As Controversial Maricopa County Audit Continues, Calls For Election Reviews Grow
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For weeks, election officials in Arizona from both parties have sounded the alarm over a partisan audit of the 2020 election. There, an unaccredited firm is reviewing ballots in Maricopa County. Election experts warned that the effort in Arizona is just the beginning, with reviews to come in other states. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Ben Giles has this report.
BEN GILES, BYLINE: At an aging coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz., dozens of workers file onto the arena floor every day to count by hand the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County last November. It's a process ordered by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican who told CNN she's just trying to address voters' doubts about the legitimacy of the county's election process.
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KAREN FANN: I don't care if you're in Arizona or any state across the nation. If we have those kind of doubts, we owe it to them to answer their question. This will be the basis of a gold standard.
GILES: But critics, including Republican county officials, see an illegitimate process run by amateurs and, quote, "grifters." They note the county's election results were already audited and certified. Even the Department of Justice has raised concerns about the Senate's handling of ballots and voting equipment. Despite the criticism, Fann boasted last week that she's taking calls from lawmakers in other states who want to conduct similar election reviews. Fann described it as a new wave of audits.
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FANN: This is a whole new breaking ground. I've had other senators and Senate presidents and speakers from other states that have contacted me that said this is an issue that they are struggling with as well.
FANN: Additional reviews are troublesome to election experts like Joanna Lydgate.
JOANNA LYDGATE: Other states should be concerned about this circus coming to them.
GILES: Calls for third-party audits are growing in two Michigan counties, including Antrim, where just last week, a judge tossed a lawsuit promoted by former President Donald Trump and his supporters as evidence the election was stolen. In Georgia, a conspiracy theorist is asking a judge to let him review copies of tens of thousands of absentee ballots cast in Fulton County, even after two full recounts of Georgia votes confirmed President Biden's win in November.
David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, sees a trend.
DAVID BECKER: The election deniers in many cases have taken on a strategy where they've tried to go at individual counties thinking that those counties might be less - have fewer resources and be less inclined to oppose some of these fake so-called audits.
GILES: But Republicans following in Arizona's footsteps aren't only agitating for audits at the county level. On Wednesday, the speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly announced he's hiring retired cops and an attorney to investigate the election, despite acknowledging publicly that Biden won the state. Becker says it's ironic the legislators who created procedures to ensure elections are fair and accurate are now demanding election reviews by outside firms.
BECKER: The Arizona legislature, the Georgia legislature, the Michigan legislature, Wisconsin legislature all run by Republicans. They set those rules. And now, they're trying to change those rules after the fact. That is a very difficult situation to come back from.
GILES: Back in Arizona, the controversial review that started in April is likely to continue into the summer. Firms recounting Maricopa County votes still have well over a million ballots to go.
For NPR News, I'm Ben Giles in Phoenix.
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