By: Charles Davis
An Arizona judge has suspended work over the weekend on a Republican-led effort to examine ballots from the 2020 election.
Arizona Democrats had filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking to halt an audit, dismissing it as a partisan effort to validate false claims of election fraud.
On Friday, Judge Christopher Coury of the Maricopa County Superior Court granted their request for a pause until evidence can be presented at an 11:00 a.m. local time hearing on Monday.
The audit, which began Thursday, is being conducted by a Florida-based firm, Cyber Ninjas, that has never previously audited an election; the company’s founder, Doug Logan, also embraced pro-Trump conspiracy theories about voter fraud on his since-deleted Twitter account, the Mirror Reported.
Friday’s order requires the company to hand over any documents detailing their internal procedures for the audit, “which should have been made immediately available to the public if this were a transparent or credible process,” Raquel Terán, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Karen Fann, a Republican and president of Arizona’s state Senate, selected the company to conduct the examination in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, which President Joe Biden won by more than 45,000 votes.
In a letter on Friday, Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic Secretary of State, called for a state investigation into the audit, expressing concern that ballots and election equipment had been handed over to a biased third party, “resulting in unauthorized and unmonitored access to both.”
A reporter from the Arizona Republic, Jen Fifeld, who attended the audit on Friday raised concerns that those examining the ballots could be in a position to alter them, noting that counting tables had blue pens on them. You are “supposed to only have red ink,” she noted, because the machines that count ballots will accept black or blue ink as a legitimate vote.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, has however declined to intervene. In a letter sent Friday, he rejected Hobbs’ call for an investigation by his office, saying that her citation of media reports suggesting impropriety “does not meet the standard of a credible allegation.”
Fann, for her part, did not respond to a request for comment.
The loser of the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump, has backed the state Senate’s effort to reexamine the results in Maricopa County, which he won in 2016. In a statement on Friday, he accused Democrats of resorting to lawyers in an effort to have their supposed election fraud in the GOP-run county “concealed”; he also alleged that the state’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, a former ally, was inexplicably collaborating with his political foes.
But the former president’s claims of fraud – vague and ever-shifting – were all debunked months ago, including by members of his own party. Last fall, the Trump campaign promoted a conspiracy theory, known as “SharpieGate,” that alleged ballots from Republicans were being invalidated. Poll workers, the story went, had handed in-person voters permanent markers, instead of pens, knowing that these voters would lean GOP and that the writing utensil would spoil their ballots.
In fact, as both federal officials and Arizona’s Republican Attorney General noted at the time, permanent markers were the preferred tool for completing one’s ballot. And references in the state’s online database to some residents having their votes “canceled,” which had been cited as a smoking gun, referred only to those who had voted in person after having requested a mail-in ballots: It was the unused mail-in ballot that was canceled, not the one filled out the day of the election with a Sharpie, illustrating that it was not possible to engage in election fraud by voting twice.
Allies of the former president also promoted the unsubstantiated theory, among others, that Biden received thousands of mail-in ballots from fictitious voters. That claim was rejected by local Republicans who voted to certify the election results in Arizona’s most populous county.
“In a free democracy, elections result in some people’s candidates losing,” Board of Supervisors President Clint Hickman, a Republican, said at the time. Hickman said he was disappointed that Trump lost but that there was no evidence to suggest the vote was inaccurate, much less any that would justify negating the outcome.
“I’m not going to violate the law or deviate from my own moral compass,” Hickman said, “as some have pushed me to do.”