The Maricopa County 2020 election audit, published Sept. 24, confirmed there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election in Arizona. Ballots were reviewed by cybersecurity company Cyber Ninjas through a hand recount.
Members of ASU Young Democrats and ASU College Republicans condemned the audit and warned it set a dangerous precedent for future elections.
Cameron Adams, president of ASU Young Democrats and a senior majoring in global studies, said the audit was unnecessary and it undermined faith in election integrity.
"I think it's a sham," Adams said. "It's just doing a disservice because our local elections already have such low turnout, and I think if people don't trust the election process at the local level, then that will just go down even more."
James Strickland, an assistant professor at ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies, also expressed concerns that the audit could harm turnout by perpetuating voter fraud myths.
"I could imagine this having a negative effect on voter turnout," Strickland said. "It is kind of an extra step to introduce this idea that the vote itself does not matter, even for determining the outcome."
Strickland questioned the Arizona Republican Party's motives for conducting the audit and suggested Republicans may be yielding to political pressure from voters who believe the election was stolen despite evidence to the contrary.
According to a poll conducted by Yahoo News and YouGov in July and August 2021, around two-thirds of Republicans believe Donald Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. There is no evidence to support this claim.
"One of the lessons that I teach in American politics courses is that if elected officials want to get reelected, if they like their job, then they have to at least be active or publicly appear to be active on issues that people are thinking of," Strickland said. "That would seem to suggest that's part of the motivation for why we would see an audit be conducted in the first place."
The audit cost nearly $6 million. Although the audit was sanctioned by the Arizona State Senate, spending $150,000 on the effort, the vast majority of funding came from pro-Trump organizations, including those led by Trump's former adviser Michael Flynn.
Strickland said private funding of state audits is a source of concern because it entrusts government information to private companies.
"I've always had concerns about how private funds could be used to investigate public documents such as ballots," Strickland said.
Cyber Ninjas' CEO Doug Logan has promoted disproven conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen, which raised concerns about Cyber Ninjas' impartiality. During his testimony to the Arizona Senate, Logan provided a skewed analysis of the data and claimed election results were deleted from Maricopa County's computer systems. The Associated Press promptly debunked these claims.
However, Logan did confirm that President Biden won Arizona.
Arjun Rondla, secretary for ASU College Republicans and a junior majoring in political science, said Biden won the 2020 election and the amount of time and money spent on the audit is unacceptable.
"It's OK to audit the election. But the audit needs to be done by competent auditors, which there are only a few in the country," Rondla said. "Cyber Ninjas haven't demonstrated themselves as competent auditors."
The audit will be reviewed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the Attorney General's election integrity unit.
Arjun Rondla is a former State Press columnist and did not participate in the reporting of this article.
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