A partisan and bogus effort to recount ballots from the November election in Arizona’s largest county is happening three months after President Biden was inaugurated.
The recount of the ballots from Maricopa County was sought by Senate Republicans to examine unsubstantiated claims that fraud or errors tainted President Biden’s win.
Election officials and the courts have found no merit to such allegations, and the GOP-led county board of supervisors has objected to the recount.
Senate GOP leaders have said the process is intended only to explore ways to improve the state’s elections, rather than to cast doubt on Biden’s 10,457-vote victory in Arizona over Donald Trump.
But the recount has come under sharp criticism from election observers, voting rights advocates, Democrats, and normal people who have said it lacks independent oversight and could be used to further baseless claims about the 2020 election.
GOP senators have handed over management and funding of the quasi-public process to a private cybersecurity firm from Florida called Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive has echoed false claims about fraud in the election.
And allies of Trump have not been shy about their hope that the audit will turn up new ammunition they can use to attack the results of last fall’s vote.
“I believe that a proper audit will show that the election results were fraudulent,” lawyer Lin Wood, who filed a number of unsuccessful legal challenges to the November election, said in an interview Friday. “I think that’s in the best interest of our nation and will hopefully lead to other states also doing proper audits.”
Trump himself praised the effort in a statement Friday, thanking the Arizona GOP lawmakers “for the incredible job they are doing in exposing the large scale Voter Fraud.”
The lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party and the county’s only Democratic supervisor argued that the audit violates Arizona rules governing the confidentiality and security of ballots and voting equipment.
“The lack of transparency around this ‘audit’ is astounding and we will not stand idly by as Senate President [Karen] Fann opens up our secure election to unqualified and completely unhinged actors who believe the ‘big lie,’ ” Raquel Terán, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement before the ruling. “This has gone far enough and we are hopeful that the courts will put an end to this embarrassing and dangerous circus.”
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury expressed concern about the process, however, particularly after Roopali Desai, an attorney representing the Democratic Party, noted that a reporter for the Arizona Republic had tweeted that she observed audit workers using blue ink pens as the process got underway Friday morning.
State law requires that only pens with red ink be used in election reviews because optical scanners recognize both blue and black ink, and stray marks could affect the count.
Coury ordered the state Senate and Cyber Ninjas to file written documentation of the procedures being followed during the audit so he can review them for compliance with state law.
And he ordered that audit workers comply with all relevant laws — including that they use only red ink.
Lawyers for Cyber Ninjas today asked a judge to keep secret its procedures for the recount and shut out the public as well as the press from a hearing in which the documents might be discussed.