The ballot audit in Maricopa County is winding down, and as details leak out from the counting and analysis, it is becoming clear what many of the problems are that will need addressing. Some could be honest mistakes, such as voters marking their ballots incorrectly, but others could be far more serious.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) listed off several discrepancies in a letter to the Maricopa County Supervisors on May 12, such as different numbers of ballots in the boxes than the numbers listed on the pink sheets inside the boxes. She cited several examples, including one box that contained an alarming 35 fewer ballots than the number on the pink slip.
Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who is acting as the liaison between the audit and the Arizona Senate, said anomalies include large numbers of ballots coming from single residences. In one case, 52 ballots came from a single two-bedroom home.
Bennett said there were 8,475 undervotes in Maricopa County from last fall’s election. Undervotes are where there was no vote for president, although there were votes for lower offices. Did all those people really decline to vote for president, did the voting machine fail to count those votes, or did the voters mark their ballots outside the black circle, such as by circling it?
Another issue analysts are looking at is whether all the ballots are official, so auditors will be examining the texture of the paper closely and looking for things like whether the front and back align properly. Counterfeit ballots could have been photocopied. The way the ovals are filled in will be scrutinized, to ensure they were filled in by a person, not a machine.
Whether a ballot is folded or straight could also reveal problems. In-person ballots cast on voting day should contain a high number of straight ballots, since those people are less likely to vote ballots they received in the mail. Ballots cast by mail should be 100% folded. The envelopes will be examined for valid signatures.
Some of the discrepancies are extremely disturbing, if true. Josh Barnett, who is running for Congress in Arizona and led the affidavit drive to make the audit happen, told Patrick Howley with National File he’s heard from people at the audit site that hundreds of thousands of ballots are missing. There are fears that voting officials replaced the missing ballots with blank ballots.
The U.S. Senate race is also being recounted, where Republican incumbent Martha McSally lost to Democrat Mark Kelly 47.10% to 50.94% in the county – or 3.84%. Trump lost by an even narrower 2.16 % margin in Maricopa County.
The recount has been under attack by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who once referred to Trump supporters as Neo-Nazis. She has criticized multiple aspects of the process, listing some in a letter to Bennett. Bennett dismissed her complaints as baseless. “I think that most of the things in her letter are completely unfounded,” he said. “And the ones that have a little bit of legitimacy can be dealt with pretty easily.”
The Biden administration is threatening to get involved. Attorney General Merrick Garland warned that the Justice Department would be reviewing any election audits for alleged voter violations, saying he would be doubling the staff of the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement “within the next thirty days, in order to deal with challenges to voting rights nationwide.”
Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who has been forced to jump in and defend Arizona’s voting laws since Hobbs won’t, responded to Garland with a letter denouncing partisan attacks and federal overreach. Citing the founding fathers, he wrote, “Arizona will not sit back and let the Biden administration abuse its authority, refuse to uphold laws, or attempt to commandeer our state’s sovereignty.”
The hand count of 2.1 million ballots was finished on June 15, and so now the ballots are in the final examination stage. Bennett says this portion will be finished by Saturday, June 26. Although auditors only have permission to use the location, the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, through the end of June, once the physical examination of the ballots has finished, the auditors can wrap up their investigation looking at the scanned-in ballots online. Bennett told The Western Journal that a report of the findings might be released as soon as late July, although it could be as late as Labor Day.
Despite efforts by U.S. Attorney General Garland, Arizona Secretary of State Hobbs, and others to disparage the audit, it has gained credibility around the country, with delegations of officials from 20 different states visiting the Coliseum to learn from the process.
While the state legislature has said any findings of wrongdoing won’t be used to overturn the election, the results could help to ensure election fraud does not occur in the future.
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