A partisan review in Arizona of the 2020 United States presidential election to be released on Friday is expected to acknowledge Joe Biden won the key swing state while alleging shortcomings in local procedures and recommending changes to Arizona election laws.
A leaked draft version of the report alleges Arizona’s largest voting district – Maricopa County – failed to comply with state statutes and election procedures, according to local news and wire service reports.
But a hand count of ballots by partisan Arizona Republicans showed Biden won the election and electronic ballot machines delivered an accurate count in Maricopa.
The lead contractor for the audit is obscure firm, Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive has promoted conspiracy theories about orchestrated fraud in the election to deny President Donald Trump’s re-election.
“Every time Trump and his supporters have been given a forum to prove this case, they have swung and missed,” Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer and vocal critic of Trump’s push to overturn the election, told The Associated Press.
Officially, Biden had won Maricopa County by 45,109 votes and Arizona by 10,457 votes.
Trump referenced the Arizona recount in a statement issued late on Thursday after a US congressional committee announced it is seeking interviews with four of his former presidential aides about the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.
“Interesting that the Unselect Committee of political hacks ‘dropped’ their subpoena request the night before Arizona is expect to announce its findings from the Forensic Audit on voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election scam,” Trump’s statement said.
“Everybody will be watching Arizona tomorrow to see what the highly respected auditors and Arizona State Senate found out regarding the so-called election,” Trump said.
Trump’s statement was later replaced on his website with a an unrelated one that did not mention Arizona.
The Arizona Republicans’ hand-count confirmation of a Biden victory goes against Trump’s narrative that widespread election fraud cost him the election. It also undercuts claims by some of his closest allies that vote-counting machines from Dominion Voting Systems, which were used in Maricopa County, changed votes.
“Unfortunately, the report is also littered with errors & faulty conclusions about how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 General Election,” Maricopa County officials said on Twitter.
BREAKING: The #azaudit draft report from Cyber Ninjas confirms the county’s canvass of the 2020 General Election was accurate and the candidates certified as the winners did, in fact, win.
— Maricopa County (@maricopacounty) September 24, 2021
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, controlled 4-1 by Republicans, had vehemently defended the original vote count and certification.
Republican Chairman Jack Sellers has called the review “a grift disguised as an audit”.
Republican Supervisor Bill Gates said on Thursday that the review’s reliance on $5.7m in funding from out-of-state Trump allies means the findings will lack authenticity.
“The people who are funding this audit, the people who have called for this audit, we all know what they want it to find,” Gates said.
“They want it to find that Donald Trump won Maricopa County.”
The Arizona Senate agreed to spend $150,000 on the audit, plus security and facility costs. That pales in comparison to the nearly $5.7m contributed as of late July by Trump allies.
Another Republican county supervisor, Clint Hickman, has been the subject of an outlandish conspiracy theory claiming a fire that killed 120,000 chickens at his family’s egg farm west of Phoenix was a ruse to destroy evidence of Trump’s victory.
Official reviews of Maricopa County’s 2020 vote count were conducted in front of bipartisan observers, as were legally required audits meant to ensure voting machines work properly. A partial hand count spot check found a perfect match.
Two extra post-election reviews by federally certified election experts found no evidence that voting machines switched votes or were connected to the internet.
The Board of Supervisors commissioned the extraordinary reviews in an effort to prove to Trump backers that there were no problems, but advocates of the partisan review were unpersuaded.
Election experts predict the report could misinterpret normal election procedures to claim something nefarious or elevate minor mistakes into major allegations of wrongdoing.
“They’re minor procedural issues, and to try and amplify them to the point where they cast doubt on the election is nothing more than sore loserism,” David Becker, a former Justice Department lawyer, told the AP.