Sunday, December 5

Arizona Republicans to Begin Auditing 2020 Ballots in Effort to Undermine Election Results | Arizona

Almost five months after Joe Biden was declared the official winner of the Arizona presidential race, state Republicans are ready to go. your own audit millions of ballots, an unprecedented move that many see as a thinly veiled effort to continue to undermine confidence in the 2020 election results.

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The GOP-controlled state senate ordered the audit, which will formally begin this week, which may be one of the most absurd and alarming consequences to date of Donald Trump’s baseless lies about the 2020 election. It will be executed by a company Florida-based private company. He will also reportedly have the support of far-right lawyer Lin Wood and observers from the far-right news network One America News Network.

The audit will focus solely on Maricopa County, the largest county in the state and home to the majority of Arizona voters. Biden narrowly defeated Trump in the county, a crucial battlefield that helped the president win Arizona by about 10,000 votes. The audit will include a manual recount of all 2.1 million votes cast in the county, a process that is expected to take months.

Trump and his allies have claimed, without proof, that there was fraud in Maricopa County. But the county has already made two pull apart audits of the 2020 elections and found no irregularities. The Republican decision to continue investigating the results, months after they were certified by county and state officials, extends the life of electoral conspiracy theories. The audit also comes as Arizona Republicans are pushing for legislation in the state that would make voting by mail difficult.

“They’re trying to find something that we know doesn’t exist,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who serves as the state’s top election official. “It’s ridiculous that people think that if they don’t like the results, they can just come in and destroy them.”

David Becker, an election management expert and executive director of the Center for Election Research and Innovation, said the effort was so shoddy that he was hesitant to recognize it as legitimate research.

“I’ve never seen an ‘audit’ that was remotely similar, and given the fundamental flaws, I don’t think this process can even be described as an audit,” he said in an email.

Other voting rights groups have expressed similar concerns.

“At this point, additional audits will be of little value other than stoking conspiracy theories and partisan gambling, or worse,” wrote the groups, which included the Carter Center in Atlanta and the Brennan Center for Justice. in a letter to the Arizona Senate earlier this month. “In short, this appears to be a policy-driven decision rather than a search for the truth.”

Alarm over the audit has intensified in recent weeks after Republicans announced the companies that would lead the effort. The company that will lead the audit, a Florida-based company called Cyber ​​ninjas, is run by Doug Logan, who supported several unfounded conspiracy theories about the elections. In December, he retweeted a post that questioned the validity of Maricopa’s vote count and falsely said that Trump may have gotten 200,000 more votes than were reported in Arizona. according to the Arizona Mirror, which reported for the first time its participation in the audit.

He also made statistical comparisons between the elections in Venezuela and the 2020 race in a tweet that included a hashtag of “stop the theft,” according to the Mirror. Cyber ​​Ninjas are not accredited by the US Election Assistance Commission to inspect voting machines, the Washington Post reported.

“He’s bringing in this firm that is on a scavenger hunt,” Hobbs said. “They are not qualified, they don’t even know what they are doing.”

It is unclear how Cyber ​​Ninjas were chosen to lead the audit. Karen Fann, president of the Arizona Senate, did not respond to a request for comment. On an interview With One America News Network, a far-right news outlet, Fann said the audit was necessary to answer questions about the 2020 election.

“It is our job to make sure that these laws are followed to the letter, that they are always above reproach, and if we find any errors, we must correct or report them,” he told the outlet.

The Arizona State Senate is renting a Phoenix stadium to conduct the audit and there is increasing scrutiny on how the process is funded. While the state senate has allocated $ 150,000 for the effort, it is also backed by private donors. L Lin Wood, a lawyer who promoted some of the most inflammatory lies about the 2020 elections, said Talking Points Memo had donated $ 50,000 to a fundraiser to support the effort. Wood also told the outlet that he welcomed Logan to his South Carolina home last year.

“That should scare a lot of people,” said Martin Quezada, a Democrat in the Arizona state senate. “Who are the people who will donate to this? It has already been demonstrated that these are the people who have an agenda and that agenda is to show that there was some kind of fraud, that there was a stolen election ”.

It is also unclear how much access the media and other independent observers will have to the audit. Reporters will be prohibited from using pens and paper and will need to register to act as official observers, a spokesperson for the audit. told an Arizona Mirror reporter on Wednesday. The Arizona Republican Party also tweeted that the process will be broadcast live and that observers from One America News Network, the far-off media outlet, would guarantee non-partisan “transparency”.

There are also concerns that the audit could lead to voter intimidation. In its Statement of work, Cyber ​​Ninjas wrote that it had already conducted a “non-partisan vote” in Arizona after the 2020 election and knocked on voters’ doors to “confirm whether valid voters actually lived at the indicated address.” The company said it will continue that work during the audit “to validate that the people who prove they have voted in the 2020 general election match the people who believe they have cast a vote.”

Such activity could amount to illegal voter intimidation, a group of voting rights lawyers wrote to Cyber ​​Ninjas and others involved in the audit. earlier this month.

Quezada, the Arizona state senator, said it was impossible to separate the audit from the set of voting restrictions in the Arizona state legislature that would make voting by mail difficult. Among the most prominent is a bill that would essentially eliminate a popular and long-standing practice in the state that allows any eligible voter in the state to automatically receive a ballot in the mail if they so choose. Another measure would require voters to provide identification with their mail-in ballot.

“They want to justify all the changes they are already proposing to the electoral laws because they need to have some kind of legitimacy behind it to justify the severe restrictions they hope to implement here,” he said. “Every element of this audit, from start to finish, sucks like crazy.”

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