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Electors vote as lawmakers hold hearing on election

Stephen Roe Lewis, a member of Arizona's Electoral College, signs his name to the Arizona Presidential Electoral Ballot, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Stephen Roe Lewis, a member of Arizona’s Electoral College, signs his name to the Arizona Presidential Electoral Ballot, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Arizona’s 11 Democrat electors cast their votes Monday for Joe Biden even as the chairman of a Senate panel said he will issue subpoenas to check the accuracy of hardware and software that gave the Democrat the edge over President Trump.

Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said there are enough questions raised about whether the Dominion Voting Systems used in Maricopa County produced reliable results.

The announcement followed more than six hours of testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee which led to a series of questions about whether the results can be trusted. And as Farnsworth said, that doesn’t even address other allegations that ballots were not properly handled and that observers from political parties did not have sufficient access to oversee what was going on.

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

That would require either a court ruling overturning the results — something multiple judges have so far refused to do — or the full legislature trying to pick its own slate of electors. But both Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers have said there does not appear to be a legal way to do that, even assuming lawmakers could call themselves into special session before Jan. 6 when Congress counts the electoral votes.

Even Farnsworth, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, suggested that this was simply a matter of addressing the various claims and doubts “and try and see if we can reinsert some confidence in our election process.”

Eddie Farnsworth

Eddie Farnsworth

“We hold and audit and we see what the outcome is,” he said. “And then we can put this to rest.”

Farnsworth said the subpoenas could be issued as early as Tuesday.

All this comes as the official slate of electors — the ones pledged to Biden — cast their votes and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent off the results to both Congress and the National Archives.

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

One group consists of the 11 Republicans whose names were on the ballot as pledged to Trump, who lost the popular vote according to the certified results.

That vote was organized by the state GOP on the premise that those outstanding legal challenges to the Arizona tally could end up changing the final vote total. In essence, Kelli Ward, the party chair who is a litigant in both pending cases, believes that having the Trump-pledged electors voting on Monday — the date set in federal law — sends a slate of GOP electors to Congress should the cases go their way or Congress decides that their votes are the ones that should be counted and not those pledged to Biden.

But Hobbs aide Murphy Hebert said that’s meaningless.

“It’s clearly a political gesture,” she said. Hebert said Congress can acknowledge only those electors whose votes are accompanied by “letters of ascertainment” signed by Hobbs and Gov. Doug Ducey.

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

Documents obtained by Capitol Media Services show that 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 comes complete with the use of the official state seal which in and of itself Hebert said is itself a violation of the law.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs removes her face mask as she addresses the members of Arizona's Electoral College prior to them casting their votes Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs removes her face mask as she addresses the members of Arizona’s Electoral College prior to them casting their votes Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

“We absolutely anticipated there would be efforts to disrupt the system like this,” Hebert said. But she said the actual “votes” sent to Washington amount to little more than 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.

And what of the “votes” sent off on behalf of either slate of 11 Republicans?

“Anybody can send a letter to the National Archives,” Hobbs said.

At the same time members of the Senate Judiciary were focused on Dominion Voting Systems used in the state’s largest county.

There have been a series of charges leveled against the company both here and nationally that the equipment and software were deliberately programmed to deliver more votes for Biden.

None of those complaints have been found valid by any court anywhere in the nation. But that didn’t stop lawmakers from asking and saying that there needs to be an independent audit and even a full hand count of all the ballots.

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

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

Members of Arizona's Electoral College are sworn in prior to casting their votes Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Members of Arizona’s Electoral College are sworn in prior to casting their votes Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

He said it starts with “logic and accuracy” test of the equipment, both before and after the election. Jarrett said that would not only capture any change made in the software but that the program is built in a way so that any change would render the results “not readable.”

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

More to the point, 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,” Farnsworth said. “I think it’s really, really dangerous for us to say, ‘It can’t happen.’ ”

That sentiment was echoed by Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City. He said even the operating manual for Dominion software suggests “data can be changed and votes switched around.”

“Nothing’s 100% secure,” he said. “If people want to cheat they’re going to cheat.”

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 angered Farnsworth.

“That is harmful, detrimental, undercuts,” he said.

“And it is outrageous that we have that kind of a mandate from Congress,” Farnsworth said. “It challenges the very sovereignty of this country, in my opinion.”

Jarrett also defended against claims that observers from political parties could not get close enough to really monitor what was going on in both the process to check signatures on early ballot envelopes and in the actual counting. He acknowledged, though, that there were efforts to keep observers at least six feet from election workers amid fears of COVID-19.

He also said that, despite rumors to the contrary, there were not late “spikes” of votes for Biden. In fact, Jarrett 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.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised twice to include information as it developed. 

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