Outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s office in downtown Phoenix, amid a hum of construction, Don Newton searched for a location where he could drop off his ballot for the midterm elections.
The 82-year-old said he doesn’t trust the ballot boxes the county has set up to help facilitate early voting — and he’s not alone.
“There’s a movie out there called 2000 Mules with all sorts of video of the stolen election, with the ballot boxes out there in the sticks with no lights on them or anything,” he said.
The film Mr Newton cited has been widely debunked. But that hasn’t stopped it from sewing an alarming degree of mistrust in the electoral process among a wide swath of Americans.
In Arizona, it has inspired far right groups to send people — sometimes armed and wearing body armour — to monitor ballot boxes.
Those armed poll watchers were affiliated with a group calling itself Clean Elections USA.
Led by an evangelical Christian pastor from Oklahoma, Clean Elections USA, has advocated for filming and monitoring drop box locations.
But they were not the only group active in the state.
“What we were telling our people to watch for was the guy that shows up with a backpack with 40, 50, 60 ballots and he’s stuffing the box, and then he comes back the next night and does it again,” said Jim Arroyo, of the Oathkeepers of Yavapai County.
Mr Arroyo said his “watchers” were never armed and were there strictly to make sure that nothing suspicious occurred in Yavapai County, a rural county north of Phoenix.
A US district judge ordered a temporary restraining order preventing poll watchers from coming within 23 metres of ballot boxes or drop box locations. Under the order, watchers are not allowed to carry weapons or wear body armour within 76 metres.
On Monday afternoon, just hours before election day, Maricopa County attempted to combat mistrust and misinformation regarding the integrity of their election process.