Maricopa County election temp worker arrested for theft was a registered Democrat, has prior record

Saving Our Democracy? Accused thief Walter Ringfield's Instagram account included pictures of him posing with Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Ringfeld stands accused of stealing an access key to voting tabulators.

Published: June 26, 2024 11:09pm

A Maricopa County temporary election worker who was arrested for allegedly stealing from the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) was registered as a Democrat and has previously been charged with theft, specifically, stealing a security fob and keys from MCTEC, KTAR News reported. The fob is used to gain access to ballot tabulators, as workers hold it to the machines and then enter a password, according to Votebeat.

On Friday, Walter Ringfield, Jr., 27, was booked on charges of theft and criminal damage. As prosecution begins following an investigation into the theft at the Maricopa County elections building, records and reports reveal that Ringfield has previously registered as a Democrat voter and received ballots in recent Democratic primaries.

He also had been charged with stealing cash last year. Ringfield was charged with stealing more than $1,000 cash from Fry's Food And Drug last year, according to court documents, the Arizona Republic reported. Rather than the state pursuing a conviction, prosecution was suspended after Ringfield entered a felony diversion program.

MCTEC released a statement to ABC15 on Monday, saying, "Maricopa County Elections has referred a matter to law enforcement that involves an alleged theft of an item by a temporary election worker from the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center.

"On Friday morning, when completing a daily inventory, Maricopa County elections workers identified that an item was taken from the Ballot Tabulation Center on Thursday evening, and staff took immediate action to investigate the matter and contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office," the statement continued. "The stolen item has been recovered but to ensure the integrity of Maricopa County Elections, election workers are reprogramming and re-conducting logic and accuracy testing of all equipment."

According to video surveillance footage, Ringfield took the fob and keys on Thursday.

“A director at the facility stated that the estimated cost of the reprogramming would be greater than $19,000 dollars, and the secure operation of the facility is greatly impeded until the reprogramming is complete,” according to the probable cause statement report, said KTAR News.

Ringfield told detectives he was fired from his job at MCTEC because his employer believed he had stolen something, according to Votebeat. He claimed he gave the fob back, but the detectives found it in his bedroom when executing a search warrant.

“Walter stated his reason for taking the fob was because he wanted to ‘clean up,’” per the probable cause statement, reported KTAR News. “Walter said the job was temporary and he was trying to make it permanent, so he wanted to clean up.”

Ringfield’s preliminary hearing for the alleged theft at MCTEC is set for Monday.

His father, Walter Ringfield, Sr., told Votebeat on Monday that he “will wait to pass judgment until all of the facts come out.” He also said that his son recently graduated with a political science degree from Arizona State University.

According to the Republic, a review of voter records showed that Ringfield was registered as an independent in 2015 before briefly registering as a Democrat less than a year later. He has requested Democratic ballots in recent primary elections.

A statement of interest was filed last year by a “Walter Ringfield Jr Jr.,” for U.S. senator in Arizona for the Democratic primary election held this year. Ringfield’s social media accounts for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X appear to be deleted or made private, but his Truth Social account is still active. His Instagram account included pictures of him with Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the Republic reported.

In a press conference Tuesday regarding the theft, Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates explained that the fob is used to access Election Day tabulators. 

He added that after the fob was found missing during inventory on Friday morning, “Immediately, our team at elections, they spoke to all of the people who were working in the ballot tabulation center on Thursday, the day before, and they also reviewed the security camera footage. So we have security cameras, we also have the livestream cameras. They evaluated that, and they determined that the suspect that we’ve been talking about had taken the black security key and put it in his pocket and then removed it from the ballot tabulation center.”

Gates noted that the alleged theft will not impact the July 30th primary, for which early voting starts July 3rd.

“I do not expect this to have any impact whatsoever on the upcoming primary,” he said. “Like I mentioned, we reprogrammed all of the tabulators. Again, these are just the tabulators that are used on Election Day. And then, we did the logic and accuracy test.

“So it should not have any impact whatsoever on the primary, and hopefully, what it should do, is instill even more confidence in folks out in the community that one of these keys got out, one of these keys got out at the end of last week, and now we’re here. The sheriff has acted, and we cannot thank the sheriff and the sheriff’s office enough for their incredible partnership,” Gates continued.

During the press conference, Gates said that the county political parties had been notified of the alleged key theft.

On Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley released a statement on the alleged theft, saying, “Yesterday, a temporary elections worker with a criminal history in Arizona allegedly stole a key fob to secure areas from the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center. The RNC and AZGOP dispatched attorneys and observers on the ground as part of our election integrity program to gather information and promote transparency as the situation developed."

“The RNC and AZGOP have a long history of engaging in Maricopa County election issues both in the field and in the courtroom, and yesterday's events are an example of our election integrity program's capacity to provide real-time legal response when issues arise at tabulation centers,” Whatley continued. “This incident raises serious questions about election security in Arizona that must be answered – we will be constructively engaged with Maricopa County officials to ensure that the remedies to this security breach sufficiently address our concerns.”

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) also released a statement on the Maricopa County “incident.”

“Our systems are not only designed to detect anomalies but are also supported by dedicated professionals committed to upholding the democratic process. While this event is unwelcome, it speaks [to] the effectiveness of the security protocols built into Arizona’s election systems,” Fontes said.

“The swift actions of the Maricopa County elections staff, including the re-conducting of logic and accuracy tests, builds in extra layers of protection of all affected equipment,” he added. “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.”

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