By Zachary Stieber
Lawmakers from multiple states have visited the 2020 election audit in Arizona’s largest county in recent days, with more visits planned.
Delegations from Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Alaska were given tours of Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the audit is taking place in Phoenix. Michael McDonald, the Nevada Republican Party chairman, went to the venue to see what was happening, as did others from Colorado. Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase, a Republican, is expected to visit on Thursday.
“It’s just a revolving door,” Ken Bennett, former Arizona secretary of state, told The Epoch Times.
Bennett is the Arizona Senate’s liaison for the audit.
Lawmakers visiting the audit were shown how workers are hand counting the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County last year, in addition to evaluating the paper for abnormalities like mail-in ballots not having folds. They learned about audit procedures like how the ballots are being examined and chain-of-custody processes. Many said they hoped to take what they learned back to their states and order a similar audit there.
“We have a lot of the same concerns and issues unresolved in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican, told The Epoch Times, noting that numerous constituents have told him that they want an audit performed to address fraud concerns.
“When you have about 47 percent of the state’s population questioning the reliability of the election, that’s the significance of your problem. And so the only way I could see ahead of this putting this all to rest—and let the cards fall where they may—do a scientific forensic audit, like Arizona’s doing,” he added, referencing poll numbers.
The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee, with the backing of Senate President Karen Fann, last year subpoenaed ballots and other election materials from Maricopa County. After a court battle, which ended with a judge declaring the subpoenas valid, the Senate-hired teams received the materials at the Coliseum in mid-April before commencing with their work.
The Arizona Democratic Party has refused to participate in the effort, pointing to a county-run hand count of about 5,000 ballots that showed no discrepancies and a county-ordered forensic audit of ballot tabulation equipment that found no issues. An attempt to block the audit by the party failed in April, ultimately leading to a settlement agreement. County officials, mostly Republican, called for an end to the audit last month, upset that auditors said they found that a database from an election machine had been deleted.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor who has not responded to requests for comment, has repeatedly decried the audit, claiming crucial protocols are not being followed and expressing concern that lawmakers from other states could be inspired by the Arizona effort.
“Arizona should be leading the nation, but not like this. #fraudit,” she tweeted this week about other states aiming for an Arizona-style audit.
Fann, who didn’t return a request for comment, said on NPR last month that she’s had senators from other states contact her about election-related issues they’ve seen in their states. She noted that many of her constituents wonder about the integrity of the 2020 election.
“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,” she said.
Pennsylvania is eyeing using the GOP-controlled Senate’s authority to conduct an audit of at least one county, though the timeline for such a process remains unclear. A top Republican chairman told The Epoch Times that he supports an audit. Mastriano hopes to audit a Republican county and a Democrat county. He would recommend using the same firms that are conducting the audit in Arizona, including Florida-based Cyber Ninjas.
“I’m interested in the firms that were involved just because they know how to do it and the steep learning curve that they had, this is unprecedented, the forensic audit that’s going on here,” he said.
Attorneys for Cyber Ninjas said in a court filing in April that the firm “has already performed similar work with respect to an audit undertaken in Antrim County Michigan and expects to have similar business opportunities to undertake such work for other governments around the country.”
McDonald, the Nevada GOP chairman, lives in a state where the legislature is controlled by Democrats, who have recently shown little interest in examining election results. He believes there is a path to an audit outside the legislature, but declined to provide details.
“I’ll have an answer for that probably by Friday,” he told The Epoch Times.
The party has a team of attorneys looking at the matter. “We intend to take and look at every legal option we have of bringing an audit here to Nevada,” McDonald said, adding that he was impressed with what he saw in Phoenix.
The Nevada GOP submitted nearly 123,000 records supporting fraud allegations, amounting to nearly 4,000 unique election integrity violation accusations, the office of Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, said earlier this year.
Cegavske said a probe into the allegations found no “evidentiary support for the contention that the 2020 general election was plagued by widespread voter fraud.”
A closer look at the letter making the announcement revealed that Cegavske and her office did not investigate many of the allegations or dismissed them through statistical analyses, as opposed to a review of each allegation brought forth.
“I think at best they investigated three or four percent of the complaints we turned in. So at that point I knew we had to basically find a way to maneuver this, that we would actually have a voice. We’re not letting this go,” McDonald said.
Alaska Rep. David Eastman, a Republican, was one of the visitors in Arizona this week. He told the Anchorage Daily News that he hoped to figure out whether information the audit uncovered could be used to improve elections in Alaska.
“I am grateful for the efforts that those in Arizona are making to increase confidence in their elections and hope we will be able to increase the confidence that Alaskans have in our elections as well,” he said.
Georgia Sens. Brandon Beach and Burt Jones, both of the GOP, were given a tour along with Eastman.
Beach said during an appearance on Real America’s Voice that he wants an independent audit done in Georgia but doesn’t believe there’s enough support in the state Senate.
“We don’t have the power because we’re not going to get 29 senators to sign a petition to call for a special session, but I do think if the evidence shows what we think it will show, I think it will force Gov. [Brian] Kemp to consider a special session to get down to the truth and get down to what happened,” he said before the trip.
Former Georgia Rep. Vernon Jones, who switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in January, went to the Coliseum on Wednesday as part of his bid to pressure Kemp into ordering an audit.
While Kemp “sits behind the gilded gates of the Governor’s Mansion, I’m in Arizona today meeting with those on the frontlines of the effort to restore the integrity of our elections,” Jones, who is challenging Kemp from the right, said on Twitter.
Kemp has said he does not have the authority to order an audit, while Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has noted that several recounts or audits were done following the 2020 election.
It’s not clear who from Colorado went to see the audit being done in Arizona. Along with the planned Virginia tour, there will reportedly be a delegation from Wisconsin visiting soon. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) has also stopped by.
Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican running for secretary of state, said that he spent time with a number of legislators who have descended on Maricopa County and all have expressed their belief that the trip and time spent was well worth it.
“Election integrity is a priority in every community across America. Many state delegates have shown interest in the audit to ensure a future with fraud-free elections as the focus, and I am very pleased that Arizona is leading the way,” he said on Twitter. “All states need to come here because insecure elections are indeed a national security threat worth fixing.”
“We’re getting a lot of impressive comments about the quality control and procedures, and things that are being done in the audit, so I’m pleased with that of course,” Bennett, the Arizona Senate liaison, added.