Maricopa County officials call for end to election audit

The mostly Republican board of supervisors in the largest county in Arizona are calling for an end to the highly unusual post-election audit of ballots there. Jim Nintzel, the executive editor for Tucson Weekly, joined CBSN's "Red and Blue" with more on the controversy in Maricopa County.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: Republicans in Arizona's largest county are calling for an end to an audit of the 2020 election there. More than two million ballots are under review in Maricopa County. The GOP-dominated County Board of Supervisors says the process has left Arizona a, quote, "laughingstock."

Republicans in the state Senate ordered the hand recount last month. Previous audits found no issues, and President Biden's victory there by more than 10,000 votes has already been certified. For more on all of this, I want to bring in Jim Nintzel. He is the executive editor for "Tucson Weekly." Hi there, Jim.

Boy, I feel like we need, like, a telestrator to keep track of what is happening there and all the twists and turns with this story. First of all, why is the Republican-led Maricopa County BOARD of Elections now calling for an end to the audit of the election results?

JIM NINTZEL: Well, the County Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, which as you just pointed out, is a 4-1 Republican body, never was excited about doing this particular audit. They had done their own audits after the elections that involved taking a batch of ballots, and running them through the machine, and then hand-counting them, and seeing if the numbers match up.

And there's a big-- they feel like this thing is being run by people who are completely unqualified to be running a audit of an election. In fact, a lot of people out here are calling it the fraudit. The folks who are behind this thing were hired by the Arizona Senate. There was not much interest in coming in and doing this particular job when they reached out to try to find someone who would do it.

But they found an organization out of Florida called the Cyber Ninjas, and they're led by a fellow named Doug Logan, who had sent out some tweets expressing his own belief that this election was fraudulent. So there's concern that he is not an objective person to be running the audit in the first place. They've never done anything like this.

And last week, things really blew up when they announced-- the Twitter account of the audit announced that Maricopa County had deleted a database out of the server that they turned over to the auditors. Maricopa County said, no, we did not delete the server or any files.

They went ahead and showed what the Cyber Ninjas had messed up. Apparently, the Cyber Ninjas had not properly set up the disk that they cloned the server onto, and that's why they had trouble finding these files. And now they're saying this group is completely incompetent, they want nothing more to do with them, and there's a big throwdown between these two bodies.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So, Jim, multiple state audits, as we said, previously found no irregularities regarding the 2020 election. So remind us why this review is even happening in the first place.

JIM NINTZEL: Well, a large number of Republicans in the state of Arizona-- there was a survey recently that suggested 78% of Republicans feel as though there were irregularities in the election that led to Joe Biden winning the election. So the Republicans are trying to placate-- the Republicans in the Arizona Senate are trying to placate their base by coming forward with this thing.

But the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, on the other hand, has been through this. They say everything was fine. They found no irregularities with the audits that they've done. And they don't understand the techniques that are being used in this audit. They're looking through ultraviolet lights to try to see if there are water marks on the ballot, they're looking for bamboo in the paper to see if somehow an Asian country sent 40,000 ballots in to twist the results in Joe Biden's direction.

There's a lot of very crazy theories that are being looked into by this group. They're not allowing a lot of press access. They're not explaining their policies and procedures. And the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors just feels like the entire thing is amateur hour. These folks don't know what they're doing. And there's no reason to continue doing this.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So, Jim, what does it look like is going to happen next?

JIM NINTZEL: Well, right now, they had to take a break from doing this because they had set up in a former basketball arena, and it turns out they had already reserved space in there for a graduation ceremony. So halfway through this process, which was supposed to be done a week ago, they had to pack up all the boxes and secure them.

And so they're going to get back to work next week. They're going to continue down this line. The Senate President Karen Fann keeps insisting that this is completely legitimate, despite the criticism that's coming out of this. You have a lot of Republicans who believe it is legitimate, and these calls to stop it are just being made because folks are afraid of what might be discovered on the other side of it, or folks who say, this is undermining the entire integrity of the election, that these guys are going to make crazy accusations, as they did last week, and it's all being used as a basis to support a bunch of voter suppression laws that are currently underway in the Arizona legislature.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, well, clearly, a lot of folks paying very close attention to what happens with this recount-- Jim Nintzel. Jim, thank you very much.

JIM NINTZEL: Thank you, Elaine.