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'Dangerous territory': ASU College Republicans condemn election audit practices

Questionable tactics and validity concerns surrounding the Maricopa County election audit are further dividing the party, members of the GOP group say


"ASU College Republicans logo." Graphic published on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.

Members of ASU College Republicans stood against the audit of the 2020 election ballots in Maricopa County, calling its motive — find fraudulent ballots after the results were already counted and verified — "unproductive" and "unacceptable."

The audit began on April 23 after the Arizona Senate was granted custody of Maricopa County's 2.1 million ballots to search for any trace of fraud in the election where President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by 45,109 votes. 

The audit, spearheaded by the private Florida-based technology company Cyber Ninjas, has no confirmed end date and has made national headlines for its credibility issues and spread of misinformation. 

The questionable tactics of the audit have created disillusionment among young Republicans who believe it won't change the outcome of the 2020 election.

"Even if this audit were to show Donald Trump won Arizona by 100%, Joe Biden is still the president and Joe Biden still has 295 electors, so nothing's changing," said Joe Pitts, the president of ASU College Republicans, which endorsed Trump in the 2020 election. "It's unproductive to kid ourselves about that."

Arizona has 11 electoral votes, and even if those votes went to Trump as a result of the audit, Joe Biden would still be well over the 270-vote threshold for victory.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, called the audit "unhinged" on Twitter after Trump spread misinformation from the audit's Twitter account claiming that Maricopa County officials had deleted voter registration databases.

"(When) there were people accusing one side and another of deleting databases when they had evidence that they didn't, I knew that this was entering dangerous territory," said Cohlton Kieffer, a board member of ASU College Republicans.

Members of ASU College Republicans are concerned the Maricopa County audit will create a negative opinion of election audits that are done routinely to ensure the security of elections.

"In theory, an audit would not really discover any fraud, it would only serve to improve confidence in the elections," said Arjun Rondla, the secretary of ASU College Republicans. 

Rondla and Kieffer, both juniors studying political science, cited elections equipment audits conducted by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as examples of routine audits that help dispel misinformation about the security of elections. 

"It's unacceptable that such a large number of people, for whatever reason, don't have confidence in our elections, but for there to be an audit done, it has to be done by people who know what they're doing," Rondla said. Cyber Ninjas, which was hired by the Arizona Senate, did not have any past record or experience in election auditing. 

Additionally, ASU College Republicans is worried the divisiveness caused by the audit will have a negative impact on the party's ability to flip seats in 2022. 

"2022 is going to be such a crucial year for the Republican party that everyone is going to need to be together and united in some way," Kieffer said.

The club has faced fractures similar to those seen at the national level over Trump and his policies. 

In 2018, members of ASU College Republicans broke away from the club to start College Republicans United, a controversial group that has a history of racist and antisemitic comments and has promoted claims of election fraud.

Pitts, a junior studying management, said he is concerned the audit is feeding into those schisms in the party, but he believes it's important to address conspiracy theories head-on in order to create a united Republican front in 2022.

"You're not going to (unite them) by calling them names and calling them conspiracy theorists, you're going to do it by going to town hall meetings and going to your legislative district meetings and talking about these issues in depth," Pitts said.

ASU College Republicans will continue looking for ways to address concerns about election fraud and security while preparing for the 2022 election cycle.

"The solution to (this) is a bipartisan issue, and I think there's a lot of opportunity going forward with both parties to work on it," Kieffer said. "I'm really looking forward to 2022 for the Republican Party, and I hope we can use this year as a reflection of how we can better the party itself going forward."

Editor's Note: Arjun Rondla is a former columnist for The State Press. Rondla did not contribute to the writing or editing of this article.

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Reagan PriestManaging Editor

Reagan Priest is a managing editor, overseeing and working with the six digital desks at The State Press. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.

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