Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
PHOENIX — Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden in Arizona's most populous county, a review of results by his allies in the Republican Party has reaffirmed, capping a widely panned effort spurred by Trump's false claims of voter fraud.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, the Republican who paved the way for the so-called "full forensic audit" of Maricopa County's ballots, said the review's overall vote tally matched the initial results in November.
Fann said in a statement the matching counts was the review's "most important and encouraging finding" and should allay voters' concerns. The latest recount yielded 99 additional votes for Biden and 261 fewer votes for Trump.
The conclusion will disappoint Trump supporters who had pushed for the review, many in the expectation that it would prove his unfounded assertions that he was robbed of re-election due to orchestrated fraud. So far no such proof has been produced either by Trump or his backers.
Outside groups tied to Trump's efforts to undermine the 2020 election results raised nearly all of the $6 million to fund the inquiry, viewing the recount of 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa as a catalyst for similar investigations in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other battleground states that Trump lost.
In Texas on Thursday, the secretary of state's office said the state had begun an audit of the presidential election in its four largest counties — Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin. Although Trump carried the state, Biden won three of those counties under review.
"This was Donald Trump's best chance to prove his cases of elections being rigged and fraudulent and they failed," Ben Ginsberg, a veteran Republican election lawyer, said on a media call organized by the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan policy group. "It's a huge defeat for Donald Trump."
Hours before the announcement by the Texas secretary of state's office, Trump publicly called on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to launch an audit.
Harris County's elections administrator, Isabel Longoria, said the audit was an attempt "to delegitimize the 2020 election."
In a statement, Trump described the Maricopa review as "a big win for democracy and a big win for us."
Biden victory reaffirmed
In Arizona, Biden won by just over 10,000 votes, a narrow win confirmed by a hand recount and multiple post-election tests for accuracy. Biden carried Maricopa, which includes Phoenix, by about 45,000 votes, making it critical to his defeat of Trump.
The Arizona review is part of a larger effort by Republicans to raise doubts about the 2020 election and gain more control over the voting process. So far this year, at least 18 Republican-led states have passed legislation curbing ballot access, moves they say are needed to ensure election integrity. Democrats say such laws are aimed at gaming the system since Republicans tend to do better in low-turnout elections.
Fann said the state Senate was working on legislation to achieve an "unimpeachable electoral process," based on various alleged issues discovered in their review.
The Arizona Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios said Republican lawmakers would pursue laws to suppress votes.
"This fake audit, which has cost Arizona taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, was never about increasing voter trust," she said in an emailed statement.
A wide array of election experts, Democrats and some Republican officials had long rejected the Arizona review as a highly partisan boondoggle run by contractors without relevant expertise. The lead contractor is an obscure company, Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive has promoted conspiracy theories about orchestrated fraud in the election.
The audit has been marked by practices that critics described as ranging from inappropriate to bizarre, including counters marking ballots with blue ink, which can alter how they are read by machines, and workers checking for traces of bamboo fibers based on a conspiracy theory that forged ballots may have been shipped in from Asia.
While finding the overall vote tallies largely matched up, the report highlighted a series of alleged issues, including 10,342 potential voters who voted in different counties, which Cyber Ninjas termed a "critical finding."
As part of a point-by-point rebuttal on Twitter, Maricopa County called that claim "laughable," suggesting those conducting the review may have failed to account for people with matching names and birth years in different counties, a not uncommon occurrence in a state of more than 7 million people.
Trey Grayson, a Republican and the former top election official in Kentucky, said the Arizona review was marked by "bias and incompetence" and hoped it would prompt Republicans elsewhere to put a halt to similar initiatives.
"My hope is that people in other states will look at this and say this isn't worth our time and effort," Grayson said, criticizing the decision in Texas to "cherry-pick" mainly Democratic-leaning counties to review. "That's a tell."
Contributing: Joseph Ax