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Electors cast Arizona's 11 votes for Democrat Biden as GOP "gestures," complaints go on

Arizona's electoral votes were cast Monday for Biden amid theatrical political gestures and a state Senate committee hearing that results in subpoenas of vote-counting equipment

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PHOENIX — Arizona’s 11 Democratic electors cast their votes Monday for President-elect Joe Biden, even as the chairman of a state Senate panel said he will issue subpoenas to check the accuracy of hardware and software used here in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said there were enough questions raised, in testimony Monday before his Senate Judiciary Committee, about whether the Dominion Voting Systems used in Maricopa County produced reliable results.

It’s unlikely that anything an audit turns up would affect the election results, however.

That would require either a court ruling overturning the results — something multiple judges have declined to do, saying they found no evidence to warrant it — or the full Legislature trying to pick its own slate of electors.

Both Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers have said there doesn’t appear to be a legal way to do the latter, even assuming lawmakers could call themselves into special session before Jan. 6 when Congress counts the electoral votes.

Even Farnsworth suggested the subpoenas are simply a matter of addressing the various claims “and try and see if we can reinsert some confidence in our election process.”

“We hold an audit and we see what the outcome is,” he said. “And then we can put this to rest.” He said the subpoenas could be issued as early as Tuesday, Dec. 15.

All this comes as the official slate of electors — the ones pledged to Biden, who won Arizona’s popular vote — cast their votes, and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent off the results to Congress and the National Archives.

Unofficial “slates” jump in

That did not stop two other groups from filing reports that their own, unofficial “electors” had met and were supporting President Trump.

One group consists of the 11 Arizona Republicans whose names were on the Nov. 3 ballot as pledged to Trump.

That vote Monday was organized by the state GOP on the premise that outstanding legal challenges could end up changing Arizona’s final vote total in the presidential election.

Kelli Ward, the party chair, is a litigant in two pending legal cases, as she was in another that a trial judge and the Arizona Supreme Court already found had no merit.

Ward said that having the Trump-pledged electors vote on Monday, the date set in federal law, sends a slate of GOP electors to Congress should the cases go her way or if Congress decides to count their votes instead of Biden’s.

That’s a meaningless “political gesture,” said Hobbs’ aide Murphy Hebert.

Congress can acknowledge only those electors whose votes are accompanied by “letters of ascertainment” signed by Hobbs and Gov. Doug Ducey, Hebert said.

Separately, a group of self-proclaimed “sovereign citizens” filed their own slate of “electors” with the National Archives, claiming they represent Arizona’s 11 electoral votes for Trump.

Documents say Mesa resident Lori Osiecki submitted sworn statements for the 11 people “by authority & direction of the sovereign citizens of the great state of Arizona.”

That came complete with use of the official state seal, which in and of itself violates the law, Hebert said.

“We absolutely anticipated there would be efforts to disrupt the system like this,” Hebert said. But she said the “votes” sent to Washington by the unofficial slates amount to political theater.

“The statute is very, very clear: The slate of electors for the candidate with the most number of votes in the popular vote are the ones who represent the state in the Electoral College vote,” she said.

And these were the 11 Democrats who took the official oath of office Monday morning and signed the certificate of votes for Biden.

One thing different this year is that the process, normally a routine action with little public attention, was moved from the state Capitol to the Phoenix Convention Center because of security concerns. The location was not made public ahead of the event amid those concerns, including threats of violence against Hobbs and other staffers in her office and fears protesters might seek to disrupt the voting.

Lawmakers hold hearing

At the same time, the state Senate Judiciary Committee was focused on Dominion Voting Systems, used in the state’s largest county.

Some Trump supporters have contended here and nationally that the equipment and software were deliberately programmed to deliver more votes for Biden.

None of those complaints has been found valid by any court anywhere in the nation.

But that didn’t stop some Arizona lawmakers from saying there needs to be an independent audit and even a full hand count of all ballots.

Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, is one of those who wants that 100% hand count. In Monday’s committee testimony, he got Maricopa County Elections Director Scott Jarrett to acknowledge that Dominion workers had 24/7 access to his office and, in certain circumstances, to the equipment.

But Jarrett said there is no way to alter the codes in a way that would change the outcome.

He said security starts with “logic and accuracy” tests of the equipment, both before and after the election.

Those would not only capture any change made in the software, but the program is built in a way so that any change would render the results “not readable,” Jarrett said.

The equipment itself, he said, is also subject to independent certification by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Jarrett pointed out that state law requires an actual hand count of a random sample of ballots, both those mailed in early and those cast on Election Day.

He said the batches to be sampled and the elections to be reviewed are chosen by officials from both political parties.

And of the more than 47,000 ballots checked by hand, there was not a single vote difference from what was recorded by the equipment.

“These hand counts are an independent audit,” Jarrett told lawmakers. And he said they showed the equipment worked as expected.

Farnsworth was not convinced.

“I do have a concern that the county is taking the position that it just can’t happen,” he said. “There is a litany of white-collar crimes, digital crimes in the history of this country and this world of some very sophisticated people and the victims didn’t recognize it until some future time. I think it’s really, really dangerous for us to say, ‘It can’t happen.’”

Jarrett also said that, despite rumors to the contrary, there were not late “spikes” of votes for Biden. In fact, he said, the reverse was in some ways true, with Biden having a big lead among the first ballots counted and the later-counted ballots swinging for Trump.

Farnsworth also complained that it’s possible for people who are not U.S. citizens to have voted in the presidential race.

Arizona does require proof of citizenship to register to vote.

But a federal law spells out that people without such proof can use a registration form prepared by the Election Assistance Commission, one that has no such requirement. And those who do not provide citizenship proof can vote in federal elections, including for president and members of Congress.

Jarrett acknowledged that more than 3,000 such “federal-only” ballots were cast in Maricopa County, people who he acknowledged might not be U.S. citizens.

That didn’t affect the outcome — Trump lost Maricopa County by about 45,000 votes — but it did anger Farnsworth.

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