Elections

Criminals, Cheaters, and Cartels: 4 Batshit Crazy Moments From the Maricopa County Election Canvass

Red ball caps at the Maricopa County election canvass on November 28 was a vivid reminder of similar outrage after the 2020 presidential election.
Red ball caps at the Maricopa County election canvass on November 28 was a vivid reminder of similar outrage after the 2020 presidential election. Maricopa County
As protesters vented outside the county's office complex on West Jefferson Street on Monday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met to canvass the results of the November 8 election. Things weren't much calmer inside their 10th floor auditorium.

For hours, supervisors heard pleas for a new election and withstood vicious name-calling, calls for their own imprisonment, and even threats of death from the throng of conservative mouthpieces who took advantage of a public comment session as the county looked to certify the election on the last day allowed by state law to do so.

“Public testimony is important to me and my colleagues,” Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Gates said in a prepared statement on Monday morning. “I look forward to running a canvass meeting that incorporates comments from the public as well as a deep dive into facts and data from the county’s election professionals.”

The majority-Republican board ultimately voted unanimously to certify the election results. But not before enduring a host of abuse from spurned supporters of Arizona’s losing slate of MAGA Republicans. Here are four of the most outlandish comments we heard at Monday morning’s public hearing.

‘Election Crimes’ Deserve Death Sentence

One woman who spoke at the hearing suggested the death penalty was a fair punishment for each of the county’s five supervisors — four are Republicans — and cited an undisclosed list of “election crimes” that she conveniently “will not repeat.”

The woman called the board “traitors" and said they were guilty of “interference.” She brazenly and falsely claimed that “interference in an election in the United States of America is a capital offense punishable by the death penalty.”

There isn’t a single election-related law in the U.S. that is punishable by the death penalty. The U.S. code actually spells out the penalty for administrative employees who interfere in elections — the punishment is a fine and not more than one year in prison.

The woman followed her death threats with her take on a 1962 quote from then-President John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution necessary.”
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People who are unhappy about the election results used the hashtag #AZRevote to promote a demonstration against Maricopa County election officials on November 28.
Maricopa County

Self-Proclaimed ‘Slave’ Calls Board ‘Criminals’

Threats of violence were common at the public hearing on Monday.

Another member of the public, who identified himself as David Clements, said he and his friends are “not here to be civil.” Clements lives in New Mexico and was fired from his role at New Mexico State University last year for refusing to get a coronavirus vaccine while peddling pandemic lies on campus.

The elderly white man identified himself as a “slave" and compared the unfounded claim that his vote was not counted to the centuries-long plight of Africans and African-Americans who were enslaved.

He called the supervisors “vote traffickers” and “criminals” as his fellow conspiracy theorists cheered in the audience behind him. He also implied the supervisors were not real Americans, spouting that “watching you pledge allegiance to my flag was disgusting.”

Clements also rehashed one of the nuttiest alt-right conspiracy theories from 2020 — that Supervisor Clint Hickman, a poultry farmer, fed ballots to his chickens and then burned them to death.

Cheating the Cheater

Alt-right podcaster Joe Oltmann, who lives in Colorado, identified himself as “chief election denier” at the public hearing. He bragged first about inventing and propagating conspiracy theories and later about teaching “everyone” how to cheat Dominion voting machines, a favorite scapegoat of the far-right.

The self-styled “system matter expert” said he “wrote a schematic of Dominion, how you can cheat in the system,” and “sent it out to everyone.” After boasting about teaching “everyone” how to cheat, he complained that the election was stolen by cheaters.

“Forty-eight percent of the machines going down in Maricopa County is unacceptable,” Oltmann told the board. According to NPR, about 20 percent of polling locations in the county experienced technical problems with ballot tabulating machines on Election Day.

Oltmann then compared the election to hoary conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and harangued the board with anti-LGBTQ rants.

“The fact that we can gaslight the American people like we did with COVID, like we did with gender fluidity, it’s just wrong,” he said.

Oltmann is a “violent” GOP force who has suggested hanging his political opponents to death, the Washington Post reported in June.
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Conspiracy theorist Ben Bergquam peddled unfounded claims that cartels had taken over elections in Maricopa County.
Mason Trinca/Getty Image

‘Cartels’ Benefitting From This Election

Ben Bergquam, who fashions himself a reporter for the alt-right propaganda machine Real America’s Voice News, joined the public in spieling stolen election nonsense at the podium.

Bergquam, based in Fresno, California, has said that white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan "have a right" to do what they do.

Maricopa County did not recognize Real America’s Voice News nor the Gateway Pundit, another popular conservative fake news outlet, as legitimate media outlets and denied them media access to the meeting. Representatives from the outlets instead attended as members of the public but still identified themselves as journalists.

"If this election is certified, the only parties that will benefit from this are the cartels,” Bergquam said.

He claimed, with no evidence, that cartels had “taken over” the election office. He also echoed the lie that “half of the voting machines were down” on Election Day.

“If you certify today,” he told the board, “the only thing you’ll be certifying is your corruption.”

Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor who flopped on Election Day, tweeted that Bergquam's screed was "the BEST explanation of Maricopa County Election Day Disaster you will ever watch."
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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss

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