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Arizona Republicans want to expand the controversial vote recount to all elections held in 2020

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Arizona
Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election on May 3, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. Courtney Pedroza for the Washington Post
  • The Arizona Senate is considering expanding its controversial audit of votes in Maricopa County.

  • An audit of ballots in last year's presidential and US Senate elections was launched in April.

  • Observers say the audit is shambolic and driven by conspiracy theories.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate is considering expanding its controversial audit of votes to all elections held in Maricopa County last year.

The Senate in April ordered a recount of votes in last year's presidential and US Senate elections in Arizona's most populous county on the basis of Donald Trump's groundless claim that last year's election was stolen from him as a result of mass fraud.

The recount, which is being conducted by contractors Cyber Ninjas, has been criticized by observers from the Arizona secretary of state's office as shambolic and inaccurate. They said auditors appeared to be seeking to verify conspiracy theories about last year's election using dubious technology.

Joe Biden flipped Arizona in his election win last year, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Arizona since 1991, and Democrat Mark Kelly was elected to the US Senate.

Ken Bennett, who is serving as the state Senate's audit liaison, told the Arizona Republic that the recount could be expanded to include all of the elections held in the county last year. As well as voting to elect the president and to fill one of its US Senate seats, voters in Arizona elected their representatives in the US House of Representatives and a slew of officials in state and municipal roles.

"We are looking with other companies to do a machine tabulation of all the races on the ballot to compare with the Dominion tabulation back in November," Bennet told the outlet.

"We will be looking at the images of all 2.1 million ballots."

Bennet told the publication that a California company which he did not name was being considered to conduct the audit. He added that it would not involve a physical recount of ballots like that being conducted by Cyber Ninjas but would involve digital images of ballots.

He appeared to be referencing groundless conspiracy theories spread by Trump and his allies that voting machines recorded millions of Trump votes for Biden last year as part of an elaborate plot to deprive Republicans of victory.

Dominion has issued a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against allies of Trump who were the most prominent backers of the allegation.

The result of the audits cannot be used to change the elections, but Republicans say will be used to ensure the integrity of future elections.

The recount of presidential and Senate election votes, which had been scheduled to be completed by May 14 but which may now drag on for months, was paused Friday so the venue where it is being conducted could be used for high school ceremonies.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobb and the US Justice Department have expressed concern about the recount currently being conducted.

"We already know this election was free from fraud," Hobbs told a CBS News interview Saturday, referencing audits that have already been conducted into last year's results. "This is unprecedented, and it's not sustainable to think this will be the future of how we handle elections."

The Republican official in charge of the elections department where a GOP-backed recount of the election is taking place lashed out at former president Donald Trump on Saturday.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer took to Twitter to refute a statement in which Trump repeated unsubstantiated claims about the election and claimed, without evidence, that the "entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!"

"Wow. This is unhinged. I'm literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now," Richer wrote. "We can't indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country."

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