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The Lonely, Frustrating Battle to Convince Arizona Voters the Election Wasn’t Rigged

“As long as there’s going to be someone constantly asserting this lie, I’m going to confidently push back,” Garrett Archer said.

Election 2020 Arizona
Some voters remain convinced the 2020 Arizona election result was rigged. Matt York/AP

Garrett Archer’s day on X started with a point-by-point rebuttal to a conspiracy theory about bamboo ballots undermining Arizona’s 2020 election, included a lengthy discussion of why undocumented migrants didn’t sway the vote tally in that race and ended with a post disputing the contest was controlled by a “global overlord.”

“Man did I kick the beehive today,” the election official turned journalist wrote on X, reflecting on the sheer number of unfounded accusations he had debunked in only a few hours.

For Archer, “kicking the beehive” has become a daily routine.

Almost four long years after the 2020 presidential election, political experts and election supervisors in Arizona like Archer are still going to extraordinary lengths to prove Joe Biden legitimately defeated Donald Trump, fighting a public battle against a never-ending series of allegations that the race was rigged.

Archer estimates that he has spent an hour a day for the last three and a half years (including weekends) debunking false claims about the 2020 election, nearly 1,300 hours total spent neck-deep in online debates.

“I’m operating under the belief that … if you confidently tell a lie enough, eventually, it becomes the truth,” Archer told NOTUS. “As long as there’s going to be someone constantly asserting this lie, I’m going to confidently push back.”

Archer is part of an informal coalition of nonpartisan elections officials, political analysts and some local GOP officials who are desperately trying to rebut the notion that Arizona’s 2020 and 2022 races were rigged.

Barry Markson, a radio talk show analyst in Arizona, regularly pushes back on allegations of fraud online and on his show — including a confrontation with GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake earlier this year over fraud allegations. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, continually extols the integrity of the vote-counting system, even giving tours of the building where votes are tabulated.

Richer’s office gave seven tours last week alone, two of which he led personally.

“Wherever you are on your confidence in election administration in Arizona, whether it is a 2 out of 10, or whether it is an 8 out of 10, we want to be a resource to you, we want to answer your questions, and we want to get you to as high a number as we possibly can by November of this year,” Richer told NOTUS.

Allegations about fraud in Arizona have persisted despite repeated reviews of the 2020 vote count that have found no evidence of fraud, including a GOP-backed audit in 2021 that counted each ballot by hand. Across the country, repeated legal challenges and other reviews of the election have not produced evidence of any widespread fraud.

Richer went through the elections process step-by-step during a shortened tour of the Maricopa and Election Tabulation Center last month for ABC15.

At least two political parties are involved in counting early return ballots, including ensuring the serial codes of the ballot and the return envelope are identical and that there are not multiple ballots in one envelope, he explained. He noted that the ballot needs certain marks on it to be read on a machine.

Richer tries to reach voters with information about the election process in different ways. His office is working on an online replica version of the elections facility so people can take tours virtually.

Richer’s efforts have made him a target. The local official has received threats and been ostracized by some members of his own party, but he said he won’t quit.

“There are some people who say you’re never going to convince any of these people,” he said. “There might be something to that. But we’re going to keep trying … with the methods that we have, which is just offer more information.”

Markson challenges election misinformation theories online and on his radio show. Earlier this month, he responded to a person on X who asked about a recent claim that Maricopa County election officials were not truthful in court.

“Why do you keep believing people who are lying to you,” Markson wrote. “How many times have Trump and Kari and Abe told you ‘we found new evidence.’ ‘This is the smoking gun.’ ‘Blockbuster new evidence’! Every single time it’s nothing…”

Despite the pushback, Markson remains strong in his resolve to combat election misinformation.

“I’m told by people that I change their minds,” he told NOTUS. “It’s certainly not the majority or even close to it, but if one person … changes their mind for that, it makes it worthwhile for me.”

Archer acknowledged that he can’t change everyone’s mind. But he thinks he has made progress.

“I have some followers that I’ve talked to and that I’ve seen through my feed who said I initially believed in election fraud, but after seeing all this, I no longer believe election fraud,” he said.

Rather than looking for 2020 election conspiracies online, the allegations instead find him when people message him about certain posts or challenge him to explain why the latest round of criticisms is untrue.

“I’ll stop when they stop,” he said.

Alex Roarty is a reporter at NOTUS. Tara Kavaler is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.