After Arizona, election audits become a GOP rallying cry for 2022 races

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Republican candidates around the nation are taking up the banner of election audits as a way to connect with GOP primary voters in 2022, in the wake of Arizona’s long-awaited review of the 2020 presidential election.

From Ohio to Texas, candidates are eager to claim the mantle of election integrity and earn the support of former President Donald Trump.

Josh Mandel, a Republican who’s running for a Senate seat in Ohio, is making sure voters know that he wants Arizona to “decertify” its 2020 election results, which showed President Biden won there.

“On Election Day the Arizona officials falsely claimed that Trump lost by 10,457 votes,” Mr. Mandel tweeted. He said the audit of Maricopa County’s results showed “44,000 possibly illegal ballots cast.”

One of Mr. Mandel’s GOP rivals for the Senate seat in Ohio, Jane Timken, also weighed in about the results of the election 10 months ago in Arizona, a state two time zones away. She said Arizona’s “discrepancies are deeply troubling as to the integrity of our elections and demand action. It is vital that only election results based on legal votes are certified.”

It’s a message for 2022 that the Republican base is ready to hear. According to a September CNN poll, 78% of Republicans said Mr. Biden did not win and 54% say there is evidence to back up their belief.

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll in early August found that 66% of Republicans believe “the election was rigged and stolen from Trump,” while just 18% believe “Joe Biden won fair and square.”

The audit of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County, Arizona, showed Friday that Mr.  Biden defeated Mr. Trump by slightly more votes than were certified in last year’s official count, although Republican leaders said the review raises significant concerns of voter fraud and election security.

The audit conducted by the firm Cyber Ninjas showed that Mr. BIden won the county by 45,469 votes, 360 more votes than the 45,109-vote margin originally certified. State Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, said the review revealed that election laws were broken, and she referred the report to state Attorney General Mark Brnovich for possible action.

“We had a number of issues, which is why people question the ballots in the election,” Ms. Fann said. “What this is all about is making sure your vote counts.”

Mr. Brnovich has said he will “take all necessary actions that are supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority.”

Mr. Trump told enthusiastic supporters at a rally in Perry, Georgia on Saturday night that the audit verified his claims that he actually won in Arizona. He pointed to findings of more than 20,000 ballots that allegedly were cast by people who no longer lived in the state.

“You have more than 10,000 votes that I ‘lost’ by,” Mr. Trump said. He also cited the audit’s allegations that there were inconsistencies related to mail-in balloting and potential duplicate ballots.

Beyond the Arizona results, the former president made clear he and his supporters will keep pressing for election audits of the 2020 results in other states as part of the Republicans’ campaign for 2022.

“I bring voter fraud to the forefront to save our nation from corrupt elections and to make sure this never, ever happens again,” Mr. Trump said.

One of those states he’s targeting is Georgia, which Mr. Biden also won narrowly last year.

Mr. Trump attacked Georgia Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Gov. Brian Kemp, all Republicans who dismissed Mr. Trump’s unproven claims.

“They ignored monumental evidence of rampant fraud,” Mr. Trump said, alleging scores of duplicate and missing ballots in Georgia, where he was the first Republican presidential candidate to lose the state in three decades.

The candidates Mr. Trump promoted included U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who is running for secretary of state in Georgia, and state Sen. Burt Jones, who is vying for lieutenant governor. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker, Ms. Hice and Mr. Jones have echoed Mr. Trump‘s claims of voter fraud.

Mr. Hice, a four-term House Republican, accused Mr. Raffensperger of diminishing peoples’ confidence in the state’s elections.

“It is my deep conviction that Brad Raffensperger has massively compromised the right of the people at the ballot box,” Mr. Hice said. “He has opened wide the door for all sorts of irregularities and fraud to march into our election system and it is time that we take charge of this.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who also appeared at the rally, called for her state to conduct its own audit of the 2020 election.

Trump won Georgia, and that’s why I’m calling for an audit in Georgia. It’s time to do it. No more excuses,” Mrs. Greene said.

Republican Vernon Jones, who’s running for governor in Georgia, said the state should follow Arizona’s lead.

“After reviewing the newly released Maricopa County audit, there is no reason why the same audit should not happen in Georgia,” Mr. Jones said. “Governor Kemp, no more stonewalling. Do the right thing and call for a 159 county independent forensic audit. The voters of Georgia deserve a free, fair and transparent election. Let’s get on with the audit so the truth can prevail.”

There are election reviews in other swing states that Mr. Trump lost in 2020.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro sued last week to block a Republican-backed subpoena to state election officials in what the GOP calls a “forensic investigation” of the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Shapiro called the Republicans’ audit efforts “a sham” and said he will do “everything within our power to protect Pennsylvanians’ personal [voter] data.”

Republican state Sen. Cris Dush said the voter information is necessary, for example, to investigate allegations that voters were registered as living in a condemned building. Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman alleged that the attorney general “wants to stop us from performing our constitutional duty of providing oversight of the executive branch.”

Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Trump in Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes in the 2020 election.

In Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden won by more than 20,000 votes, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has authorized a review by GOP lawyer Michael Gableman of the election results. He wants Mr. Gableman to conclude his work by the end of October, so any legislation could be considered this year.  

The chairman of the Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Republican Party said he hopes the results from the Arizona audit will cause the Wisconsin GOP to stop focusing on the “nonsense” of 2020 election and instead work on 2022.

“Right now GOP effort is hacking off Republican Clerks, and alienating soft GOP voters who think we’re nuts and wasting their tax dollars,” Chairman Rohn Bishop tweeted.

Perhaps the most surprising election audit to spring up was in Texas, where Mr. Trump won comfortably in 2020. Texas officials announced an audit last week of four counties, after Mr. Trump pressed Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for the action.

Mr. Abbott is facing a primary challenge next year from Don Huffines, who has been endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Mr. Trump had called on Mr. Abbott to conduct an audit of the Texas election last week, saying “your citizens don’t trust the election system.”

The audited counties will include Democratic strongholds around Houston and Dallas, as well as Tarrant County, a traditionally GOP-led county what went for Mr. Biden last year.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected Democratic official, criticized the move.

Donald Trump ordered Gov. Abbott to audit the 2020 Texas election and, like clockwork, TX just initiated an audit of Harris County voters. Democracy isn’t a game,” Judge Hidalgo tweeted. “These fake audits are an affront to all voters, & pure pandering to the kinds of extremists that stormed our Capitol.”

Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, called the Texas audit “a gross abuse of power.”

Trump demands an audit and Abbott’s appointee immediately announces a bogus one—with no evidence of fraud,” Mr.  Castro tweeted. “Abbott is so afraid of losing his primary that he’s governing our state based on the whims and lies of Donald Trump.”

In Arizona, the audit also has exposed rifts in the state GOP. Maricopa County Republicans are calling on Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward to resign, following the release of the election audit.

County Supervisor Clint Hickman urged Gov. Doug Ducey and other top state officials to call on Mrs. Ward to leave her position.

“She has caused a fracture in our party. She has operated outside of it for the purpose of helping herself,” Mr. Hickman said Friday in an interview with KTAR News.

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