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Recent breakthroughs in 2020 election probes undercut narrative that legal avenues are exhausted

Mounting evidence of irregularities and rigged rules has emerged through state and local investigations, court decisions, financial disclosure, and audits in the 14 months since the election.

Published: January 15, 2022 8:22pm

Updated: January 16, 2022 11:01pm

More than a year after the disputed 2020 presidential election, a series of legal breakthroughs in the investigation of the electoral process in decisive swing states — including official inquiries, court rulings, audits and finial disclosures — has unfolded in rapid succession recently, even as election integrity opponents continue to insist that all legal avenues for questioning the outcome have long since been exhausted.

Interviewing former Trump senior economic advisor Peter Navarro about the election earlier this month, MSNBC TV host Ari Melber argued that the "outcome was established by independent secretaries of state, by the voters of those states, and legal remedies had been exhausted with the Supreme Court never even taking, let alone siding with, any of the claims that you just referred to."

Melber's assertion echoed a mainstream political and media narrative firmly in place since Donald Trump's large Election Day leads over Joe Biden in key swing states evaporated over the course of the ensuing week, when The New York Times reported, "Election officials in dozens of states representing both political parties said that there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race."

However, as Navarro and others have argued, many of the election integrity cases brought before courts were dismissed because they lacked standing. Out of 90 cases related to the 2020 presidential election, only 25 were decided on the merits, and 18 of those were won by Trump and/or the GOP party in the lawsuit. 

In the 14 months since the election, abundant evidence of irregularities has emerged through audits, investigations, and court decisions — much of it surfacing within the past month. 

In Pennsylvania this past week, for instance, a panel of judges ruled that Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro must comply with a subpoena seeking personal information of about 9 million voters from the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee investigating the 2020 general election and 2021 primary. 

The Iowa-based firm Envoy Sage is reviewing the elections, and the Senate committee contended that the auditors needed voters' driver's license numbers and partial Social Security numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of State to verify the identities of voters. 

The court, however, did block the immediate release of the voter information, citing "a substantial factual question surrounding the federal protection requirements and the capability of the Senate Committee's contracted vendor, Envoy Sage, LLC, to protect the infrastructure information."

In December, a Pennsylvania judge ordered that Fulton County's Dominion voting machines be sent to the state Senate for inspection this month, after Shapiro and Democratic acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Veronica Degraffenreid sued to prevent it. However, the state Supreme Court this past week temporarily blocked the inspection until the full court can consider it, according to KDKA, a local CBS affiliate. 

Back in November, an investigation was launched by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer into videos that purport to show the destruction of ballots and machinery in the 2020 election by county election officials. 

Following Arizona's state Senate audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Republican state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, vowed to investigate any irregularities that were uncovered. The most recent announcement by the attorney general's Elections Integrity Unit was in late October, when Brnovich announced the indictment of a felon who allegedly voted illegally in the 2020 election. 

At a rally in October, Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem read aloud a November 2020 letter from a purported whistleblower who claimed that "34,000 or 35,000 fictitious voters" were "inserted in[to the] system" of Pima County during the general election. Finchem later read the letter into the record at an "ad hoc" election integrity hearing in Tucson last month. 

After the October rally, Arizona Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright wrote Finchem to deny that the AG's office had received such evidence. "Based on a review of evidence submitted to the Attorney General's Office through its Elections Integrity Unit ('EIU')," Wright wrote, "the EIU was unable to find that any evidence submitted to the EIU pertaining to the allegations that 34,000 – 35,000 votes were 'inserted' into Pima county's [sic] system during the 2020 General Election."

Offering to review Finchem's evidence, Wright concluded, "Until such time as the evidence is received by the EIU, the EIU can take no further action."

When asked by Just the News if Brnovich is investigating referrals from the state Senate audit of Maricopa County and the Pima County whistleblower allegations, Arizona GOP Chairwoman Dr. Kelli Ward said, "They say they are."

In Georgia, meanwhile, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced earlier this month that he has opened an investigation into possible illegal ballot harvesting during the state's 2020 general election and subsequent U.S. Senate runoffs. According to state law, third-party activists are prohibited from picking up and delivering ballots on behalf of voters, a tactic called "harvesting." 

The secretary of state's office received a detailed complaint from conservative voter integrity group True the Vote on Nov. 30. True the Vote said it has evidence, including surveillance videos of absentee ballot drop boxes, showing the illegal ballot harvesting occurring. 

In Wisconsin on Thursday, a judge ruled that the absentee ballot drop boxes used during the 2020 election are prohibited under state law, and ordered the Wisconsin Elections Commission to retract its instructions for election officials on using them. 

Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project, told Just the News that "the impact of this illegal activity should be determined," despite it being "unlikely" that the ruling would allow any retroactive challenges to districts that used the drop boxes in 2020. 

On Jan. 10, a Wisconsin judge refused to block a subpoena seeking testimony from Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe that former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Gableman issued in his election probe authorized by state lawmakers. 

Madison Democratic Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is also refusing to cooperate with Gableman's subpoenas seeking information and testimony for his investigation. 

Also during 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $350 million to The Center for Tech and Civic Life, which granted the funds to municipalities conducting elections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following criticism for attempting to sway the election in favor of Biden through private funding of public election administration and✓ infrastructure, Zuckerberg had the CTCL grants reviewed by Republican election lawyer Michael Toner, who found that the nonprofit awarded more of them to counties won by Trump than Biden, the Washington Examiner reported. However, according to CTCL's IRS Form 990 filing for 2020, the nonprofit gave larger grants and more money per capita to Democratic counties than Republican ones, the Capital Research Center found.

State officials, including many in GOP-run states, have said they have found no evidence of widespread fraud in the November 2020 election that could have altered the outcome. However, several states have found serious irregularities or unlawful changes to election rules occurred in 2020. 

A month after the 2020 election, for example, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that state and local election officials were wrong to allow voters to declare themselves "indefinitely confined" due to COVID-19 to skip voter ID requirements for voting absentee in the election. The court found that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers didn't have the legal authority to issue an executive order that allowed voters to circumvent the requirement. Wisconsin's Legislative Audit Bureau found numerous other rule changes were made that were not approved by the state legislature.

In Arizona, an audit called into question more than 50,000 ballots cast in the November 2020 election, while in Georgia, state election officials have uncovered such widespread mismanagement in vote counting in Fulton County that they have begun a process to have the state run future elections in its largest county, which includes the city of Atlanta.

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