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Republicans launch election investigations in multiple states as Arizona audit forges ahead

Audits teed up in Wisconsin, Georgia, New Hampshire.

Updated: May 28, 2021 - 10:12pm

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Republicans in multiple U.S. states are mounting investigations into the circumstances surrounding the 2020 election, moves that come amid the contentious ongoing audit of election results in Maricopa County, Ariz.

The Arizona audit — which includes a hand recount of over two million ballots  — has reflected bitter partisan divisions in the state, with Republicans and Democrats squaring off in a series of volleys over the conduct of the audit and the political fallout surrounding it. Establishment media outlets have joined in Democratic attacks against the audit, with CNN claiming that the process is "bogus" and FiveThirtyEight calling it a "partisan inquisition."

Nevertheless, efforts are underway in several states to undertake investigations similar to Arizona's, though none are anywhere near as large in scope as is that in Maricopa, the state's largest county. 

In Wisconsin, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has commissioned several retired law enforcement officers to investigate potential ballot fraud as well as the millions of dollars of private funding that went to local political machines in that state. 

Those two prongs have been among the most contentious of the 2020 election. The presidential race last year was decided in large part by an historically unprecedented level of absentee and mail-in ballots. Citing concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19 at in-person polling locations, Democratic elected leaders, election officials and nonprofit activists pushed hard for mail-in voting in the weeks and months leading up to Election Day. 

The massive number of mail-in votes — a relatively untested approach to U.S. elections — has led to widespread concern that the election may have been rife with fraud. Also generating controversy has been the spending of millions of dollars in private funds on local election administration by the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life. 

Flush with a $350 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, CTCL in the months leading up to the election plowed millions into the political machines of multiple Democratic strongholds in Wisconsin as well as other Democrat-friendly municipalities such as Philadelphia and Detroit. The huge investments raised questions regarding both the legality and civic integrity of the private funding of election administration. 

Vos's office did not respond to requests for comment on the full scope and intent of the investigation. But Vos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the effort was meant to verify whether the election was conducted honestly and fairly and, if not, to provide a record supporting election law changes to prevent a recurrence.

"A sizable chunk of people believe the election was illegitimate," Vos said. "And democracy cannot flourish if both sides don’t believe in the end both sides had a fair shot."

In Georgia, meanwhile, a Republican voter-led effort is moving to inspect nearly 150,000 absentee ballots in Fulton County, the state's largest and a key bastion of Biden support in his narrow victory in the historically red state. 

Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero earlier this month had ordered that review to proceed, though Amero late this week spiked a planned Friday meeting to determine the process of the review, citing complaints filed by Fulton County officials opposed to the investigation. 

Fulton's handling of the election has been a source of controversy since November: The county on Election Night appeared to dismiss the majority of its election staff from its ballot processing operation, after which a skeleton crew of workers continued to count ballots. Media outlets and sworn testimony have painted a baffling picture of mutually contradictory statements and directives from county officials, with the county itself offering no clarifying explanation regarding what occurred. 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has argued in favor of the overall legitimacy of Biden's win in Georgia, has nevertheless come out in favor of the voter-led effort. "Fulton County has a long-standing history of election mismanagement that has understandably weakened voters' faith in its system," he told the Epoch Times this week. "Allowing this audit provides another layer of transparency and citizen engagement."

In New Hampshire, auditors in the town of Windham have been struggling to explain why several Republicans were shorted a combined several hundred votes in state representative races. 

Auditors claim to have determined that a folding machine likely caused a crease in the ballots that had run directly through Democratic names, leading vote tabulators to improperly award votes to Democratic candidates. Officials have insisted that the corrected results have not affected the ultimate winners of the races in any way. 

Access to individual ballots — particularly absentee ballots, of which there were so many in 2020 — may prove critical to auditors attempting to resolve any irregularities in the election. In Fulton County, however, auditors will reportedly not have access to physical ballots; rather, county officials will provide investigators with digitally scanned copies of ballots for their review. 

Planning for the Fulton audit is expected to continue late next month. 

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