Fight to vote: Arizona county’s ‘ludicrous’ election audit

Sam Levine in New York
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Olivier Touron/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Olivier Touron/AFP/Getty Images

Happy Thursday,

The baseless conspiracy theories that Donald Trump spread about the 2020 election are about to have some of their starkest real-world consequences to date in Arizona.

Republicans in the Arizona state senate are set to begin an unprecedented audit of the presidential vote in Maricopa county, the most populous of the state, this week. Part of the audit will consist of a hand recount of all 2.1m votes cast for president there.

Voting rights advocates told me they’re deeply concerned about the audit for a few reasons. First, they said, Maricopa county has already performed two audits of the election and found no irregularities in the vote. Second, the effort is being led by a Florida-based firm with a CEO who voiced support for election conspiracies after the election. Third, the audit will probably only breathe new life into Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 race in Arizona.

Republicans in the legislature will likely use that uncertainty to justify new voting restrictions. One expert I spoke with said the entire effort seemed so shoddy that he was hesitant to even call it an “audit”.

“It’s ludicrous,” the Arizona secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, told me this week. “We cannot set a precedent where people that are mad can just bring this on every election. It’s just not how we do things.”

There are a ton of other important concerns. Private donors, reportedly including rightwing lawyer L Lin Wood, are helping finance the effort. And a spokesman for the audit told a reporter for the Arizona Mirror this week that there would be significant restrictions in place for reporters who covered the event.

The Maricopa county board of supervisors, which is controlled by Republicans, isn’t on board with the effort. It agreed to turn over ballots and election equipment after Republicans got a court order, but refused to allow the audit to take place in a county-owned facility. Republicans are now paying to rent out an entire stadium to conduct the audit.

“This audit, it seems as if they are seeking a predetermined outcome. They want to find fraud,” said Martin Quezada, a Democrat in the state senate. “They need to find fraud in order to justify all of their actions and in order to keep this radical wing of their constituency happy. They need to find fraud. So they are intent on finding it.”

Also worth watching

  • The Senate confirmed Vanita Gupta to be the associate attorney general, placing one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers in the number three role at the justice department.

  • Florida Republicans are advancing legislation to impose new restrictions on mail-in voting, despite objections from election officials across the state, including Republicans. The move to curtail mail-in voting in Florida is notable because the state has been held up as a national example – including by Trump – of how to successfully run a vote-by-mail system.

  • Montana Republicans enacted a law that ends same-day voter registration in the state and another that tightens ID requirements for voting. Democrats are already challenging the measure.