CLAIM: Air traffic maps show that a government spy plane has been circling over the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix to monitor an audit of Maricopa County ballots taking place there.
THE FACTS: Air traffic maps do show a plane flying in the Phoenix area near the site of an unprecedented recount of ballots from November’s election. But the Phoenix Police Department confirmed it was the department’s plane conducting unrelated police business.
“We have nothing, zero, zilch to do with that,” Maggie Cox, public information sergeant for the department, told the AP.
The department’s planes are called on for many things, Cox said, but the election audit has not been one of them.
On one of the flights, the plane was helping police work a stolen vehicle case, Cox said.
The false surveillance claim circulated on websites that have previously spread election-related conspiracy theories. Their stories featured images of air traffic maps showing a Pilatus PC-12/47E aircraft flying in the Phoenix area, west of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Some of the stories pointed out that the Phoenix Police Department owns an aircraft with that description, which led to the false speculation that law enforcement could be surveilling the stadium.
The recount in Maricopa County has been contentious. Cyber Ninjas, the company Arizona’s Republican-led state Senate hired to do the audit, initially refused to release its policies and procedures for re-tallying by hand the 2.1 million ballots in Arizona’s most populous county.
Joe Biden won Arizona by nearly 10,500 votes and won Maricopa County by just over 45,000 votes.