The troubled audit in Arizona has inspired Republicans elsewhere to push for reviews in their own states as the party continues to uphold former President Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Members of the party make pilgrimages to the state. This week a small group of Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers visited the Arizona auditors and state senators who commissioned the review of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County’s election last year.
Two Trump allies, Georgia MPs Marjorie Taylor Greene and Florida Matt Gaetz, held a rally there recently. And Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security adviser who has long paced a number of pro-Trump conspiracy theories and who appeared to be promoting a military coup last weekend to restore Trump to power, made a film at the Arizona Inspection Center alleging fraud becomes with Trump supporter Patrick Byrne.
Attention to Arizona underscores the high expectations in the Trump world that the scrutiny – conducted by a Florida-based company with no experience scrutinizing elections and repeatedly pointed out by experts to be a deeply flawed process – is finally evidence for the former we will supply lies of the president.
Pro-Trump Republicans’ focus on continuing to investigate election results in search of fraud has split the party into several key states. In Arizona, GOP Maricopa County officials have sharply criticized the state’s Senate review. In Pennsylvania, when some Republican lawmakers were touring the Arizona test site, another major lawmaker took to Twitter to insist that such a test would not be conducted there.
In states where Trump supporters continue to seek audits, Republican and Democratic state and local election officials have repeatedly stated there is no evidence of their fraud allegations.
Trump himself remains obsessed with 2020, former advisers and allies said. He’s listening “to the bottom of the madmen in the barrel,” a former advisor told CNN.
Several former advisers and allies still close to the 45th president said he was under increasing pressure to focus on advancing the GOP’s political priorities and defining his successor rather than rebuking his failed re-election campaign.
But the former president pushed those voices aside and instead chose to listen to a crowd of characters, both on TV and in his wider circle, that encouraged him to keep his focus on the 2020 election.
Trump’s concern about the election is expected to take center stage on Saturday when he opens his first summer after the presidency with a speech to the Republican Party of North Carolina.
Al Schmidt, a Republican Philadelphia city commissioner who has criticized Trump’s lies about electoral fraud, said on CNN that Trump’s expectation of being back in office is “very worrying and has absolutely no understanding of the reality.”
He said Arizona’s efforts were “not a test” but rather an attempt to “reach a party political conclusion.”
“It’s incredibly reckless, and I hope every county in the Commonwealth is paying close attention to what some of our lawmakers are trying to get our way through,” said Schmidt. “I don’t know why you’d want to repeat what’s going on in Arizona all over the country.”
After the visit, Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano told a local pool reporter that he would like his state to conduct a similar review.
Still, he admitted a review could not undo the election results, but said some of the state’s voters had concerns about the integrity of the 2020 competition.
“Let’s pick a couple of counties and calm the people down,” said Mastriano. “If there’s nothing to hide, great.”
“My constituents are very upset because there is no lack of any movement to clear up what happened,” said Senator Cris Dush from the US state of Pennsylvania, who also visited Arizona, the pool reporter.
Much like in Arizona, where the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has criticized the examination of the state’s GOP-led Senate, the issue of an examination is more than six months after election results close and more than four months after taking office President Joe Biden broke the GOP.
Pennsylvania State Representative Seth Grove, chairman of the House Government Committee, responded Thursday to Mastriano and other lawmakers’ trip to Arizona by tweeted that the House “will not approve any further reviews in previous elections.”
He said the House of Representatives is focused on mending our broken electoral law to make voting easier and making cheating harder.
All three comments from Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers, however, ignore fundamental realities: Republicans are pushing across the country for laws that make voting difficult, although there is no evidence of widespread fraud anywhere in the United States. And voters concerned about electoral integrity are mostly supporters of Trump, who lied for months that his election was stolen even though there is no evidence to support his claims, and both Democratic and Republican state and local election officials have repeated this.
Republicans are pushing for restrictive new electoral laws across the country this year. According to the Brennan Center, which is tracking the measures, 14 states have already passed 22 new laws restricting access to voting rights and put another 61 restrictive bills in 18 legislatures.
In Michigan, the Republican-controlled Senate took action this week that would increase identification requirements for mail-in and face-to-face polls – part of an attempt to reduce a 2018 constitutional amendment passed by voters through a 2-to-1 Marge was supported to ensure that everyone in the state had the right to vote by postal vote.
In Texas, Democratic lawmakers left the House over the weekend to prevent Republicans from passing a bill that contained a package of proposals that would make it harder to vote there – targeting mail-in votes as well as after- Hours and drive-throughs from voting systems that Harris County, home of Houston, introduced during the 2020 election. Republican state governor Greg Abbott has vowed to include the integrity of the elections in a special session he plans to convene.
Florida, Georgia, and Iowa have already passed new voting-restricted laws. Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Texas, New Hampshire, and a number of other states are also pushing for restrictive voting laws this year.
Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday on CNN that his party’s call for restrictive electoral laws would undermine Americans’ confidence in the electoral process.
“What worries me is the fact that it seems to be very partial. You know, people have to have confidence in the electoral process, and … what usually gives them confidence is that a state legislature works bipartisan to make whatever changes they think are necessary, ”Boehner said.
“And so, in my opinion, the occurrence of these partisan changes really undermines the confidence that people should have in the electoral process,” he said.
There’s also the reality that the Arizona exam has been a bizarre process so far that impartial observers have determined not to follow standard electoral exam procedures. The origin of the audit is unusual: two audits of Maricopa County’s electoral equipment and software, commissioned by the Board of Directors earlier this year and carried out by two companies certified by the US Electoral Assistance Commission, showed that the ballot papers were counted correctly. But the Republican-controlled Senate of the state conducted another scrutiny – that one partisan exercise led by an inexperienced company, Cyber Ninjas, whose founder Doug Logan Trump promoted baseless conspiracy theories on election fraud on social media .
The Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs released a summary of the incidents that occurred during the audit. Including: impartial observers from their office are required to wear pink shirts, and these observers say they are referred to as “pinkos” – which implies that they are communists.
In a note released by Hobbs’ office, an observer reports that Revision Co-chair Randy Pullen told an observer that the pink shirt “made him look transgender.”
When asked if this was supposed to be a joke, Hobbs told CNN, “I think the whole thing is a joke.”
It was one of the most noticeable details in a report that also pointed to an open and unattended security gate, a cellphone being brought to the audit floor despite prohibition regulations, and pens in black ink – which are prohibited because they can be from Ballot tabs read and therefore used to change ballot papers – in the inspection hall.
As the Arizona exam progresses, its scope – and the number of companies involved – grows.
Earlier this week, Ken Bennett, the Arizona Senate auditor, told reporters that the Senate plans to hire another company to see if the Maricopa County ballot envelopes are missing signatures – and that the Senate will summon the envelopes if a significant number is not signed.
This follows the decision to hire another company to count digital images of ballot papers taken during the ongoing review.
“We were told that at some point they got so far back in verifying the signatures that they let basically anything through, including empty signature boxes,” Bennett said, with no evidence to support his claim.
The review of the 2020 elections will also be continued elsewhere.
In Georgia, a judge last month agreed to unseal more than 145,000 ballots in Fulton County, home of Atlanta, as part of a lawsuit filed by nine people, despite three tests of the results in Georgia finding no evidence of fraud.
And in New Hampshire, a several hundred vote discrepancy in state legislative elections in the city of Windham led to further scrutiny. The test there is smaller, but Trump and his allies have taken it up to argue that the entire state’s results need to be re-examined.
CNN’s Stephanie Becker, Ethan Cohen, Dianne Gallagher, Kyung Lah, Dana Bash, Gabby Orr, Michael Warren and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.
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