By Jeremy Herb and Fredreka Schouten, CNN
Cyber Ninjas failed to prove fraud in the 2020 Arizona election, but former President Donald Trump’s election fraud crusade is now playing out as though they’ve won – pushing for more. “Forensic audits” and a restrictive vote in this state and elsewhere across the country.
Trump allies are already demanding a re-examination of another Arizona county won by President Joe Biden. They are launching more partisan voting reviews in other states in the wake of Arizona’s playbook after passing laws making it more difficult to vote earlier this year. And they are calling for the decertification of the 2020 Arizona election despite the absence of fraud, as part of a larger effort to validate Trump’s “big lie” and undermine the 2020 election results.
The lesson they take from the Arizona Maricopa County Ballot Exam is not that they failed and they should stop, but rather that they should try to avoid the negative review. who harassed reviewing Cyber Ninjas and “doing better” in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, even though there is no evidence of fraud, said Sarah Longwell, conservative editor and group executive director curator Defending Democracy Together.
“It has nothing to do with auditing votes,” Longwell told CNN. “It has to do with creating a cloud of suspicion around the elections and keeping their cheating narrative in the foreground.”
The review of the partisan poll in Maricopa County released last week reaffirmed Biden’s victory. But Trump and the Arizona GOP officials who backed him ignored that conclusion and the highly problematic nature of the review itself, led by a company inexperienced in election audits and not following up on them. standard audit procedures, and instead touted other issues raised in their report – though they were quickly refuted by election experts and county officials.
Similar election “audits” are already underway in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And the Texas Secretary of State’s office announced a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” in four counties hours after Trump sent a letter to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott demanding such a review.
Partisan reviews of the 2020 election results came after a host of Republican-led state legislatures enacted restrictive voting laws, frequently citing Trump’s lies as a reason to enact new measures in the name of ” electoral integrity ”. Eighteen states, including Arizona, have passed laws this year that make voting more difficult, according to a tally from the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.
As a sign of how much the lies about the 2020 election have become linked to the identity of the GOP, a recent CNN poll found that nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said “they believe Donald Trump won the GOP election. 2020 ”was“ very ”or“ somewhat ”important to their definition of what it means to be a Republican now.
Richard Hasen, an electoral law expert at the University of California’s Irvine Law School, said he once believed that it would take “some kernel of truth” for people to believe the lie that the 2020 elections had been rigged.
“It turns out that no matter how much evidence the election was conducted fairly, people are going to continue to believe in the ‘Big Lie’ because it is constantly being repeated by Trump and his allies,” Hasen said. , who co-leads the Center for Fair Elections and Free Speech at UC Irvine.
“You would think in a real world, that even this mock audit, which was stacked in favor of helping Trump, that a finding in favor of Biden would have deflated enthusiasm. And maybe he is among some, ”he added. “But the facts don’t matter when you keep lying about the integrity of the elections.”
Trump falsely claims Arizona victory
In the days following the release of the final report in Arizona last week, Trump and his supporters ignored his first result. Instead, they insisted the review supported various conspiracy theories that they took months to come up with.
Arizona State GOP Representative Mark Finchem – the Trump-endorsed candidate for Arizona Secretary of State – claimed in an email to supporters this weekend that Cyber Ninjas and his contractors had discovered evidence of “red-handed” fraud.
He requested another audit, this time in Pima County, home to the state’s second largest city, Tucson. Biden won that county by more than 18 percentage points last November.
Finchem also reiterated his demand for decertification of election results, although there is no process to do so in Arizona. Finchem, who announced his candidacy for Arizona secretary of state in March, has promoted QAnon conspiracy theories. He also attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 in Washington. He has denied any involvement in the riot at the United States Capitol.
Trump wasted no time claiming victory as the report leaked late Thursday last week. The former president released more than half a dozen statements the next day and after the results were presented, attacking the media for correctly reporting that the review confirmed Biden’s victory and falsely claimed it was “a big one.” victory for us “.
Trump continued on Saturday at a campaign-style rally in Georgia, where he again attacked Georgian Republican leaders who had hesitated over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
“Clearly in Arizona they have to withdraw their certification from elections, you have heard the numbers,” Trump said. ” It’s a shame. We won the Arizona forensic audit yesterday to a level you wouldn’t believe.
In his written statements, Trump cited the report as saying 23,000 mail-in votes were cast by voters from a previous address, which the Cyber Ninjas believe may have had a “critical” impact on the election. But Maricopa County quickly debunked that claim on Twitter, writing that it was “legal under federal law.”
“Calling it a ‘critical’ concern is either intentionally misleading or incredibly ignorant. AZ senators should know that too, ”the county wrote.
Ahead of the publication of the Cyber Ninjas review, election experts and Republican and Democratic election officials in Arizona warned that the findings should not be taken seriously. The Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company, had no experience auditing election results, and its boss rehearsed wild conspiracy theories about voter fraud. The company and its volunteers and contractors did not follow standard audit procedures, and observers from the office of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs have repeatedly cited instances in which those charged with l exam broke their own rules.
GOP-Led ‘Audits’ Expanded to More States
That hadn’t stopped other Trump-aligned Republicans from touting the audit. Earlier this year, Kristina Karamo, a candidate for Michigan secretary of state with Trump backing, visited the Maricopa County polling review site.
And, in July, months before Cyber Ninjas released its report, she described the review as demonstrating corruption in the state’s electoral system.
Representative Jody Hice, the Trump-endorsed House Republican in Georgia defying State Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, spoke to Trump at Saturday’s rally in Perry, Georgia. Hice did not mention the Arizona poll review, but he continued to broadcast the false allegations about the voting systems that Trump has clung to since the election was called for Biden in November and called for more audits.
“We have to deal with the Dominion’s voting machines,” said Hice, a reference to the refuted conspiracy theories about the state’s voting machines. “We have to deal with the corruption that is allowed. We need to have audits.
Leaders of “audit” efforts in other key states have also made the pilgrimage to Arizona in recent months amid scrutiny of the ballot.
In Wisconsin – a presidential battleground that turned from red to blue last November – former conservative state Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman is leading a taxpayer-funded, $ 680,000 election review ordered by the GOP. He visited the Maricopa ballot review site over the summer.
Much like Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania, another crucial swing state Biden won last year. Republicans in the State Senate recently approved a high-profile subpoena to obtain personal information from millions of voters as they work to advance their investigation into the Keystone state election results . Senate Democrats and Democratic state attorney general Josh Shapiro have filed a lawsuit to block the effort.
The four-county Texas election audit, announced by the secretary of state’s office last week, is taking place in a state that Trump won. But the announcement came after Trump wrote a letter to Abbott demanding an audit. While the secretary’s office said a “full forensic audit” was already underway, several counties told CNN last week they had heard nothing about it.
Hasen, who recently wrote an article warning of the risks of electoral subversion in 2024, said it was “incredibly dangerous” for people who continue to promote the “big lie” to come forward to oversee future elections.
“No. 1, it will further undermine people’s confidence in the process,” Hasen said. “And No. 2, someone who believes or pretends to believe the last election was stolen is more likely to act in such a way not to run a fair election as a sort of return on investment for the alleged rigging last time. “
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