'It makes us look like idiots': Some in GOP distance themselves from Arizona audit

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At least some Republicans in Arizona are admitting the conspiracy theory-fueled recount of millions of ballots in the state is embarrassing.

Weeks into the Republican-led audit of some 2.1 million votes from Arizona's 2020 presidential election, current and former Arizona GOP lawmakers are coming out to criticize the effort, saying the recount is turning into an embarrassing debacle for the party.

To date, the audit had mostly been met by criticism from Democrats and voting rights advocates. They have questioned the need for the recount, as two previous audits had found no fraud nor irregularities with the state's results. And they slammed the effort as partisan, run by a Donald Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist and violating election laws in order to prove Trump's lies of a stolen election.

But now Republicans are echoing those concerns, saying the mismanaged effort is making the party look bad.

"This week would be a good time for the Arizona State Senate to shut down the kangaroo audit," Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a Republican, tweeted Monday morning. "If not, it's time for the DOJ to turn it up a notch. This has become an embarrassment to our state and a danger to democracy."

Republican state Sen. Paul Boyer, who initially supported the audit, told the New York Times something similar.

"It makes us look like idiots," Boyer said. "Looking back, I didn't think it would be this ridiculous. It's embarrassing to be a state senator at this point."

Over the past week, the audit has run into numerous setbacks and negative press.

First, journalists observing the effort witnessed concerning violations. They witnessed everything from ballots not being properly secured, to a former Republican elected official — who both personally sought to overturn Trump's loss as well as attended the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the Capitol insurrection — counting ballots.

The observations led voting rights groups to alert the Department of Justice to their fears. And the DOJ appears to agree, sending a letter to state Senate President Karen Fann — who forced the audit in the first place — saying it's concerned the entire audit is in violation of federal election law.

Meanwhile, the audit is also severely behind schedule and facing eviction from the arena where the recount is being held, as it's long been booked for upcoming high school graduations in the state this year.

Other embarrassing news stories about the recount effort have emerged.

An official helping lead the audit said those counting ballots are looking for bamboo fibers to prove a racist conspiracy theory that tens of thousands of ballots were flown in from Asia. Counters were also seen using ultraviolet lights to search for watermarks on ballots — again seeking to prove a debunked conspiracy theory, this one launched in QAnon circles.

And Republican Gov. Doug Ducey had to assign Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs security from the Arizona Department of Public Safety after she's faced death threats for her criticism of the audit.

"Earlier today a man called my office saying I deserve to die and wanting to know 'what she is wearing so she’ll be easy to get.' It was one of at least three such threats today. Then a man who I've never seen before chased me and my staffer outside of our office," Hobbs tweeted on May 6. "The @ArizonaAudit and its far-right allies know their rhetoric will lead to this. They are complicit."

The bad news has led officials like Boyer to criticize the effort.

"Your average citizen says this is turning into a mockery," Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri, a Republican, told the Arizona Republic of the audit. "I just don't know who's in charge or how it's going. ... I'm not sure this is giving people confidence."

Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) also raised concerns about the effort in an interview with the Arizona Republic.

"It is always the case that when there are serious controversies within a political party, it doesn’t do the party any good," Kyl said. "And I think the divisions within the Republican Party will not reflect well on the party's chances of success in the next election. That's pretty obvious."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.