An estimated 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County, Arizona, have been counted and photographed in relation to the 2020 election audit.
The audit now undergoes a new phase of review, which includes an evaluation of data from election servers and voting machines before it’s completed.
Officials are expecting a full report on their findings by Labor Day, but things could wrap up as soon as late July.
“Technology consultants hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to probe the 2020 election have finished counting and photographing nearly 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County,” the Associated Press reported Friday. “A final report of the findings is still weeks to months away, said Ken Bennett, a former Republican secretary of state working on the effort. But the milestone marks an end to the most visible portion of the unprecedented partisan election audit, which saw teams of people recruited by supporters of former President Donald Trump working through dozens of pallets of ballots on the floor of a former basketball arena.”
What comes next, according to Bennett, is an evaluation of data from election servers and voting machines, and other tasks, the AP noted.
“I think too much emphasis has been put on the tasks that are happening here at the Coliseum, but these are not the only two tasks of the audit,” the former secretary of state said.
“Auditors will vacate the Coliseum by the time their lease expires Wednesday evening, Bennett said in a text message,” the report noted. “He did not respond to questions about where the ballots will go and whether they will be returned to the county.”
GOP Senate President Karen Fann has repeatedly emphasized that the audit is not being conducted to overturn the 2020 presidential, but to identify weaknesses in relation to election integrity and promote confidence in forthcoming elections.
Biden-nominated U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has made it clear that the Justice Department will be reviewing any election audits for alleged voter violations. The AG also pointedly knocked “abnormal” review methods, without expressly citing the Arizona audit, during his comments in mid-June.
“Some jurisdictions, based on disinformation, have utilized abnormal post-election audit methodologies that may put the integrity of the voting process at risk and undermine public confidence in our democracy,” Garland said,
The news station noted that the AG said he would double the staff of the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement “within the next thirty days, in order to deal with challenges to voting rights nationwide.”
“We must rededicate the resources of the Department of Justice to a critical part of its original mission: enforcing federal law to protect the franchise for all voters,” Garland said.
Election audits will be reviewed “to ensure they abide by federal statutory requirements to protect election records and avoid the intimidation of voters,” he added, and the DOJ will “publish guidance explaining the civil and criminal statutes that apply to post-election audits.”
Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward fired back, writing via Twitter, “Seems Merrick either wants to ignore or forgot all about the US Constitution…#DOJHasNoSay #StatesRights.”
The Biden DOJ has already intervened in the election auditing efforts by Maricopa County Republicans, sending a letter in May to the president of the Arizona state Senate suggesting the recount is illegal.
The Washington Post reported at the time that the DOJ letter raises “the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit.”
Penned by Pamela S. Karlan, who heads the DOJ’s civil rights division, the letter suggests “that the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election,” the Post noted.
“We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss,” wrote Karlan.
Back in February, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason disagreed with Karlan’s current analysis. The Daily Wire reported:
Senate Republicans and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors disagreed about the accessibility of the ballots; the Senate wanted to perform an audit to address election integrity concerns from constituents, whereas the board argued the ballots, by law, were to be kept secret for 24 months following the election. The judge scolded the parties for failing to come to an agreement on their own but sided with the Senate, suggesting the law in question does not conflict with the subpoenas.
“There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Judge Thomason wrote at the time. “The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas. The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections.”
“The Arizona legislature clearly has the power to investigate and examine election reform matters,” the ruling said. “The Subpoenas also do not violate separation of powers principles. Production of the subpoenaed materials would not violate confidentiality laws.”
Author: Asa McCue