Arizona State Senate to hand-count 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots

Republicans who control the Arizona Senate announced March 18 they now intend to do a complete recount of 2.1 million ballots in the state’s most populous county to ensure that President Joe Biden’s November win was legitimate.

Senate President Karen Fann had been pushing for a "full forensic audit" of Maricopa County’s election result and won a court order on Feb. 26 granting the Senate access to the ballots and tabulation machines. But she had never acknowledged until this week that she wanted a full recount, something state law doesn’t allow except in narrow circumstances.

Previous documents obtained by The Associated Press showed Fann intended to recount "at least" 550,000 ballots.

The county Board of Supervisors had argued the ballots were secret and the machines need to remain secure and fought a subpoena issued by Senate Republicans.

Since winning that court fight, Fann has been trying to locate an auditing firm that can do the deep dive she wants. Some Republican backers of former President Donald Trump allege there was fraud in the election in Arizona and other battleground states that led to his defeat. Fann said she wants to answer their questions one way or the other.

Fann announced Thursday that she had decided on a specific firm to oversee the audit but did not reveal its name, saying she was still negotiating final details.

She had previously been considering a company with deep ties to Trump’s campaign but said last month that it was no longer being considered. The Allied Security Operations Group worked with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to raise baseless allegations of election fraud and counting errors in Arizona and other states.

Fann’s announcement said she now intends to do a full hand recount of the ballots in addition to testing the tabulation machines and rescanning all the ballots. She said she hopes to do the work at county buildings to ensure ballot security.

But county spokesman Fields Moseley said the county hasn’t had any recent discussions about allowing the Senate to use its facilities for its new audit. Early this month. Board Chair Jack Sellers sent a letter to Fann and other GOP senators asking where she wanted the ballots delivered. The Senate said it had no room for them and hoped to use county facilities.

A full hand-recount will be challenging because it will require scores of people and observers if Fann is to end up with a trusted product.

She said she hopes the effort is bipartisan, but Senate Democrats said that is laughable.

"We never wanted anything to do with that," said Sen. Lupe Contreras, the assistant minority leader. "I guess you could say we worked in a bipartisan way since we backed the Board of Supervisors, which is all Republican but one," Contreras said.

The five-member county Board of Supervisors has pointed to repeated checks that showed the election was free, fair, and properly conducted. They included pre-election and post-election tests of counting equipment and software and a hand count of a ballot sample that showed the machine count was accurate.

Last month, they released the results of two new audits of their equipment done to mollify the Senate. They showed no malicious software or incorrect counting equipment and that none of the computers or equipment were connected to the internet.

"When all the work is done, there will be a full report for the Senate and County to review," Fann said in a statement. "Our voters expect this audit, and it can be a big step in returning trust and confidence in our election process."

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