IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Mike Broomhead The Arizona election audit cannot accomplish its stated goals. It's time to focus on the future.

I respect my state's Republican leaders and their intentions in starting the process. But the audit has gotten out of hand and is now hurting the party.
A contractor working for Cyber Ninjas transports ballots from the 2020 general election during an audit on May 1, 2021, in Phoenix.
A contractor working for Cyber Ninjas transports ballots from the 2020 general election during an audit on May 1, 2021, in Phoenix.Courtney Pedroza / Getty Images file

I am a Republican, a two-time Donald Trump voter and a resident of Maricopa County, Arizona. Although I didn’t believe the 2020 election was stolen, there were many voters on my side who did.

There is plenty of doubt on both sides of the aisle about the integrity of our election system: Many Democrats often said the 2016 election was rigged as a result of “Russian collusion.” Hillary Clinton has repeatedly said it was stolen and wrote as much in her book about the 2016 campaign, while Stacey Abrams still refuses to admit her race for governor of Georgia wasn’t stolen from her.

So I had no issue with the Arizona Senate performing its own audit of the 2020 elections in Maricopa County — a fair, thorough and transparent audit — based on the criteria it laid out in December. The goal, we were repeatedly told then, was “to verify the machines did what they are supposed to do,” according to Senate President Karen Fann, and to “restore confidence that the election was held free of ‘tampering, manipulation and fraud,’” as then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth said.

I also have the utmost respect for many of the people involved in the audit.

But from the start of the actual audit process, there were things happening that should have concerned everyone who is concerned with restoring confidence in our system and making sure there was no tampering, manipulation or fraud.

If the Democrats in Arizona had done any, let alone all, of the same things after losing a statewide election here, I — and every Republican — would be screaming for their audit to be shut down, too.

They hired a company to lead the audit that has little to no experience in election audits and has a predisposed belief that the election was stolen. That company gave volunteers blue ink pens for their auditing when that color ink was not supposed to be near ballots — only red ink pens are.

Then we found out the auditors were using ultraviolet lights and special cameras apparently to chase down rumors spread on social media that there were Trump watermarks on the “real” ballots (there were not) and that as many as 40,000 illegal ballots shipped in from Asia were identifiable by bamboo fibers (there were not, and none were found).

When asked about this, audit leaders said they were “busting myths.”

Finally, one of the key concerns animating the Senate’s desire for an audit at the end of 2020 was the question of whether any ballot machines had been connected to the internet, which would have been a serious security breach. The Senate subpoenaed the county’s routers for forensic testing, but the sheriff (a Democrat) and the county attorney (a Republican) both refused for fear of hackers getting access to sensitive data; an independent audit conducted for the county showed that the election equipment had never been connected to the internet.

However, a short time after the audit began, observers from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office found a wireless router connected to the audit servers. The auditors said it was never connected to the internet, and they promised to make it available for forensic testing. (It’s unclear if they have done so to date.) At the very least, it was a huge optics mistake to have a router there.

If the Democrats in Arizona had done any, let alone all, of the same things after losing a statewide election here, I — and every Republican — would be screaming for their audit to be shut down, too.

I think the auditors have missed the goal of convincing the public that it is a thorough and unbiased audit.

One of those 2.1 million ballots being scrutinized for bamboo fibers, mysterious watermarks and my paper-folding methodology is mine. I am — and we all should be — concerned when anyone is handling or running tests on our ballots. I never have and never will question the integrity of the Arizonans involved in trying, after four years of questions about election integrity, to settle these questions once and for all. But we all should question the practices that are being employed.

The auditors had to pause the audit for around a week because their lease was up. If they wanted to instill confidence in the audit, they could have used that time to give the public a report of what they found — or didn’t find — up to that point. A midpoint report of findings would have gone a long way to show people like me that this was all happening in good faith and could achieve its goals. For instance, a law enforcement officer given a surveillance warrant by a judge has to give periodic reports to the judge that the surveillance is bearing fruit or else the judge will not allow the surveillance to continue.

But now, I think the auditors have missed the goal of convincing the public that it is a thorough and unbiased audit.

I mentioned my respect for those Arizonans involved in the audit; the same respect should be given to those Arizonans opposing it. In order to believe that the 2020 election was stolen and is being covered up, one has to believe that the Maricopa County attorney, the Maricopa County sheriff, the current and former Maricopa County recorders and the entire Maricopa Board of Supervisors are all in on it. (They are not.)

It is also my belief that, with the 2022 elections fast approaching and six very important statewide races happening — governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, the superintendent of public instruction and Sen. Mark Kelly’s seat — this audit has become a huge source of division within the Republican Party and taken up valuable time and money that could be have been used in those six (and all other) races.

Sadly, right now instead of Republicans focusing on fighting together to defeat Democrats in 2022, there is this internal battle going on. We have seen the Democrats reduce the majority in the state House and Senate to one seat each. The majority of the Arizona House members in D.C. are Democrats and both of our Senators are Democrats.

I want what is best for my state: I am an Arizonan and an American before I am a Republican. And so I have to now oppose this audit.

Every American deserves an election system that is fair and to have confidence in the results of that system. The audit of the Maricopa County elections may have been intended to accomplish that in the beginning, but it has definitely fallen far short of that goal. I don’t believe it will now convince anyone who isn’t already convinced either that the election was stolen or that the election was unbiased, thorough or fair.

I hope for all of Arizona that we can start to mend fences, focus on 2022 and move forward.