The far right’s undermining of American elections is an ongoing threat to the nation’s future. An Arizona state Senate-commissioned “audit” of November ballots is not just a regional farce, but an escalation against democratic processes.
Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman correctly sounded the alarm last week that this mishandling of ballots and election records must be rejected nationally.
Republican-controlled legislatures in Florida, Iowa, Texas, Georgia and elsewhere are dangerously politicizing elections management by ratcheting up voting restrictions and limiting how officials can help people cast ballots.
Still, Arizona’s move stands out as egregious. The GOP Senate leadership trampled elections guidelines and common sense with a legislative subpoena for 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots. That gave private contractor Cyber Ninjas a mission to reveal vote irregularities — in a state where 10,457 votes helped decide the presidential election.
Cyber Ninjas is no impartial referee. Its CEO fed the election-conspiracy lies that former President Donald Trump used to whip up the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Yet the private company got total authority to rifle through the actual ballots and 400 voting machines from the election. The county’s chain of custody was shattered when it ought to have been carefully preserved. Whatever Cyber Ninjas purports to find from such tainted evidence cannot be trusted. As Wyman said on CNN, it’s the elections equivalent of stomping through a crime scene.
No state should accept the idea of forking over the only copy of politically charged records to a private operator to destroy trust in the outcome. In practice, Arizona has invented a process for legislators to throw out election results with impunity — even when the results have already undergone meticulous recounts.
Washington, like other states, has well established policy for handling disputed elections. Publicly managed recounts happen with observers from all parties free to witness. Arizona’s sketchy system established a precedent that clouds voter trust.
Wyman, as a longtime elections professional who is a Republican, has an important role to play in the national debate by showing that election oversight must transcend partisanship. She repeatedly spoke out about the security of mail-in voting as states struggled to run the high-stakes presidential election during a pandemic — even when Trump and other Republican leaders denigrated the process.
Arizona’s dubious “audit” breaches what should be regarded as a sacred trust of state and county officials conducting elections and counting votes through transparent public policy. All Americans should have accessible and trustable elections overseen with impartiality. Injecting political hardball into ballot counting must not become the new normal in any state.