Shortly after the 2020 race was called, the members of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council Executive Committee and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council issued a joint statement, declaring, "The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. … All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary.” The statement concluded, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” Almost a year later, this evaluation has proven correct.
In a paper co-authored by academics from conservative Hoover Institution, Stanford University and the University of Chicago, multiple claims of fraud were evaluated. The finding was unequivocal:
After carefully considering each claim, we conclude that each one fails in one of two ways. In some instances, accurate claims are made about the election results but the observed facts are not actually inconsistent with a free and fair election. In other instances, the supposedly surprising fact about the 2020 election result turns out to be incorrect on further inspection, whether because of an arithmetic error or because of insufficiently rigorous statistical analysis. Thus in each case a purportedly anomalous fact about the election turns out to be either not anomalous or not a fact. We are left with no evidence of anything out of the ordinary.
Yet despite those reports and state recounts of election results — in some cases, multiple times — right-wing scam artists, MAGA loyalists and cynical Republicans continue to conduct unprofessional, unreliable and uninformed election “audits” — dubbed “fraudits” — in multiple states. A funny thing happened, though: Instead of undermining the results, the MAGA election deniers fell flat on their faces, often spectacularly.
The most widely followed fraudit in Maricopa County, Ariz., ended with the conclusion that President Biden won by more votes than initially recorded. (Given that the audit was unscientific, do not take that as evidence of error; it simply attests to the utter failure of Cyber Ninjas, the firm that carried out the spectacle, to dispute Biden’s victory.) The results had already been audited twice by real firms using accepted methodology, so the results were surprising only insofar as the conspiracy theorists could not come up with any evidence to back up their claims.
The Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, who consistently defended the official results, issued a statement after the Cyber Ninjas completed their fraudit: “It took the Cyber Ninjas more than five months to complete this report and it will take us time to responsibly gather all the facts and answer the questions raised, but we’re committed to providing a comprehensive and accurate response,” Richer wrote. "For months, we were told the audit’s mission was to provide an accurate count. What went almost ignored in last week’s presentation was that the Cyber Ninjas agreed with Maricopa County’s results: Joe Biden won Maricopa County in the 2020 election.”
The Republican-led state Senate that kicked off the audit wound up costing taxpayers more than $3 million. Certainly the already deluded MAGA crowd will refuse to recognize their own failure, but to every other Arizonan, the unmistakable takeaway is that the election was secure and the GOP’s nutty claims were utterly false. It is hard to argue that this helped achieve Trump’s goal of discrediting the election.
Other fraudits are underway, but they do not seem any more promising for the MAGA gang. The Post reports on the Wisconsin fraudit beset by reversals and blunders, including error-ridden subpoenas:
Some of the requests referred to the wrong city. At least one was sent to an official who doesn’t oversee elections. A Latin phrase included in the demands for records and testimony was misspelled.Michael Gableman, the former judge leading the review, admitted days later that he does not have “a comprehensive understanding or even any understanding of how elections work.” He then backed off some of his subpoena demands before reversing course again, telling a local radio host that officials would still be required to testify.
The Post reports that Gableman, a former GOP official, suggested in November that “the election might have been stolen, even as multiple court rulings and local recounts went on to affirm Trump’s loss in Wisconsin by just under 21,000 votes.”
Democrats, election officials (some of whom are Republicans) and a handful of sober-minded elected Republicans have decried the fraudits and warned it will undermine the sanctity of elections. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) tweeted in June, “What is happening in Maricopa County is not an ‘audit.’ It is an effort to subvert democracy.”
But have the audits “worked” from the standpoint of the MAGA anti-democratic forces who seek to delegitimize elections? Well, they may have convinced themselves, but having flopped so badly, they have arguably done more to remind independent voters and disaffected Republicans that the GOP is deranged and destructive. The fraudits give Senate Democrats ammunition to plead with their colleagues that laws to set standardized audits and prevent these three-ring circuses are essential to preventing election chaos and calls for violence.
To be certain, the fraudits are bad for democracy in that they further alienate and mislead millions of Republicans whose ongoing refusal to accept reality bodes ill for democracy. But if the pro-democracy forces ever needed evidence that the GOP’s election claims are false, they need look no further than Maricopa County and Wisconsin.