Cross-partisan experts agree that the 2020 election was among the most secure and successful in modern American history. Arizona was no exception—historic numbers of Arizona voters exercised their fundamental right to vote. Since 1991, Arizona voters have been voting by mail, and mail in voting now accounts for more than 80% of all the votes. No one has credibly claimed fraud in those decades of mail-in voting. In a year that has been difficult on so many fronts, Arizonans—no matter their political party—should be congratulating our hard-working election officials on a job well done and celebrating our democracy.
Instead, in an effort to undermine trust in the election’s outcome, many continue to repeat the falsehood that the presidential election was fraudulent. Disappointingly, some of my former colleagues in the Arizona Senate have fed this narrative and have subpoenaed 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots and election equipment for yet another audit. Superior Court Judge Timothy J. Thomason recently upheld the legal validity—if not the wisdom—of those subpoenas.
There is no reason for the Senate to spend taxpayer money to engage in another audit. Multiple audits have already shown that there were no irregularities in Maricopa County. And multiple lawsuits were unable to provide any evidence of fraud. Arizona’s own Republican Attorney General and Governor also recognized that Arizona’s 2020 elections were legitimate, as did the Republicans on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
However, if the Senate insists on continuing down this path and proceeds to conduct an additional audit or recount, it is essential that they do so in a way that protects the voters’ privacy and the integrity and security of the subpoenaed ballots and election equipment, and follows Arizona’s existing requirements surrounding audits and recounts. The Senate must also select an independent, reputable, unbiased organization to administer the audit. This is the only way to keep the public’s trust, ensure the integrity of the audit, and protect the privacy of Maricopa County voters.
Fortunately, the Senate seems to recognize these concerns. Following the ruling by Judge Thomason, Maricopa County prepared to comply with the subpoena by packing and loading onto a truck all 2.1 million ballots. The Senate realized that it had no plans for securely handling that volume of material. The parties now appear to be in an odd stand-off, with the County ready to deliver the ballots and the Senate unable to accept them.
The Senate should not accept delivery of the ballots unless and until it can ensure compliance with the existing Arizona rules for handling and auditing ballots. These rules require, for example, that audits be done by members of two different political parties while a live camera feed is running. It also requires procedures ensuring chain of custody and an access log. The Senate must share with the public all procedures it plans to follow to ensure ballot security, and must ensure public access to the audit to the fullest extent possible. Finally, to ensure the perception of an unbiased audit, the Senate should not associate itself with discredited and biased auditors. Anyone who has publicly perpetuated unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election must be disqualified as biased.
Forgoing these safeguards will undermine the public’s trust in the audit’s outcome and the election—supposedly the very goal of this audit. It will also needlessly put the privacy of the 2.1 million Maricopa residents who voted in 2020 at risk.
You might disagree with me, but as our former Senator Barry Goldwater used to say, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Though Joe Biden may not have been your candidate of choice, the election is over. Any audit must follow existing Arizona requirements, be impartial, and protect voters’ privacy. If the Senate cannot abide by those requirements, it should drop its subpoena and move on from the 2020 election.
Bob Worsley is a former Senator who represented Legislative District 13.