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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ariana Baio

Arizona election worker accused of stealing security keys that access vote-counting machines

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

A temporary election worker in Arizona is accused of stealing keys and a security fob used to access the county’s ballot tabulation machines – a month before the state is set to hold its primary election.

Walter Ringfield Jr., a 27-year-old Phoenix resident, was arrested by Maricopa County detectives on Friday while working at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center, according to Votebeat.

County workers noticed that a lanyard containing the security fob and plastic key was missing and accused Ringfield of taking it. Ringfield - who previously expressed an interest as running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate - reportedly told detectives he took the security fob for 20 minutes but gave it back.

His arrest comes as Arizona continues to be a battleground in presidential elections. Maricopa County, the largest in the state, has faced allegations of election fraud and improper counting of ballots in recent elections.

Walter Ringfield Jr .was arrested and charged with theft and criminal damage on Friday after stealing a fob and keys that access ballot counting machines in Marciopa County, police said (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

Ringfield was fired, taken into custody and will not be released until a judge permits it.

According to reports, county staff noticed the lanyard holding the key and fob was missing on Friday morning. Both items are used to vote-counting access machines to program them.

Voting machines had already been tested and programmed at the time of the incident, in advance of mail-in ballots being sent out on July 3rd.

After reviewing security footage from the previous day, the county election staff members allegedly discovered a video of Ringfield putting the red wrist lanyard into the right pocket of his shorts. When staff confronted him, Ringfield insisted he did not take it, and if he did it was accidental.

County staff and security discovered the red plastic lanyard and key in the center console of his vehicle. Law enforcement conducted a search warrant of Ringfield’s home on Friday and found the fob on top of a dresser.

Now, the county’s election department will re-do pre-election logic and accuracy testing.

High speed tabulation machines for counting early ballots stand secured in the tabulation room at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center ahead of the 2024 Arizona Primary and General elections in Phoenix on June 3 (AFP via Getty Images)

The incident happened ahead of the state’s July 30th primary election that will determine who appears on the November ballot in several state and federal races. Arizona held its presidental primaries months earlier.

Marciopa County was subject to controversy during the 2020 election when Donald Trump and his allies launched accusations of widespread voter fraud and false election results in the state – notably in the state’s largest county. An audit of 2020 presidential election results in the state found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The new development out of the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center sparked concern from officials who quickly dismissed any feelings of election insecurity in the county.

“Our systems are not only designed to detect anomalies but are also supported by dedicated professionals committed to upholding the democratic process,” a statement from the Arizona Secretary of State read.

“While this event is unwelcome, it speaks the effectiveness of the security protocols built into Arizona’s election systems.”

The secretary praised the “quick response” and “swift action” of county election staff and their decision to reconduct logic and accuracy tests on the ballot counting machines saying it “builds in extra layers of protection of all affected equipment.”

Election workers proofread sample ballots for voters with disabilities in a tabulation room at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center ahead of the 2024 Arizona Primary and General elections in Phoenix on June 3 (AFP via Getty Images)

“This quick response will prevent any potential impact on the upcoming elections. The Secretary of State’s office will collaborate with law enforcement to address and investigate this incident to ensure accountability and swift justice,” the statement continued.

Ringfield’s father, Walter Ringfield Sr, said in a phone interview with Votebeat that he will “wait to pass judgment until all of the facts come out.”

“I love my son,” he said, adding the suspect recently graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in political science.

Ringfield submitted a candidate statement of interest in January, indicating he would pursue the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in the state’s primary election.

The Independent has reached out to the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office for comment.

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