Meanwhile, in Fulton County, Georgia, another audit is expected to move forward after a judge lit Green Friday the unsealing of 147,000 mail-in ballots cast there in the 2020 election. follows three audits, including a manual recount, that Georgia conducted last year.
Trump’s lies have been embraced by a wide range of GOP primary voters and party officials keen to appease the former president and his supporters. Lawmakers in Republican states have introduced hundreds of bills across the country this year that would make voting more difficult – and many of these bills have been brought forward or have already been enacted in states where Republicans are in control. both the legislature and the governor’s office, including Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Texas.
Audits have yet to uncover wrongdoing and cannot change election results months after the certification of votes, the Electoral College vote, and Biden’s inauguration.
Listeners said they are expected to complete by the end of June, a much slower timeframe than they initially suggested. They are accepting private funding for the audit in addition to the $ 150,000 the Arizona State Senate pays, but have not disclosed who is paying or how much.
They were also criticized for not following the standard practices and security measures of an election audit. Arizona Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told Maricopa County officials that due to the way auditors handled the county’s more than $ 6 million election materials, it shouldn’t not be used in future elections.
“What we see happening is not an audit,” Hobbs told reporters last week. “It’s a boost. “
Arizona takes a heated ride
The latest Arizona escalation came after State Senate President Karen Fann in a letter to the Maricopa County Oversight Board alleged that a key database had been removed from the elections server county before being given to auditors. The Twitter account associated with the audit also claimed that a database had been deleted, and then Trump amplified that claim with a statement in which he said, “The entire Maricopa County database in Arizona has been DELETED! ”
The county election department responded with a long – and scathing – technical letter offering an explanation: The auditors’ technical experts had not properly reconfigured the hard drives, and when properly configured, the errors auditors had shown in a screenshot was going to be fixed.
In a closed-door hearing last week held by Fann and another Senate Republican, Ben Cotton, the founder of CyFIR, an entrepreneur working with Cyber Ninjas to conduct the audit, confirmed that he discovered what he believed to be a deleted database while trying to figure out how to properly configure the drives – appearing to confirm the county’s explanation.
And – rather than report any potential server tampering, which would be a crime, to law enforcement – Cotton dropped the case altogether. “All of this, however, can be questionable, because subsequently I was able to recover all of these deleted files and have access to them,” he said at the hearing.
Listeners provided no evidence – beyond the screenshots posted when they initially claimed that a database had been deleted, which ultimately confirmed the county’s explanation of readers failing to had not been properly configured – to substantiate this claim.
And on Friday evening, Maricopa County District Attorney Allister Adel – on behalf of the Oversight Board – sent Fann a letter advising senators, auditors and their contractors to keep all audit-related documents, stating that a lawsuit could be brought.
“Our customers delivered the server exactly as it was kept by the Maricopa County Elections Department. Nothing was removed or added from the server when we prepared it to be sent to the Senate as per the Senate summons, ”Adel said in the letter. . “Due to the mistaken accusations that the county destroyed evidence, the county or its elected officials may now face legal action or be sued. Likewise, we have reason to believe that this audit is not being conducted in accordance with Arizona law. ”
Audit in Georgia
The decision in Georgia comes after a handful of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit for access to the ballots. But the audit in Fulton County is likely to come with more stipulations than the opaque, GOP-managed audit that takes place in Maricopa County, Arizona.
While Henry County Judge Brian Amero ordered the ballots unsealed, “petitioners will only be permitted to inspect and scan said ballots in accordance with protocols and practices to be set out by a new court order. “, According to court documents. The judge has ordered lawyers for the parties to meet where the ballots are kept this week.
Fulton County President Robb Pitts, a Democrat, criticized the pressure for another review of the 2020 election.
“It is scandalous that Fulton County continues to be the target of those who cannot accept the results of last year’s election,” Pitts said. “The votes were counted three times, including a manual recount, and no evidence of fraud was found. The fact remains that Fulton County safely held an election amid a public health pandemic. It is a shame to see that the “big lie” continues and could cost the diligent taxpayers of this county.
He dismissed concerns over counterfeit ballots as a pipe dream of the Conservatives.
“This counterfeit ballot conspiracy theory has been spread by ‘big lie’ proponents across the country and shot down every time,” Pitts said. “Whether it’s looking for bamboo in Arizona ballots or looking for counterfeits at Fulton’s, it’s nonsense. “
Georgia Election Officer Gabriel Sterling told CNN on Sunday that the Fulton County audit was being encouraged by Trump supporters and that past audits and reporting had found no evidence of fraud.
Officials “have spent literally thousands of hours reviewing ballots in Fulton County and other counties trying to track down these kinds of claims and so far nothing deserves it,” he said. he declared.
Still, he insisted that Georgia’s review of the Fulton County ballots will be much more regulated than the current Arizona audit, which he says is not “a real audit ”and is carried out by inexperienced people who hope to find a fraud.
“They’re going to want to find him. If they can’t find it, they’ll make it intellectually. And they’re going to go to other news outlets who are then going to pump these things into things that aren’t real, which is what we’re seeing in Arizona, ”Sterling said.
CNN’s Sara Murray, Jason Morris, Dianne Gallagher and Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.