Fann wants hand count of 2.1 million ballots, may use volunteers

By: - March 18, 2021 3:21 pm

Senate President Karen Fann. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Senate President Karen Fann wants to hand count all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County in the 2020 general election, a job that may fall to a bipartisan group of volunteers.

In the three months since Fann and then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth first issued subpoenas to Maricopa County for ballots, tabulation machines and other materials from the election, she has not yet selected anyone to conduct the audit she’s long sought. On Thursday, Fann announced that she has narrowed down the selection to a “preferred forensic audit team,” and that the Senate is negotiating the final details of an agreement.

Fann, a Prescott Republican, emphasized that the audit will include tests of the tabulation machines and inspecting them for security breaches — the county has already conducted such a test using federally certified firms, who found no problems with the machines — in addition to scanning and hand counting all 2.1 million ballots.

“When all the work is done, there will be a full report for the Senate and County to review. Our voters expect this audit, and it can be a big step in returning trust and confidence in our election process,” Fann said in a press statement.

Yellow Sheet Report, a high-priced insider tipsheet by the company that publishes the Arizona Capitol Times, reported on Wednesday that Fann plans to use volunteers for the hand count, and suggested using a bipartisan group of 100 volunteers for the effort. Fann told the Arizona Mirror on Thursday that she wants the hand count to be as bipartisan or nonpartisan as possible, and that the Senate could save money if it had qualified volunteers and didn’t have to pay everyone involved in the count.

Fann had previously planned to hire Allied Security Operations Group, a pro-Trump firm that has repeatedly spread disinformation and bogus claims about the 2020 election, to participate in the audit. A scope of work her attorneys drafted for the company called for it to hand count about 550,000 ballots. She told the pro-Trump, conspiracy theorist One America News Network last week that she planned to obtain new machines to use for a recount of the ballots.

Fann and Farnsworth issued their subpoenas to Maricopa County in December, seeking to conduct an audit in response to baseless fraud allegations and conspiracy theories, despite a total lack of any credible evidence that the election was affected by fraud or misconduct. Many supporters of former President Donald Trump claim the election was rigged against him, but Trump and his supporters have consistently failed to back up those claims.

The three months since Fann and Farnsworth issued those subpoenas have been beset by controversy, litigation, drama and wild accusations. 

Maricopa County challenged the legality of the subpoenas in court, a case it lost in February when a judge ruled that the Senate has the authority to demand the election materials. The Senate voted on a resolution to hold the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in contempt of court, which authorized Fann to have them arrested, but fell one vote short after Sen. Paul Boyer broke ranks with his fellow Republicans, causing a 15-15 tie.

Since winning its court battle, the Senate has feuded with the county over the fate of the 2.1 million ballots. Fann wanted the county to retain possession of the ballots and for the Senate’s auditors to use the county’s facilities. But the county refused and insisted that the Senate must take possession of the ballots itself, which was a problem because the Senate had not arranged to take control of the ballots.

Fann said on Thursday that she still believes the proper venue for the audit is Maricopa County’s facilities, “to preserve the chain of custody and maintain security of the ballots and equipment.” Fields Moseley, a spokesman for Maricopa County, said there have been no further discussions between the county and the Senate on the matter.

Fann also said the Senate has reached out to experts on the election process in Arizona and around the country, “and hope to have the best and brightest involved in the audit.”

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”