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There’s incompetent, and then there’s Arizona audit levels of incompetent.
As the neverending recount in Maricopa County continues and a final report remains on hold, on Wednesday one of the women who helped get the audit sanctioned, published a report based on an unofficial canvass of voters in Maricopa County. To conduct the canvass, thousands of volunteers visited people’s homes to see if voting records matched up to the reality of the situation on the ground.
The company running the official audit, Cyber Ninjas, initially included a door-to-door canvass as part of its recount effort, but that was scrapped when the Department of Justice warned it would amount to voter intimidation.
But that didn’t stop Liz Harris, whose “Voter Integrity Project” has been knocking on people’s doors since last December.
The results of those efforts were published Wednesday, and the report made some startling—almost unbelievable—claims. It said that 173,000 votes were missing or lost, while almost 100,000 other votes came from “ghosts” or residents who didn’t appear to exist.
Of course the report failed to provide any evidence to back up its claims, but to hammer home its point, the cover page included a picture of a vacant lot at 13226 W Beverly Rd, Goodyear, an address from which the report’s author claimed that two votes were mysteriously cast in November’s election.
Within seconds of the report being released, however, the mystery was solved. The lot wasn’t in fact vacant; it contained a large home with a swimming pool, as ABC15’s data reporter Garrett Archer quickly pointed out:
But how could the canvassers have known? Maybe the large gate blocking entry to the property could have given them a clue.
Or maybe simply looking up the address on Maricopa County’s own website and cross-checking it against publicly available voter registration records would have helped.
Hours later, Harris changed the picture on the front of its report to another “vacant lot” but again got it completely wrong:
The whole situation could be dismissed as simply incompetent and even hilarious—if it weren’t so dangerous.
Within minutes of the report being released on Wednesday, Harris, an ardent Trump supporter who was among those who helped get the audit approved by the Arizona Senate, appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast.
Bannon credulously covered the report, even though it contains no actual evidence for the claims it makes. Then Bannon and Harris said the report was proof that audits and canvasses like Arizona’s were needed across the country.
The audit in Maricopa County is the epicenter of a nationwide push to undermine the democratic process by baselessly claiming the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud. The bogus recount has inspired right-wing lawmakers in other states to call for similar audits.
Election fraud conspiracies first surfaced in online QAnon groups months before the election, then made their way to the mainstream via figures like Ron Watkins, the administrator of 8kun, the website where QAnon flourished.
This week Watkins was hyping the canvass report long before it was published, indicating that he is working closely with Harris and others involved in the effort to undermine the legitimacy of last November’s election.
“The first domino has fallen,” Watkins wrote to his 415,000 followers on Telegram when the report was finally published. “The official Maricopa Audit results are next. There is no precedent for where we stand today.”
Minutes later he added: “MARICOPA COUNTY MUST BE DECERTIFIED.”
But this opinion wasn’t limited to online conspiracy theories and cranks. Several Republican lawmakers and officials also used the bogus canvass report as “evidence” that the election results should be decertified.
“Do we need any more evidence to finally recall the electors and decertify the election?” State Sen. Wendy Rogers tweeted. “Preliminary audit results & a private canvass. More evidence is coming but I already have seen enough. History will judge us well when we finally get 2020 right.”
Rogers has been one of the loudest proponents of the bogus audit, and over the summer appeared at multiple pro-audit events across the country boosting the Big Lie that the election was stolen from Trump last November.
Rep. Mark Finchem, a leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement who has touted QAnon theories, said: “There is already enough evidence to show clear and convincing fraud. We have a duty to act.”
Finchem, who was among the earliest supporters of the Arizona audit, is one of a group of 2020 election deniers who are running to become secretary of state, their state’s top election official.
To be clear, neither Finchem, nor Rogers, nor the outcome of the Maricopa County audit can change the outcome of last November’s election—but millions of people across the country have been convinced they can.