Are "duplicate ballots" in Maricopa County, Arizona, proof of voter fraud? No, that's not true: "Duplicate ballots" or ballot envelopes don't prove duplicate votes. If a voter sends back a mail-in ballot and the signature on the envelope is questioned, or there is no signature, election officials will work to cure that signature by contacting the voter. If the issue is fixed by the voter, the envelope will be scanned a second time, resulting in more than one image of the same envelope. Although the envelope is scanned again, it is not opened until a valid signature is provided, meaning that only one ballot or vote is counted, according to election officials in Maricopa County.
The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by The Gateway Pundit on September 24, 2021. Titled "Dr. Shiva at AZ Senate Hearing: Over 17,000 Total Duplicate Ballots -- Votes By Those Who Voted More Than Once in Arizona -- 1.5 Times Biden's Winning Margin," the article opens:
Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, M.I.T. PhD, the Inventor of Email, was the first presenter Friday afternoon at the Arizona Senate Audit. Dr. Shiva and his team Echomail investigated the mail-in ballot envelopes from Maricopa County.
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Dr. Shiva at AZ Senate Hearing: Over 17,000 Total Duplicate Ballots -- Votes By Those Who Voted More Than Once in Arizona -- 1.5 Times Biden's Winning Margin
Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, M.I.T. PhD, the Inventor of Email, was the first presenter Friday afternoon at the Arizona Senate Audit. Dr. Shiva and his team Echomail investigated the mail-in ballot envelopes from Maricopa County. Dr. Shiva then was asked to join and he addressed issues related to ballot signature cards. Dr. Shiva shared the early...
The article was published the same day the Arizona Senate heard results of a GOP-commissioned audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona's most populous county. Appearing to conflate duplicate envelopes with duplicate votes, the article continued:
Dr. Shiva announced on Friday that his team found 34,448 votes from those who voted more than once in Arizona in the 2020 election.
17,000 votes that NEVER should have been included in the audit!
That's not true. There's no publicly available evidence that illegitimate votes were inserted into the process.
Maricopa County election officials addressed the claim on Twitter:
Re: duplicated ballots. Every time a voter has a questioned signature or a blank envelope, we work with that voter to cure the signature. That's our staff doing their job to contact voters with questioned signatures or blank ballots. Only one ballot is counted. https://t.co/uGNAaDqXYV-- Maricopa County (@maricopacounty) September 24, 2021
In other words, if the issue is fixed by the voter, the envelope will be scanned a second time, but it's not opened until a valid signature is provided. More than one image of the same envelope does not constitute proof of voter fraud.
Following Shiva's lead, some people on social media questioned why the "duplicates" clustered around Election Day, again, implying fraud:
🚨🚨🚨25% of duplicates came in between Nov. 4 - Nov. 9th🚨🚨🚨-- Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) September 24, 2021
AFTER they knew how many ballots they needed! pic.twitter.com/XfEn0xba5O
But that pattern can be explained by the fact that ballot curing happens when ballots accumulate ahead of Election Day. It stands to reason that duplicate envelope scanning would increase as officials reach out and voters correct their mistakes in time to have their vote counted. Maricopa County election officials said they hired more staff in 2020, boosting the number of cured signatures, tweeting:
So why more cured signatures in Nov. 2020? Maricopa County hired additional staff to contact valid voters and allow them the opportunity to cure their signature. That included a night shift of 40 people from Oct. 29- Nov. 10.-- Maricopa County (@maricopacounty) September 24, 2021
Lead Stories has written about the Arizona audit before. See here for those stories, in which we found that there were not 74,000 more mail-in ballots received and counted than were mailed, that a quarter of a million illegal votes were not found and that the audit did not confirm the rumor that a "special watermark is on the real ballots."