After months of right-wing media hyping the QAnon-linked Arizona “audit” of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, a draft report revealed that Joe Biden actually received more votes than Donald Trump in Maricopa County than were previously recorded. Although the report states that Biden won, a table in the draft report is now leading some in right-wing media to argue there is more to the story that supports their false narrative of election fraud, seizing on a vague “finding summary” as evidence.
Table 6.2 in the draft report outlines a number of different findings from the audit, including the number of ballots impacted by “mail-in votes without ballots received,” the “official canvass” not matching who voted, and “voters that voted in multiple counties,” among others. These three findings have a “severity” label of “critical.”
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Friday’s edition of his War Room: Pandemic podcast claimed this table is proof that the Arizona audit needs to be “expanded.” Speaking with former Trump White House staffer Boris Epshteyn, Bannon compared the chart to that of the “Navarro Report,” a conspiracy theory-laden document from former Trump staffer Peter Navarro that claimed Trump won the 2020 election and massive voter fraud occurred in favor of Biden.
Bannon and Epshteyn are not the only Trump cronies to claim evidence of voter fraud in the table. Other right-wing media figures are also pointing to it as proof of corruption, including audit promoter and One America News personality Christina Bobb and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who retweeted Epshteyn’s claim that the table showed the 2020 election “should have never been certified.”
But according to reporting by the Arizona Mirror, numbers listed on this table are unclear. For example, the Mirror’s Jeremy Duda explained that “the review found 10,342 ‘potential voters’ who had voted in multiple counties in Arizona, based on voters with identical first and last names, middle initials and birth years,” however, “the report says it’s possible for multiple people to share those details.”
The Mirror also points out that the table suggests “9,041 people returned more ballots than they’d received,” though there are explanations for this number within the report, which claims: “An EV33 indicates that a ballot is received and does not necessarily mean the ballot was counted. It is assumed that only the first ballot was counted.” As explained by The Independent, EV33 files “are intended to help political parties track early voters for their get-out-the-vote efforts, not tally mail-in ballots through Election Day. The reports don’t represent all mail-in ballots sent out and received, so the numbers aren’t expected to match up, according to Maricopa County officials and outside experts.”
In fact, the official Maricopa County Twitter account weighed in to debunk this number as evidence of fraud, stating: “This suggests a lack of understanding about how EV 33 files work. It’s not unusual for more ballots to be returned by voters than received.”
Another debunk from the official Maricopa County Twitter account suggested that the claim that “23,344 mail-in ballots voted from a prior address” should not have been labeled as “critical” unless the auditors were “intentionally misleading or staggeringly ignorant.” County officials explained that military service members often cast votes from previous addresses although they don’t currently live in the U.S.; people move around during the fall season and can still vote if their driver’s license address matches their voter registration address; and otherwise refuted claims that the number in the table was somehow evidence of fraud.
The Maricopa County Twitter account also asserted that the claim that officials should be concerned that 2,382 in-person voters “moved out of Maricopa County'' was misleading. According to the officials behind the Twitter account, the county “completed spot checks on the voter ID’s provided” and “could not identify a single voter in this initial review who had cast more than 1 ballot.”
The county officials behind the Twitter account also explained that the data point alleging that 2,081 voters moved out of state after the election is not a cause for concern. Maricopa County bureaucrats claimed they “performed a spot check using voter registration numbers that were associated with Cyber Ninjas' conclusion” and found “no discrepancies.”
While not all of the table’s data points have been addressed yet, the various aspects already flagged as inaccurate or misleading and should lead onlookers to question claims made by right-wing media about the so-called Arizona “audit” report. These simple debunks highlight the ways conservative media figures are grasping at straws to undermine the American electoral system through any means possible.