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GOP’s surreal Arizona audit is off the beaten track – and it’s just getting started
Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers / The Daily Beast / Getty Photos Finally, after weeks of absurd allegations, Arizona election auditors suggested they had finally found evidence of foul play in the vote tally of 2020 Maricopa County. directory filled with electoral databases of the 2020 electoral cycle a few days before the delivery of electoral materials to the audit, âannounced the official Twitter of the audit last Wednesday. “This is the theft of evidence!” In fact, listeners conceded in a meeting with state officials on Tuesday night, the directory had not been deleted. The auditors had just copied the files incorrectly. Nonetheless, the ongoing electoral audit in Maricopa County is a disaster, even by the low and low standards of âStop the Stealâ mythology. Run by an out-of-state tech company with a conspiratorial-minded CEO, the audit has been plagued since its inception with questions about the expertise and impartiality of auditors as they search for evidence that former President Donald Trump actually won the county in 2020. (He didn’t.) The latest ploy to discredit the 2020 election is on, and it’s even crazier than you might think , but as new audit errors emerge, the recount widens an already yawning rift between Republican state officials, with some of them. claiming the audit is dangerous nonsense and that others are calling for the arrest of their anti-audit peers.The Maricopa County audit emerged from a conspiratorial mob who cried foul when Joe Biden won Arizona in November. Seeking to challenge Biden’s victory, Trump supporters defended a series of quickly debunked theories, falsely claiming that Trump supporters’ votes were invalidated with Sharpie markers, or that Maricopa County Republicans placed ballots in a chicken coop and set the barn on the ground. Many of these claims come from fringe focus groups, including those associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. Yet state-level Republicans gave these claims a veneer of credibility when they ordered an independent audit earlier this year, in a move applauded by “Stop the Steal” diehards seeking to conduct their own audits in the country. other states. voter data was the latest in a series of questionable claims to emerge from the Byzantine process. But for some local Republicans, the claim was a final blow to a frayed relationship with other members of their party, especially after Trump promoted the claim. âThe entire Maricopa County Arizona database has been DELETED! It’s illegal and the Arizona State Senate, which runs the forensic audit, takes up arms, âTrump wrote in a lengthy statement posted to his website last week. He also claimed that “many left-wing radical Democrats and weak Republicans are very worried that this has been revealed” and that “history is only getting bigger and at some point it will be impossible for weak and / or corrupt media not to cover. Maricopa County Registrar Stephen Richer – a Republican, and one of many battling far-right enemies in the state in recent days – shared Trump’s statement in disbelief earlier this week . ” Wow. It’s disturbed. I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now, âRicher tweeted. âWe can no longer indulge in these senseless lies. As a party. As a state. As a country. It’s as easily falsified as 2 + 2 = 5. If we don’t call itâ¦ âBy now the Maricopa County GOP majority leadership has become accustomed to attacks from Republicans at state and national levels. after their hotly contested county voted for Biden last November. These county officials oversaw several audits that confirmed Biden’s victory, despite persistent conspiracy theories that claimed Trump won the region, but those audits have not satisfied Trump fans across the country, who have demanded a new search for electoral quirks. This spring, the Republican-majority Arizona State Senate commissioned the current audit, this time overseen by Florida-based company Cyber ââNinjas, which has no electoral experience and is headed by a CEO. who promoted voter fraud conspiracy theories on Twitter. Listeners reported conducting bizarre tests, such as checking ballot papers for bamboo fibers, based on a conspiracy theory that claimed fake ballots were shipped from Asia. In an essay for the Washington Post, a senior electoral expert who observed part of the audit reported procedures that changed “almost daily” and that their methods of counting votes “allowed a shocking amount of error.” These audit issues – and the thrilling feud between state and local Republicans – came to the fore in a letter Monday from the GOP-led Maricopa County Oversight Board. The letter, addressed to the head of the state Senate, opposed allegations that the county had deleted voter data. “These accusations are false, defamatory and do not respect the dignity of the Senate,” the letter read, noting that the files still exist. and that the listeners had transferred them incorrectly, resulting in a computer error. “Let the Senate make such a serious charge via Twitter not only before waiting for your questions to be answered, but also before your so-called ‘audit’ shows the world that the Arizona Senate is not acting. in good faith, has no intention of learning anything about the November 2020 general election, but is only interested in fueling the various festering conspiracy theories that fuel the fundraising programs of those who pull your money. strings, âthey wrote. “You have leased the old name of the Arizona State Senate to crooks and crooks, who are collecting hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors march around the Coliseum,” continued the letter, “in search of bamboo and what they call ‘cinematic artifacts” while shining purple lights for effect. On the same day, however, prominent Arizona Republican officials doubled down on their conspiracy claims. A state senator took part in a conservative talk show Monday to promote the bamboo fiber theory. âThere is a rumor that ballots were shipped from overseas that were made of bamboo,â she said. “This process can determine that.” Arizona Republican Party chairman Kelli Ward appeared on One America News, a far-right news network whose presenters have launched a fundraiser for the audit, to suggest that local officials may be arrested if they did. âThere must be consequences,â Ward said. “There could be arrests of people who refuse to comply.” (Ward did not return a request for comment.) It wouldn’t even be the first time that state-level Republicans have threatened the Maricopa County Council of Commissioners – again, dominated by their own party – of arrest. As the county opposed the court hearing earlier this year, Senate Republicans co-sponsored a resolution calling for the arrest of the commissioners for contempt of court. Maricopa County officials referred to the arrest threats in a Twitter missive on Tuesday. Senate Speaker says election dispute is not personal, âa tweet from the county’s official Twitter account read. “The subpoena, attempted contempt of council with possible jail time, and the @ArizonaAudit lie that the county deleted the files suggest otherwise.” Ward tweeted the county accusing its commissioners of being the real tyrants. âFYI: Personal: insults and falsely attributing motives to senators and state voters,â she wrote. “Not personal: legislative summons, consequences for contempt, asking about irregularities in electoral and post-electoral processes.” On Tuesday evening, however, even audit supporters admitted that Maricopa County officials had not secretly deleted files. At a meeting that evening, a state Senate contractor testified that the files did exist, after all, on at least four computers he examined. The Maricopa County social media manager was apparently not impressed. accused Maricopa County of deleting files – which would be a crime – then a day after our tech letter explained that they were just looking in the wrong place – suddenly the ‘auditors’ recovered the files The county tweeted Tuesday night, âð¤. The audit is expected to continue next month. If the process so far is any indication, the in-state GOP flaw will continue with it. Read more on The Daily Beast. Do you have any advice? Send it to The Daily Beast here Get our best stories delivered to your inbox every day. Register now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.