Did Maricopa County, Arizona ballots make a stop with no observers at "Runbeck Printing Company" to be sorted before they were sent to the county for counting? No, that's not true: The claim was made without direct evidence. Maricopa County's spokesperson said bipartisan teams of election workers took sealed envelope packets to Runbeck Election Services, where envelope signatures are scanned in bulk in preparation for signature verification. The President of Runbeck independently confirmed the steps of the process and that it is carried out with observers from both political parties watching. The site is gated and locked, as are most ballot processing sites, to prevent intrusions by unauthorized parties.
The claim appeared in an article published by Gateway Pundit on November 12, 2022, titled "FIX IS IN: Arizona Ballots Make Stop at Runbeck Printing Company to Scan Ballot Envelopes Before They Are Sent to County -- WITH NO OBSERVERS" (archived here). It opened:
This is a developing report.
Arizona Ballots Make Stop at Runbeck Printing Company to Sort Ballots Before They Are Sent to County -- WITH NO OBSERVERS
Ben Bergquam was outside the Maricopa County election center and followed a Penske truck leave the center and return to Runbeck. Once at Runbeck, the gate is closed. Every...
This is what the article looked like on the website at the time of writing:
FIX IS IN: Arizona Ballots Make Stop at Runbeck Printing Company to Scan Ballot Envelopes Before They Are Sent to County -- WITH NO OBSERVERS
This is a developing report. Arizona Ballots Make Stop at Runbeck Printing Company to Sort Ballots Before They Are Sent to County -- WITH NO OBSERVERS Ben Bergquam was outside the Maricopa County election center and followed a Penske truck leave the center and return to Runbeck. Once at Runbeck, the gate is closed.
The article claimed:
Every mail-in ballot that is returned in the county is sent to Runbeck first.
Runbeck is scanning the Maricopa ballots before they are sent to the Maricopa County Elections Center.
Within the article is a video of a man claiming he followed a Penske truck from the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) until it reached the Runbeck facility.
During the 1:52 video, the man says:
Out here at the Maricopa elections office ... apparently delivering ballots. Just following one of the Penske trucks, just left the elections office. Just trying to keep an idea of a chain of custody. What's happening with this election. Make sure that we don't see any of the fraud that we saw in 2020 but I don't have high hopes at this point based on what we've seen so far.
Those with hands-on, on-site experience with the process say those truck runs are essential to ballot verification.
"Trucks driven by bipartisan staff transport sealed envelope packets to Runbeck for signature imaging in preparation for signature verification, which is performed back at the Elections Department," Maricopa County spokesperson Megan Gilbertson told Lead Stories.
Gilbertson emailed Lead Stories on November 15, 2022, noting the process for signature verification can be found in the 2022 Elections Plan document beginning at the bottom of page 44. The plan says:
Upon delivery of early ballot affidavits, Runbeck conducts an inbound scan of the affidavit envelope to capture a digital binary image of the voter signatures from that packet and places those images into an automated batch system for Elections Department staff review.
To ensure all ballots are accounted for, the batch system is continuously audited systematically in addition to being validated by Elections Department staff and Citizen Boards through audit tray reports that accompany the batches. These audit tray reports are also used by early processing boards (See 6.3.8 Bipartisan Ballot Processing Boards)
After the initial inbound scan pass, Runbeck then stores the unopened ballot packets in their facility in a secure, water and fireproof vault, while Elections Department staff review the digital images of voter affidavit signatures (used for signature verification, see section 6.3.7) - thus eliminating the need to handle the actual physical ballot packet multiple times.
Runbeck Election Services president and CEO Jeff Ellington confirmed details of the process and told Lead Stories there were observers of the process. "Both the Democrats and Republicans had representatives there on Election Night and all day on Wednesday watching that process," he said.
Ellington spoke to Lead Stories via telephone on November 15, 2022. "Essentially it's a bipartisan team that delivers them [mail packets] and then we run them through." He described in further detail what the path is for mail packets:
It [a truck] does come to Runbeck but it's empty on its way to Runbeck and it picks up the mail packets. The ballots are inside the envelope. We don't scan the ballots. We never open an envelope at Runbeck.
What they're picking up is all of the mail packets that were dropped off on Election Day. We are scanning those envelopes so the county can do signature verification.
Ellington said despite what the person in the video claimed, there are security measures that would prevent an unauthorized person from entering Runbeck during the process:
We have gates and other measures because we need the security to keep people from wandering in off the streets. He just can't see what's in the trucks, but that's what is going on.
During the phone conversation with Ellington, Erica Featherson, spokesperson for Maricopa County-based Runbeck, said the company processes the signatures in this manner only for Maricopa County "because of the proximity and the back and forth of packets actually helps increase the speed in which signatures are verified."