Arizona counties certified the results of the midterm elections on Monday. But for conspiracy theorists who traveled from out of state to swamp local election board meetings, the dream of discarding the election results lives on.
While most Republican candidates have accepted their losses in an underwhelming GOP midterm performance, Arizona has remained a hotbed for election-denying candidates who suggest (incorrectly) that they actually won their races. Those holdouts have attracted the attention of conspiracy theorists, who began gathering in Arizona last week in an unlikely effort to demand a new election.
When Arizona’s election boards convened on Monday to certify their election results, some of the conspiracy crowd joined the meetings to heckle local officials.
In Phoenix, conspiracy quacks have been rallying since Friday for an “AZ re-vote.” It’s hardly a grassroots uprising of locals. Monday’s demonstration saw fewer than 100 attendees, AZ Right Wing Watch reported, and many of those demonstrators are from out of state.
One of the lead organizers, Joe Oltmann, is a Colorado-based podcaster who has repeatedly invoked the hangings of political foes. Oltmann announced the rally in a fundraising email last week and encouraged followers to flock to Arizona, even if it meant ditching their families for Thanksgiving.
“Everyone recognizes where we are and unitfication is DEFINITELY necessary,” Oltmann posted on Telegram last week. “I will be in AZ tonight. I will not ask anyone to do something I am not willing to do myself. Join me there… thanksgiving does not matter of what we are giving thanks for is the lack of courage of our generation to protect our children. Right?” [sic]
Other out-of-staters included David Clements, a New Mexico resident who has called for hangings and firing squads for people he claims committed “treason.” Clements previously led a conspiracy-driven “audit” of a New Mexico county’s 2020 election. The audit cost the county nearly $50,000 and returned no evidence of fraud. It resulted in a congressional probe into a company behind the audit, and a complaint from a local woman who claimed a pedophile was knocking on doors and claiming to be with the auditors, who were not conducting background checks.
Also in attendance in Phoenix were members of a group that travels the country in a QAnon-themed Scooby Doo van, which they’ve inhabited since splintering from a Texas-based QAnon group that believes JFK Jr. is about to return from the grave.
Their days-long Phoenix rally has thus far failed to secure a do-over vote in Arizona. But when Phoenix’s Maricopa County board of supervisors convened to certify the vote on Monday morning, many of the demonstrators lined up to heckle the usually uneventful meeting.
During a public comments section of the meeting, some of the out-of-staters took turns at the microphone. Oltmann used some of his time to call himself the “chief election denier” and denigrate transgender people.
Clements, who was asked to state his address before speaking at the local meeting, sidestepped the question by replying “David Clements, slave. That’s what I am, to this system.”
Ben Bergquam, a California-based media personality and vaccine opponent who earlier this year made videos while hospitalized with COVID-19, also took the mic, telling supervisors that “if this election is certified, the only parties that will benefit are the cartels.” Kari Lake, Arizona’s failed Republican gubernatorial candidate, shared a video of the comments on Twitter.
Though the demonstrations have attracted absurd figures from the conspiracy world, they have also garnered support from other, more influential Republicans.
On Monday, Donald Trump promoted conspiracy theories about the Arizona election and called for Lake to be “installed” as governor.
“Massive numbers of ‘BROKEN’ voting machines in Republican Districts on Election Day,” Trump wrote on his social media site Truth Social. “Mechanics sent in to ‘FIX’ them made them worse. Kari had to be taken to a Democrat area, which was working perfectly, to vote. Her opponent ran the Election. This is yet another criminal voting operation - SO OBVIOUS. Kari Lake should be installed Governor of Arizona. This is almost as bad as the 2020 Presidential Election, which the Unselect Committee refuses to touch because they know it was Fraudulent!”
Lake has refused to concede her loss and filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County last week.
Elsewhere in Arizona, other election certifications turned dramatic. In conservative Cochise County, supervisors refused to certify the vote, in violation of a deadline to certify by Monday night. Arizona’s secretary of state will file a lawsuit compelling the county to certify its vote, the Arizona Republic reported.
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