2020 election lies thrive amid Arizona poll scrutiny
Arizona Republicans are still pushing the myth that President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election – a lie that ultimately culminated in the violent Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The lie continues in the review of approximately 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County, Ariz., Launched in April. A report on its findings is expected later this summer. Election experts, Democrats and Republicans, questioned the legality of the scrutiny of the partisan-led ballot and said it lacked transparency. They fear it could fuel a new wave of election misinformation.
And yet, Republican politicians from more than a dozen other states have visited the Phoenix Coliseum where ballot inspection is underway – a sign they may pursue similar ballot reviews elsewhere.
Tim Miller, former political director of Republican Voters Against Trump, called the audit a “circus” in an essay for The Bulwark. He warned that the audit, promoted by QAnon supporters, could conclude that it was Trump who won and that “the former president and his MAGA media echo chamber will once again fan the flames of the insurgency.” .
What Is the Status of Arizona Ballot Inspection?
Biden won Arizona by about 10,500 votes, toppling the state after Trump won it in 2016. Although judges have dismissed lawsuits alleging wrongdoing and post-election audits in Maricopa County did finding no anomalies, the Republican state senators wanted their own audit.
State Senate President Karen Fann, with encouragement from Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, demanded a review of the ballots and sued Maricopa for access.
To lead it, Republicans in the state Senate hired a team including a little-known group called Cyber Ninjas, led by Doug Logan, who promoted “stop the theft” conspiracy theories on the election.
The inspection of ballots began in late April and is largely complete, with a few exceptions including Braille ballots, said Ken Bennett, former GOP Secretary of State and spokesperson for the Republicans in the Senate. The review is now in the phase of a “forensic paper assessment,” which includes examining the authenticity of the ballots.
Workers are investigating whether the ballots were folded, as one would expect with mail-in ballots, or unfolded, as one would expect for in-person ballots, Bennett said .
But election experts say there is nothing suspicious about the presence or absence of the folds.
Jennifer Morrell, a former local election official and national expert on post-election audits, has been asked by the Arizona secretary of state to observe the ballot inspection. She concluded that there were many problems, including the hypothesis among listeners that the folded ballots suggested fraud.
“I almost must have laughed: In my experience, voters fold the ballots all over the place, no matter where they vote or what the ballot asks them to do,” she wrote in the Washington Post . “Apply to privacy concerns or individual whims – but no experienced election official would call that suspicious. “
It is wrong to assume that not all Election Day ballots will have a fold, said Tammy Patrick, a former election official from Maricopa.
“The provisional ballots are folded and placed in an envelope for authentication / arbitration,” said Patrick. “The folds mean nothing about the validity of a ballot.”
the Arizona Republic reported that a tech contractor hired by the state Senate made copies of election data and examines it in a “secure lab” in Montana. Bennett told PolitiFact that the tech firm’s findings will be incorporated into the final report on the scrutiny of the poll.
What about claims that the audit showed Trump won?
Social media posts claimed the audit revealed “250,000 false votes” for Biden and that Trump won 228,000 votes in Maricopa. Similar lies with the same number have been circulating for months.
Officials involved in the audit say these claims are false.
“There has been no such discovery published,” Bennett said. Bennett told PolitiFact that the report would be completed by the end of July or August.
Organizers have repeatedly stated that they are not releasing partial results. When they complete their review, the organizers will take a few weeks to write a report and submit it to the State Senate. It would then be up to the state Senate to decide whether to forward the findings to the state attorney general.
Claims that a large number of ballots are missing are “all speculation and baseless,” Bennett said. But organizers are looking into what he called “minor differences.” Fann wrote in a May 12 letter to Maricopa officials that there were discrepancies between the logs created by Maricopa which show the number of ballots in a batch and the actual number of ballots in a batch.
But Maricopa’s supervisory board, four of its five members of which are Republicans, said those differences reflected damaged ballots that had been sent to be duplicated and tracked separately. Megan Gilbertson, spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department, said the state Senate had not summoned all newspapers relating to duplicate ballots.
Are there really any complaints that some ballots are too sharp?
Bernard Kerik, an ally of Giuliani and a former New York City Police Commissioner who was pardoned by Trump for tax evasion and other charges, said some of the ballots may have been too crisp.
“When I was there one of the listeners showed me an example of a ballot that was flagged as suspect because each oval was perfectly filled, without a single spurious mark – something that would be easy to see. accomplish for a machine, but that’s almost impossible to do by hand, ”Kerik wrote in an article for Newsmax.
Bennett said auditors were examining the ballots and the marks. But again, they haven’t published any results.
Election officials typically see variation in the way voters mark ballots, including how well they fill the oval, Patrick said.
Some voters take great care in marking their ballot as instructed. Meanwhile, other voters are more messy. Morrell, the audit expert, wrote in the Washington post that she overheard an Arizona audit volunteer talk about a so-called “Cheeto finger” staining a ballot.
The claim that a carefully completed ballot is suspect is not unique to Arizona. A Georgia returning officer, a Republican activist, raised concerns over what she called “blank” ballots that had a different “feel” in Fulton County.
Will other states embark on similar audits?
Politicians, election officials and activists from around 17 other states, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, visited the Coliseum, according to Bennett.
The Wisconsin delegation’s trip was funded by Voices and Votes, a group led by Bobb and Chanel Rion of OAN, the conservative outlet that raised funds for the Arizona poll review, according to a Milwaukee Journal report. -Sentinel, a partner of PolitiFact.
It is not known how many other states are interested in similar ballot inspections. A group in Georgia is pursuing a review of ballots in Fulton County.
What is the connection with QAnon?
The Arizona Republic has reported that the QAnon conspiracy theory looms in the background of the audit.
“QAnon followers have rallied around a theory that the audit itself would trigger the major event long prophesied by Q,” the Arizona Republic wrote. “Some follow each development of the audit on its dedicated channels on Telegram, a messaging app that has grown in popularity as Facebook and Twitter have eliminated users who post misinformation.”
Q is an anonymous Internet figure who claims to be a government insider with information about a “deep state” plot to work against Trump. Conspiracy theory claims that public figures like Hillary Clinton, Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey are Satan-worshiping cannibalistic pedophiles who will one day be brought to justice. Q’s posts on a fringe Internet forum formed the basis of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
“The audit is the Great Awakening in the way we have been manipulated by those who want to control us,” user Just Stan wrote on June 2 on the Arizona Audit Watch Chat channel, the Arizona Republic reported.
QAnon was also linked to the watermarked secret ballot conspiracy theory. Listeners first scanned the ballots with UV lamps to see if there were any watermarks, but quickly abandoned this process.
Is Biden’s Justice Department Taking Action?
Attorney General Merrick Garland referred to the Arizona ballot inspection without naming the state in a June 11 speech on voting rights.
“Some jurisdictions, based on disinformation, have used anomalous post-election audit methodologies that can endanger the integrity of the voting process and undermine public confidence in our democracy,” Garland said.
In May, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Fann of Arizona suggesting that the audit could violate federal civil rights law, particularly with regard to voter intimidation. The letter prompted Republicans to stop their plans to go door-to-door speaking to voters in Maricopa.
Garland has announced that he will soon double his staff in the Civil Rights Enforcement division. Lawyers are carefully reviewing new election laws and post-election audits, Garland said.