Fact check: Posts wrongly link pre-election testing glitch in Arizona to election fraud

A poll worker handles ballots for the midterm election, in the presence of observers from both Democrat and Republican parties, at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Elections Center (MCTEC) in Phoenix, Arizona, on October 25, 2022.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The claim: Results of Arizona gubernatorial race aired ahead of Election Day show attempt to steal election

In a highly contested race for Arizona's gubernatorial seat, Republican candidate Kari Lake narrowly leads the polls over Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs. But some social media users claim that Hobbs has already been declared the winner of the race.

An Oct. 27 Instagram post shows a screenshot of a tweet from conservative commentator Charlie Kirk that reads "HOLY CRAP. Fox10 in Phoenix – Kari Lake's former station – just displayed a graphic showing Katie Hobbs won the Arizona governor's race 12 DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION."

The tweet includes a clip of an Oct. 27 newscast from the station about the most expensive cities for renters. During the broadcast, a graphic appears on the left-hand side showing Hobbs with 53% of the vote and a red checkmark above Lake's 47%.

"They will try everything to steal it," reads the Instagram post's caption. "We will not let them!"

Follow us on Facebook! Like our page to get updates throughout the day on our latest debunks

The post generated over 100 likes in less than a week. Kirk's tweet received over 10,000 retweets. Similar posts have spread widely on Instagram.

But the screenshot shown has nothing to do with stealing an election.

FOX 10 in Phoenix unintentionally aired data that was randomly generated and distributed by the Associated Press as part of a system test, according to a statement from the AP. The data is not representative of actual votes in Arizona's gubernatorial race and is in no way indicative of election fraud.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

FOX 10 aired test data, not election results

In preparation for any upcoming election, the AP provides clearly labeled test data to customers as part of a routine test for their systems, according to Lauren Easton, an AP spokesperson. The data is randomly generated by a computer and is not based on any predictive analysis or polling.

FOX 10 Phoenix tweeted that it accidentally aired the test data provided by the AP during an Oct. 27 newscast. None of the numbers in the graphic represent actual election results, nor are they proof that anyone is trying to steal the election, as the post claims.

"This graphic was never meant to go on air – the numbers were only part of a test," the tweet says. "The station has taken steps to make sure this cannot happen again."

Fact check: Fabricated image of Republican policy agenda circulates ahead of midterms

A poll average calculated by FiveThirtyEight shows Lake was ahead in the race by 2.7% on Oct. 27. FOX 10 Phoenix had also reported just the day before that Lake was polling ahead in the Arizona gubernatorial race.

This isn't the first time a station has accidentally aired test data. The Associated Press debunked a similar claim that circulated in July after two Michigan news outlets inadvertently published mock election results a week before the state’s primary election.

The Associated Press and PolitiFact also debunked the Arizona claim.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that results of the Arizona gubernatorial race aired ahead of Election Day show an attempt to steal the election. FOX 10 Phoenix accidentally aired data that was randomly generated by the AP as part of a routine pre-election test. The data does not represent the actual polling numbers of candidates in Arizona's gubernatorial race and is not connected to election fraud.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Pre-election testing glitch not evidence of election fraud