TPM has learned more about the exact circumstances in which the top election official in Maricopa County, Arizona, ended up under armed guard by sheriff’s deputies in an undisclosed location on Election Night.
The extraordinary measures taken to protect Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates occurred only on the night of the election, TPM has learned. Previous reports on the incident suggested that the official was still sheltering in a secret location.
Gates was relocated after receiving a threat on social media following technical difficulties with some voting machines in his district. The sheriff’s office provided the election official with a security detail for his safety. Gates only stayed at that location for one night, a Maricopa County Elections Department spokesperson told TPM.
Maricopa County was ground-zero for the Big Lie back in 2020, so this year officials went out of their way to provide transparency about the voting and counting process in an effort to get out ahead of any growing conspiracy theories from election deniers.
When the county began experiencing some delays in counting votes, Gates did a press conference with Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer explaining the status of the tally.
On Election Day, 70 out of 223 voting centers in Maricopa experienced printer issues, so voters were encouraged to either submit their ballots in a drop box to be tabulated later or to vote at another precinct. The issue was fixed within hours, but that didn’t stop conspiracy theorists from seizing on the glitch to spread lies about the integrity of the county’s ballot-counting processes.
A Maricopa County official told TPM that the chairman was relocated because of a “specific threat” made on social media, but he was only moved for the night. Contrary to recent reports claiming that he’s currently in hiding, Gates has since been allowed to resume his normal life, albeit with additional security.
Since the Election Day printer glitch, Gates has become the target of a misinformation campaign that claims he admitted that officials didn’t know where tens of thousands of early-voting ballots dropped off on Election Day came from. In a CNN interview, he said that the votes “could be from anywhere in the county,” but election deniers took that to mean anywhere in the country.