Arizona Senate working to set up Maricopa election audit

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In this May 26, 2020, file photo, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, speaks to the media in Phoenix. Arizona's Republican Senate president said Wednesday, March 10, 2021, she has narrowed the search for a firm to do a full audit of the 2020 election results in the state's most populous county and plans to invite Democrats to participate in the process. Still, nearly two weeks after a judge sided with the Senate in a fight over access to ballots and elections equipment from Maricopa County's election, Senate President Fann said there are many details still to be worked out. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Arizona’s Republican Senate president said Wednesday she has narrowed the search for a firm to do a full audit of the 2020 election results in the state’s most populous county and plans to invite Democrats to participate in the process.

Still, nearly two weeks after a judge sided with the Senate in a fight over access to ballots and elections equipment from Maricopa County’s election, Senate President Karen Fann said there are many details to be worked out.

They include just who the Senate will hire to do the audit, what exactly it will entail, how much it will cost taxpayers, and where it will be conducted.

“We’ve got to work out logistics based on who we select,” Fann said. “They need to give us guidelines for how much space they need, for how many people, how much time, so I can go back to the board of supervisors … and say this is what we need to do the audit.”

A judge ruled Feb. 26 that the Senate was entitled to receive all 2.1 million voted ballots and access to vote tabulation machines and other equipment used in the election that saw Democratic President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump in the county and statewide.

The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors had fought the Senate subpoenas for more than two months, arguing the ballots were by law secret, the vote machines would be compromised by unauthorized access, and that multiple audits, hand-count checks, and other tests showed no issues with the vote tabulations. The judge ruled the Senate had the absolute right to oversee elections and could access the materials.

Fann and other Senate Republicans want to audit the election results to try to show whether there were problems with the election. Trump backers have made claims rejected repeatedly by the courts that fraud or other issues led to his loss in Arizona and in other battleground states.

Fann also said it “is our intention” to take the security and transparency recommendations made by Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who wrote Fann a lengthy letter last week imploring her to implement standard election count practices such as security logs, live 24-hour video feeds, procedures for ensuring no voted ballots are marked and a bipartisan teams of observers.

Hobbs said she disagreed with Fann’s need for an audit, saying in part that “there is no credible evidence for any of the conspiracy theories that have abounded about the 2020 General Election” and urging her not to waste taxpayer resources “chasing false claims of fraud that will only further erode public confidence in our election processes and elected officials.”

Fann said she hopes to enlist Senate Democrats to participate.

“We’re trying our best to make sure this is bipartisan, so we would like to also engage some of the Democrats to be able to work with us on this,” Fann said. “We want this to be fully transparent for all the right reasons.”

Fann previously said she wants to take a deeper dive into questions Republicans have raised about the state’s mail-in ballot system. Arizonans have embraced mail voting and more than 80% of voters cast ballots early by mail or in-person.

“I really want to get questions answered about how many mail ballots are going out to people who are no longer living, or are no longer living in Arizona, or going to wrong addresses, and what we can do to fix those problems,” Fann said after the judge ruled.

The GOP-controlled Legislature is not waiting for Fann’s audit to act. Republicans have introduced a raft of bills they say are intended to boost election security but that Democrats call voter suppression efforts.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.