WaPo: Arizona ballot review will show Biden won -- by a larger margin

AP Photo/Ben Gray

Arizona’s six-month recount/audit project will prove an expensive bust, reports the Washington Post, and confirm that Joe Biden really did win Arizona by more than first reported. Not by a much larger margin — just 360 votes over the initial count, barely a blip in the 2.1 million ballots reviewed. Still, that wasn’t the direction that Donald Trump supporters expected from the Arizona recount commissioned by the Republican state senate:

A Republican-commissioned review of nearly 2.1 million ballots cast last year in Arizona confirmed the accuracy of the official results and President Biden’s win in Maricopa County, according to a draft report prepared by private contractors who conducted the recount.

The draft was obtained by The Washington Post late Thursday night in advance of a planned public release of a final version on Friday.

The ultimate findings will cap a costly and drawn-out recount launched by the GOP-led Arizona Senate that had been championed by former president Donald Trump and kept alive false claims that fraud tainted the election in the state’s most populous county. The process was pilloried by election experts who warned that the methods used by the firm hired to run the review were sloppy and biased.

After nearly six months and almost $6 million — most of it given by groups that cast doubt on the election results — the draft report shows that the review concluded that 45,469 more ballots were cast for Biden in Maricopa County than for Trump, widening Biden’s margin by 360 more votes than certified results.

The draft report found the count to have “no substantial differences” from the county’s certified tallies.

Local NPR station KJZZ got a copy of it as well and some comment from the spokesman for the review team. “It’s not the final report, but it’s close,” Randy Pullen told KJZZ, and had this to say about the overall conclusion:

But the report itself throws cold water on the grandest claims of fraud.

“What has been found is both encouraging and alarming. On the positive side there were no substantial differences between the hand count of the ballots provided and the official canvass results for the county,” the draft states.

Pullen confirmed that the hand recount was “relatively close” to the official tally.

“Was there massive fraud or anything? It doesn’t look like it,” he added.

The “alarming” part is mostly gripes about a lack of cooperation from Maricopa County, which objected to the state senate Republican caucus’ design for the recount/audit as well as the partnership with Cyber Ninjas, who repeatedly erred in their understanding of election laws and processes. The “alarms” sound like an attempt to cover for the fact that the audit and hand recount confirmed the actual election results, a way to justify the six months of essentially wasted time and effort.

If the draft report seen by the Post and KJZZ is substantially the same as the official report released later today, the Arizona GOP will be left with some egg on its collective face. Coming up empty after six months and this much disruption and chaos would normally be a politically crippling outcome. Perhaps they’re fortunate that Joe Biden turned out to be as awful as he has, because Biden’s disgraceful conduct in Afghanistan, his abandonment of Americans to the Taliban, and his utter incompetence at domestic policy will go a long way to helping voters forget this nuttiness.

Between this and the discovery from the Dominion lawsuits this week, this should put a stake through the heart of the “stolen election” claims from Trump and his campaign. American ballot counting processes and systems are remarkably reliable and accurate, as repeated recounts and audits proved this time around and in the 2016 election, too. Remember Jill Stein’s strawman recount demands on behalf of Hillary Clinton when the Democratic nominee couldn’t believe she could have lost to Trump? The changes in those results were microscopic too, and for good reason — our systems work incredibly well, at least the systems after the ballots have been submitted. Any work needed in securing election processes should focus on ballot handling prior to submission.

So what really happened in the 2020 presidential election? The pandemic crisis and lockdowns made voters a lot more politically active and much less tolerant of the chaos Trump created. That drove turnout to record levels on both sides, and enough of them — barely — reached back for the status quo ante of the Obama years and what they hoped would be normalcy. Had Trump put aside the chaos and opted for calm and focused leadership over rallies and stream-of-consciousness rants, who knows? Perhaps he could have won, or maybe that might have depressed turnout of his base. One could argue that point either way, but he lost an election he should have won after winning an election he probably should have lost.

Instead of normalcy, however, voters ended up with incompetence and radicalism. Expect that to drive the midterms, and the 2024 choice, too.