GOP-backed election audit set to begin Friday in Arizona’s Maricopa County

After months of delay, a forensic audit of roughly 2.1 million ballots cast in Arizona’s Maricopa County is finally starting to get underway.

According to the Washington Examiner, trucks carrying equipment that will be used in the audit began unloading Wednesday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The ballots themselves were set to arrive there Thursday, with the audit slated to start Friday.

An audit in Arizona

Former President Donald Trump and his supporters had pointed to Arizona and its Maricopa County as they raised questions about the integrity of the 2020 White House race. Republicans in the Grand Canyon State hope to clear things up with the audit, but it took months of court battles to get here.

Maricopa County leaders had argued against the audit, which is being conducted at the behest of Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate, and had blocked state officials from using their facilities to conduct the review, the Associated Press reported.

With a venue now secured, the auditing process is set to include a hand recount and a review of mail-in ballot signatures and voting tabulation machines. The entire process will be watched by bipartisan and independent observers.

It will also be live-streamed by One America News Network (OANN), a conservative outlet that helped raise $150,000 to match the $150,000 in taxpayer funds used by the state Senate to pay for the audit, the AP noted.

According to the Examiner, two previous audits by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors revealed no irregularities, nor did they find any malicious software or incorrect settings on voting machines. The machines were not connected to the internet during the initial post-election ballot-counting process, investigators found, according to the AP.

Critics raise questions

Organizers of the audit have insisted that it will be conducted in a nonpartisan and transparent fashion, but some critics disagree, and Democrats, like current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, have called the whole thing a “circus.”

“Nobody should be taking this circus seriously,” she told the AP. “That’s what it is. It’s a circus.”

Meanwhile, many in the media have argued that the rules put in place for coverage of the process are too onerous. One regulation reportedly requires each journalist present to serve at least one six-hour shift as an independent observer, during which time they aren’t allowed to take notes or photos.

Questions have also been raised about suspected bias and partisanship of at least one of the firms contracted to participate, Cyber Ninjas. According to the Examiner, its CEO, Doug Logan, was previously a promoter of the “Stop the Steal” movement that claimed the 2020 election was ripe with fraud.

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, tapped by the state Senate to oversee the audit process, has acknowledged scrutiny of Logan, as the AP notes, but vowed: “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we audit the election and not the contractor’s opinions.”

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