FACT FOCUS: AZ canvass report draws nonsensical conclusions

Sep 9, 2021, 5:23 PM | Updated: 5:52 pm

A report released this week in Arizona’s largest county falsely claims to have uncovered some 173,000 “lost” votes and 96,000 “ghost votes” in a private door-to-door canvassing effort, supposedly rendering the 2020 election in Maricopa County “uncertifiable.”

But its conclusions aren’t supported by any evidence, according to county election officials and outside election experts, who called the report’s methods “quasi-science” and its findings inaccurate.

Still, the 11-page document — which is separate from an ongoing partisan audit in the county — has been shared widely in conservative media and by Republican politicians, including state Rep. Mark Finchem, who is campaigning to be Arizona’s secretary of state — the state’s top election official.

Report author Liz Harris, an unsuccessful Republican legislative candidate and a real estate agent in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, declined to respond to specific questions but said a more comprehensive version of the report would be released soon.

Here’s a closer look at the facts.

CLAIM: An estimated 173,104 “missing or lost” votes and an estimated 96,389 “ghost” votes cast by people who didn’t appear to live at their voter registration addresses indicate that the 2020 election in Maricopa County included irregularities and is “uncertifiable.”

THE FACTS: The report doesn’t provide evidence for these far-fetched claims, and the county’s election results have been certified for months.

The “Grassroots Canvass Report” that gained traction on social media on Wednesday weaves a narrative of hundreds of thousands of voting errors in Maricopa County, but it bases those allegations on interactions with a fraction of that number of votes, analyzing data on just 4,570 voters in a handful of voting precincts.

Harris claims in the report that these smaller-scale findings can be extrapolated out to the entire county “at a scientifically correlated confidence level of 95%,” but Stanford University political science professor Justin Grimmer said that’s inaccurate.

“From the description in the report, it is clear that this was not a random sample,” Grimmer said. Even if it was random, he said, certain areas were oversampled, and the authors didn’t take into account that the people who responded to the canvassers were likely different than those who didn’t respond.

“Their sample simply cannot justify their inference to the entire county,” Grimmer said.

Harris’ initial report offered just one specific example out of nearly 270,000 alleged ballot irregularities.

It claimed on the cover that an address in Goodyear, Arizona, was a “vacant lot” from which voters cast illegal ballots. But that claim was quickly debunked on Twitter by a local ABC15 reporter and county officials.

In fact, the address is a legitimate place of residence, according to Maricopa County Assessor Eddie Cook. In 2020, it housed three registered voters who cast general election ballots, according to Megan Gilbertson, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Elections Department.

After the error was pointed out, Harris released a new version of the report with a different example on the cover. But the new example, an allegedly vacant lot in Tempe, Arizona, also wasn’t evidence of any foul play.

The address is vacant now but used to be a mobile home park, according to Gilbertson. In 2020, one person who cast a mail-in ballot listed it as his permanent address. He requested his ballot be sent to a temporary address elsewhere, which is legal.

And there are other concerns to be aware of when it comes to sweeping claims of “lost” votes and “ghost” votes, according to Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund and a former Maricopa County elections official.

Claims of “lost” votes — or votes cast but never counted — are problematic because research shows when people are asked if they voted months later, some will lie and say they did.

“Voters will over-report their participation in light of social pressure to demonstrate actions that they perceive as socially desirable,” Patrick said.

Meanwhile, claims of “ghost” votes — or votes cast from addresses where people don’t seem to live — don’t consider the fact that military and overseas voters are legally allowed to vote from their last domiciled address, Patrick said.

In an email to the AP, she called the report “yet another example of individuals who do not understand elections in Arizona using quasi-science to justify a preconceived position and further set a narrative.”

Called for comment, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer said he was happy to address questions about potential errors but that “so far, no actual problems have been identified.” He said he asked Harris for specific examples of irregularities in March and she never followed up.

Harris declined to answer most specific questions about the report, but said the first specific claim about a vacant lot was a “typo.” She said that she was confident in her findings and that a more comprehensive report would be released soon.

Finchem, the secretary of state candidate who shared the report on social media, declined to comment.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


This photo provided by the East Pennsboro Township Police Dept. shows Jeremy Lee Pauley. Jeremy Lee...
Associated Press

Police: Pennsylvania man tried to buy stolen human remains

A Pennsylvania man was charged with abuse of a corpse, receiving stolen property and other charges after police say he allegedly tried to buy stolen human remains from an Arkansas woman for possible resale on Facebook. A spokeswoman for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock confirmed that the remains were to […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Single lawsuit last remaining legal issue for Deshaun Watson

HOUSTON (AP) — When the first woman accused Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct during a massage session in a lawsuit filed in March 2021, it was just the initial step in a protracted saga that would eventually encompass 23 more civil filings, a criminal investigation and the possibility of indefinite suspension by the NFL. After […]
17 hours ago
FILE - In this July 27, 2015, file photo, a BNSF Railway Company train is parked in Seattle. The he...
Associated Press

Rail union: Plan for contract deal doesn’t address concerns

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The head of the nation’s largest railroad union says the report designed to help resolve stalled contract talks with freight railroads doesn’t do enough to address concerns about working conditions, even though it suggests 24% raises. The railroads indicated earlier this week that they were ready to hammer out a deal […]
17 hours ago
FILE - A Bed Bath & Beyond sign is shown in Mountain View, Calif., May 9, 2012. Shares in Bed Bath ...
Associated Press

Bed Bath & Beyond tumbles after influential investor exits

NEW YORK (AP) — The newest meme stock on Wall Street, Bed Bath & Beyond, is tumbling even further in after-hours trading Thursday after a high-profile activist investor confirmed that’s he’s bailed out of the stock. Ryan Cohen, the co-founder of Chewy who helped ignite a couple of meme stocks to jaw-dropping heights, confirmed in […]
17 hours ago
FILE - People shop at an Apple Store in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Apple disclosed serious s...
Associated Press

Apple warns of security flaw for iPhones, iPads and Macs

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple disclosed serious security vulnerabilities for iPhones, iPads and Macs that could potentially allow attackers to take complete control of these devices. Apple released two securityreports about the issue on Wednesday, although they didn’t receive wide attention outside of tech publications. Apple’s explanation of the vulnerability means a hacker could get […]
17 hours ago
The Trump Organization's former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg leaves from court, Thursd...
Associated Press

What’s next for Trump Organization after Weisselberg plea?

NEW YORK (AP) — The numbers guy did the math: Allen Weisselberg — a longtime loyal lieutenant to Donald Trump — could have gotten years in prison if he went to trial and failed to beat tax evasion allegations. But if he agreed to testify in an upcoming trial of the former president’s company, he […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
FACT FOCUS: AZ canvass report draws nonsensical conclusions