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2020's General Election Is Over, But Counting Continues In Arizona

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Republicans in Arizona are still in denial about the results of the 2020 election. The GOP has launched yet another vote recount. Some 2.1 million ballots are being reviewed. Ben Giles of member station KJZZ in Phoenix joins us to talk about it. Hi, Ben.

BEN GILES, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Why is this recount happening?

GILES: Well, to be clear, the results here in Maricopa County here in Arizona were already certified, but this audit is being conducted on behalf of the Republican-led state Senate. They tapped a private Florida-based cybersecurity company to lead this review. Maricopa County officials here have broadly spoken out against it in increasingly forceful ways. They say the review is being conducted by grifters. There's concerns that have been expressed by the U.S. Department of Justice. There's concerns about the voting machines, the ballots that are being kept by these private firms. They've still got about 1.5 million ballots to get through of 2.1 million votes that were cast in Maricopa County last fall.

MARTIN: And I understand the audit is not open to the public, but there is a rotating pool of reporters who can observe it. And you were there last night, right? What'd you see?

GILES: Yeah, I was at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. There's about a few dozen tables laid out on the floor where basketball games used to be played, people at tables counting all of those hundreds of thousands of ballots. They're looking at votes for the presidency and the U.S. Senate; both those races were won by Democrats in Maricopa County and Arizona at large. There are some observers other than reporters. There are some staffers, some experts recruited by the Democrat secretary of state to observe the process from the floor, and they've seen a lot of issues that that they don't like.

MARTIN: Who's paying for the audit, Ben?

GILES: Well, the state Senate allocated $150,000 for this contract with these firms. But we know it's going to be far more expensive because outside groups are trying to raise millions of dollars to support the costs. Many of those outside groups are allies of Donald Trump who have also spread baseless claims of election fraud. And we don't know who the donors are because they're shrouded by nonprofit exemptions from disclosure. And it kind of raises the question, who are these firms that - the Cyber Ninjas is the lead firm. Who are they beholden to?

MARTIN: So you've explained how the recount came to be, but what is the justification? How do Republican officials justify this additional recount when the vote has already been certified?

GILES: Yeah, broadly, they say, what's the harm? You know, we're just looking and hopefully there'll be no issues, but better to check. It'll boost confidence in the election. But that stance is so dismissive of the process that are already in place under state law to check the accuracy of elections. And meanwhile, Cyber Ninjas, the lead firm on the job, has never done anything like this before. And yet Republicans say they - this private company should be trusted. Leadership of the audit has, since it started over a month ago, blasted out explosive claims about deleted data by the county, which Trump and his supporters have picked up on only to be wrong. But that claim is out there still. So there's information leaking from the audit that is undermining confidence in the election process. And some Arizona lawmakers are proposing new ongoing election security funding, so these types of ongoing audits could become the norm.

MARTIN: Ben Giles of our member station KJZZ in Phoenix, thank you so much.

GILES: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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