The ongoing partisan review of the ballots in Maricopa County, Ariz., Enters its final stages after just under two months. The county’s 2.1 million ballots were recounted by hand, with the exception of the Braille ballots, which are currently subject to a “paper review” by workers.
Earlier this year, Republicans in the Arizona Senate took possession of the ballots and 400 voting machines by subpoena. Arizona had previously audited its ballots and electoral equipment and found no problems with the 2020 election results. President Biden won the state by 10,457 votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate. to win Arizona since 1996.
The audit in Maricopa County won’t change the 2020 election results, but it has already had a widespread impact by amplifying unfounded doubts about the election. The effort inspired conservative lawmakers and activists in other battlefield states to call for a similar recount of ballots, despite extensive election reviews that repeatedly found no evidence of fraud generalized.
Lawmakers from Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin are among those who visited the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the count takes place, to take notes on how to potentially replicate the audits in their states.
The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Oversight Board called for an end to the audit last month and GOP board chairman Jack Sellers called it a “dummy process.”
“Complete what you call an audit and be prepared to defend your report in court,” Sellers said.
“It has nothing to do with going back and trying to change the November 2020 election results,” former GOP Secretary of State and Liaison Officer Ken Bennett previously told CBS News. for the audit of the Senate. Arizona Senate Speaker Karen Fann said the process was aimed at ensuring the election ran smoothly.
The official Twitter account for the audit said the ballot review is expected to be completed by June 26. Bennett told reporters earlier this month, workers will examine “everything to do with the authenticity of the ballot.”
Their methods consisted of examining the folds of the mail ballots to verify whether the ballots were indeed mailed, even if, as a former Maricopa election official noted. Workers are also checking to see if there was a hand-marked device that filled an oval rather than a printer and if the alignment marks on the front and back “lined up like ballots should.” authentic votes ”. The findings of the audit are expected to be published in a report later this summer.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week that theand “can jeopardize the integrity of the electoral process and undermine public confidence in our democracy”. Announcing an expansion of the civil rights division, Garland said the department would review post-election audits “to ensure they meet federal legal requirements to protect election records and prevent voter intimidation.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, candidate for the US Senate, hit back Monday in a letter saying Garland’s comments “showed an alarming disregard for state sovereignty” and vowed his office “will not tolerate no effort to undermine or interfere with our State Senate. audit to reassure Arizona residents that our election is correct. “
Former President Trump applauded Arizona’s audit and encouraged other states to follow his lead.
In Pennsylvania, GOP State Senators Doug Mastriano and Cris Dush, along with State Representative Rob Kauffman, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, visited the audit site in Phoenix to observe the process and met with Arizona lawmakers at the state capital.
The trio were among more than 60 state assembly members who wrote a letter to U.S. senators in December urging them to oppose the certification of Pennsylvania’s results. Mr. Biden won Pennsylvania by 80,000 votes. Matriano attended Mr. Trump’s “Save America Rally” in Washington on January 6.
After their tour of Arizona, lawmakers in Pennsylvania said they hoped to start a similar process in their state. State Senator Dave Argall, who chairs the government committee, backs the idea, telling Capital-Star that “this is the best way forward to address the legitimate concerns of the vast majority of my constituents who voted. to re-elect President Trump, as well as all Pennsylvanians. ”
But replicating the Maricopa audit would be a difficult feat in Pennsylvania – and not just because the governor is a Democrat. Republicans across the state are divided over whether to proceed. GOP state representative Seth Grove, who chairs the government committee in the House, does not support an audit, although he signed the letter opposing the certification of the results.
“The Palestinian Authority House of Representatives will not allow any further audit on previous elections,” he said. tweeted. “We are focused on fixing our broken election law to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
Grove argued that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives had already authorized an audit through the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee in November, but the committee rejected it. Instead, Grove introduced legislation earlier this month revising elections in the state.
Mr Trump has stepped up pressure on other GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania, threatening a major challenge for Pro-Tempore Senate Speaker Jake Corman.
Georgia State Senators Burt Jones and Brandon Beach, who were removed from their committee duties after pushing to overturn election results, also traveled to Phoenix to observe the audit. At a state party convention earlier this month, Jones criticized Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for failing to call for a “forensic” audit of the election. State Party President David Shafer and former State Representative Vernon Jones, who challenges Kemp, also visited the Arizona audit site.
Georgia carried out three recounts, including one by hand, and found no evidence of widespread fraud. Mr. Biden won the state by 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win it since 1992.
Trump supporters have secured a court order that 147,000 mail-in ballots be unsealed for review in Fulton County, the state’s largest county. But in making the order, Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled that the ballots must remain in the custody of county election officials, in contrast to the audit in Arizona, who took the bulletins out of the traditional chain of custody. The exam would do nothing to change the results of the election, which has already been certified.
The timing of the count has not yet been determined. Last month, Fulton County, the County Electoral Board and the County Clerk all filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge is expected to hold a hearing next week.
A group of Wisconsin state lawmakers visited Phoenix last weekend. A state official who visited Phoenix told WisPolitics she was not sure the state’s Legislative Audit Office has the authority to conduct an audit like the Arizona one. , but that he thought such was justified. In December, Mr. Biden was certified as a winner of, by 20,682 votes.
“Listen, we need to restore integrity because we have a large number of individuals who have questions about a process that has become highly politicized,” State Representative Janel Brandtjen said of the Wisconsin election .
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced last month that he was hiring police officers to investigate the Wisconsin presidential election.
Michigan state lawmakers haven’t visited Arizona, but conservative activists are calling for a “forensic audit” in the state. The Michigan Conservative Coalition said it would provide more than 7,000 affidavits to lawmakers on Thursday demanding a statewide audit of Michigan’s 2020 elections. Michigan election officials have already conducted more than 250 election audits, which confirmed the 2020 results: Mr. Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, more than 14 times Mr. Trump’s margin of victory in 2016.
But Michigan conservative activists, many of whom embraced electoral conspiracy theories after County Antrim’s first unofficial results incorrectly showed Mr Biden won the traditionally Red County.
Human error caused county tabulators to incorrectly report election results to the county’s central election management software. When the equipment was reprogrammed, the results revealed that Mr. Trump had won the county by nearly 4,000 votes and a manual recount of the ballots subsequently confirmed that result.
Rosanne Ponkowski, president of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, told CBS News that the County Antrim problem caused many people to lose confidence in the election. She insisted that the aim of the audit is to restore voter confidence and not overturn the results of the 2020 Michigan election. But she still believes Mr. Trump won the state.
“I feel in my heart that he did it and I say this only because I witnessed the enthusiasm of the people who came, against all orders, to attend his rallies,” Ponkowski said. . She asked how Mr. Biden could have won because of his relatively small crowd with former President Obama in Detroit days before the election.
“I find it overwhelming that all of these people were hiding somewhere in their basements and all came out to vote for Mr. Biden,” Ponkowski said.
Michigan Senate GOP Majority Leader Mike told the Detroit News he believed an election review by the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee was “equal to or stronger.” than what’s going on in Arizona. Still, he said he “plans to closely monitor what happens and what comes out of the Arizona process. … We’ll see where that could lead.”