‘Problem # 1’: Trump stirs up election lies after flawed Arizona report

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“This is a huge victory for the Nov. 3 movement to get to the bottom of the 2020 election,” said Boris Epshteyn, Trump’s former special aide who has been following the efforts in Arizona. He said “the next step is a full audit and survey of all counties in Arizona, including a full survey in Maricopa County.”

The Arizona state GOP held a watch for the report’s unveiling, and several gubernatorial candidates questioned the validity of the state’s 2020 election results throughout the day. The same thoughts and statements have spread to other states as well, prompted by Trump’s lies and unsubstantiated claims about the election.

For months, Trump has been obsessed with reporting the 2020 election results, and has been particularly interested in Republican efforts in Arizona. In media appearances and in speeches, Trump has made questioning of the 2020 election results a major rallying cry, even calling it the “crime of the century.” Behind the scenes, Trump has received regular updates from his aides and allies on the details of the Arizona listeners’ findings and has followed the right-wing media coverage closely.

Months of work and millions of dollars invested in producing a report that election experts – including Democrats, Republicans and non-partisan officials – have urged people to reject out of hand because of the improvised processes of examination, the inexperience of those who run it and their promotion. election conspiracy theories. They said that the fact that the report’s final vote count closely tracks actual official results doesn’t change the fact that it should be dismissed.

“The bottom line is, it was a colossal waste of time,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor, said in a brief interview on Friday. “And anyone considering replicating it in their state, or taking other action based on this report, should not be considered a serious leader.”

Trump watched coverage of the Arizona hearing from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., And was made aware of the assistants’ findings, according to a spokesperson. In statements, Trump hailed the audit as a “great victory for democracy and a great victory for us.”

“Voters demand it,” Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington said. “This is the main concern we hear. “

Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election and his efforts to undermine the results, a Trump aide said, “will never be abandoned. I think he believes in it, and number two is a rallying point for the base. This is something that many of his supporters believe in.

According to a September CNN poll, 78% of Republicans say Biden did not win and 54% believe there is evidence to support this belief.

That’s despite major missteps in the election review process – and without any guns in the end. At a hearing for the report’s final release, Doug Logan – the founder and CEO of Cyber ​​Ninjas, the company hired by the State Senate to conduct the work – blamed some of the missteps on inexperience or the lack of cooperation from Maricopa County.

One of those complaints came from Logan in July, around 74,000 ballots were returned in the mail with no record of them being sent in the first place. That wasn’t true: the vast majority of those ballots were in-person advance polls, and Logan and his team just didn’t have the experience to understand how the different types of ballots were classified. “It wasn’t an intentional deviation, it was just something that wasn’t immediately clear at this point,” Logan said during Friday’s hearing.

“The fact that they were churning out this piece of misinformation is over there,” Hobbs said. “And no matter what they say to try to turn the clock back, people believe it’s the real information.”

Nonetheless, Logan admitted that his tally counts are remarkably close to the official results. “The ballots provided to us to count [at their counting site] correlate very precisely with the official figures of the solicitation which have been communicated, ”he said during the hearing.

But Trump’s allies are moving forward. State Representative Mark Finchem – whose campaign for Arizona Secretary of State was endorsed by Trump – immediately called for an audit for Pima County, the second largest county in the state which is strongly democratic.

In interviews, Trump’s allies said they were not focusing on the number of votes themselves, but rather on the number of ballots disputed by the report for reasons such as the possibility that a voter leaves the county before the election – what the Maricopa County Supervisory Board addressed on Twitter. Trump’s allies accused the media of misinterpreting the results of the review, and Trump promised in a statement to discuss the report at his rally in Georgia on Saturday.

Election officials report a host of problems with the exam early on: The Arizona exam used covert and shifting processes that did not match those used in the past by legitimate election reviews. Logan had no election experience and promoted the conspiracy theories picked up by Trump before the review, appearing in a film about the stolen election plot during the review. The whole process was largely funded by nonprofits allied with Trump and linked to the “Stop the Steal” movement.

“It’s been a botched process from the start, an ever-evolving process,” said Jennifer Morrell, an election audit expert who had served as a process observer for the Arizona secretary of state. It was “done by individuals without the skills, knowledge and expertise not only in auditing but in election administration,” she said.

They warn that the report’s findings should not be taken at face value because of this, pointing to specific errors. According to experts, many of the report’s findings, such as the assertion of ballots cast from past addresses or “potential” voters voting multiple times, are rooted in an amateur understanding of elections and a desire to advance. – judge the results.

In particular, the report’s reliance on a commercial database to make voter residency status claims was inappropriate, they said.

“To validate a person’s residence, and whether they are eligible to vote and where they lived in the weeks just before election day 2020, I think this is probably not a trustworthy source,” said Barry Burden, director of the Center for Election Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“By saying that there are tens of thousands [of potential problems] and there is a margin of error here that does a disservice, and a competent examiner of an election wouldn’t make such a claim, ”echoed former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican.

Burden and Grayson, who co-wrote a report earlier this year on Arizona exam issues, and Morrell based their comments on a draft of the final report that circulated Thursday night. Maricopa County, which has a Republican majority in its county council and a Republican election official, also disputed much of the report. after a preliminary examination and at Friday’s hearing, calling the findings “intentionally misleading or incredibly ignorant”.

“All the premises of the project, the foundations and the preparation, have just been completed. And so I don’t think we should take much away from the findings, and ultimately discourage other actors and other states from doing that sort of thing, ”Burden said.


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