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County board irked as audit rebuttal released

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PHOENIX — Maricopa County supervisors took aim at the Arizona Senate’s election audit, crafting a detailed response that left little doubt what they thought of the effort.

“We’ve seen what happens when people are falsely told that an election has been rigged or stolen,” Maricopa County District 3 Supervisor and board Chair Bill Gates said Wednesday.

Gates made a speech Wednesday as part of the board’s rebuttal to the state Senate audit of the 2020 election. In addition to comments made by others Wednesday during a four-hour, 30-minute special meeting, presenting an internal report on the election reflect the supervisors’ staunch and intense stance that the findings of the Senate’s audit are largely nonsensical and false, Gates pointed out that the few legitimate findings are tiny anomalies in a large-scale, mostly clean election.

Gates, who also was chosen as the board’s chair for the calendar year 2019, has been chosen by his fellow board members to be chair for 2022, succeeding District 1 Supervisor and 2021 Chair Jack Sellers.

“I could not have imagined, when I handed over the gavel two years ago to Supervisor (Clint) Hickman, what we would experience and how we would be challenged as a county,” Gates said. “A pandemic, rising prices, labor shortages and the biggest challenge to our democracy in our lifetimes .... We’ve seen what happens when people are falsely told than an election has been rigged or stolen. They storm a Capitol building. They threaten to hang or shoot election workers. They call fellow Americans traitors. I will not stand for that.”

Gates said the Jan. 6 attacks made him wonder what kind of world his three young-adult daughters will end up with.

“All of our democratic institutions — including Maricopa County and Arizona government — are at risk, because of misinformation,” Gates said. “Many people in positions of power listened to the loud few and fed into this. Polling shows a significant number of Americans believe there is widespread fraud in our elections — and many believe the Senate audit shows evidence of fraud. And we can show, point by point, why those allegations are baseless. We aren’t here to do what’s easy. We’re here to do what’s right ... we will not be silent in the face of lies.”

The county’s internal audit is titled “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the 2021 Senate Inquiry.” It can be found online here:

recorder.maricopa.gov/justthefacts/pdf/Correcting%20The%20Record%20-%20January%202022%20Report.pdf

The Senate’s forensic audit, released Sept. 24 in a special Senate session, showed no evidence of fraud, though Senate Republican leadership still turned the report over to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, also a Republican, for review and possible investigation.

The audit results confirmed Joe Biden outpolled Donald Trump for president and found no specific evidence of fraud in the 2020 election within Maricopa County.

The individuals and companies hired by the Senate told lawmakers the ballot tally does not address other issues about how the election was conducted; a state-mandated hand count of a random sample of ballots found no irregularities.

Senate President Karen Fann said last year after the report was presented that it would be used to craft legislation to update election laws.

The 2022 regular legislative session is set to begin Monday.

Wednesday, Hickman said every vote matters, and it’s a tremendous job to accurately process 2 million votes.

“We take it seriously,” Hickman said. “We treat the general election like the Super Bowl. We found out some things during the presidential preference election that we learned about, that we put into practice in the general election. And we learned from things in the general that we will use to create new and better procedures.”

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