misinformation about the work conducted by election integrity groups like VRF, Swoboda said. “[M]any of them are there for the specific purpose of disrupting our organizations and causing harm to our organizations.“ They call the election integrity groups “domestic terrorists,” claim that their work isn’t legal, all while being funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security, she said.
She urged people to proactively recruit voters to cast their ballots early in the next election. “Because if the Democrats have already banked their votes and the Republican Party all waits until Election Day and we have another catastrophic failure, our votes just aren’t coming and we can’t make up the margin.” She went on, “If we get out there and we get out there early, then there’s not gonna be a potential shenanigan where someone else gets my mail ballot and does something else.”
She said Republicans used to be the party that voted early, but it shifted completely the other way by the 2022 election. She pointed out that senior citizens aren’t considered a protected class when it comes to voting so they should consider voting early. “If you’re 78 years old and you’re trying to stand on the line and it’s three-and-a-half hours long, and you don’t even know where you are ’cause it’s not your precinct polling place anymore, and you can’t stand anymore, there is no recourse for you. “
Turnout decreased between 2018 and 2022, she said, because voters were hesitant to vote by mail, but when they showed up in person they encountered problems like the 2022 printer/tabulator fiasco.
Swoboda also touched on a problem in Pima County, where “people don’t realize” there was “a catastrophic failure as well in 2022.” Since “Pima County doesn’t have the onsite tabulation on election day, they were dropping them in the bucket when they got back to central count,” she said. “Pima County duplicated 22,000 ballots in a handful of days after Election Day. And most people don’t realize it happened because the machines weren’t on site. So the voters didn’t see it. It happened back at central count.”
Swoboda predicted, “I feel strongly that there’s probably gonna be a lot of litigation in this six-month window because it has to be done ahead of time. Because once you get into the election, you can’t do it.”
Watch the full interview: