Some Republicans in Florida and Arizona show how to counter 2020 election lies

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This article was produced by Voting booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

As continued threats by Trump loyalists to subvert the election have dominated political news, other Republicans in two key states – Florida and Arizona – are taking steps that could be significant in providing voters with evidence without precedent of who won their closest and most contentious elections.

In the two battleground states, in different settings, Republicans are raising the curtain on the data sets and procedures that accompany key steps in verifying voters, casting their ballots and counting votes. Whether supporters who deny the 2020 election will pay attention to the evidence is another matter. But election records and explanations of their use offer a forward-looking roadmap for confronting the fallacies that attack election results, administrators and technology.

In Republican-run Florida, the state is finalizing vote recount rules by incorporating digital images of every ballot. The images, along with the paper ballots, create a searchable library for quickly tallying votes and identifying mismarked ballots. Questionable ballots could then be retrieved and examined in public by counting boards to determine the voter’s intent.

“The technology is so promising that it would provide hard evidence for people who want to find out the truth,” said Ion Sancho, a former election supervisor in Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, who was among a conference attendee. telephone on January 4. workshop led by the Elections Division seeking feedback on the draft revised rules and procedures manual.

Under the new recount process, a voter’s ballot would be immediately recounted by a second, independent counting system, separate from what each county uses to tally votes. The first digital file produced in this tabulation process, an image of each side of each ballot, would then be analyzed by software that identifies sloppy ink marks during vote counting. Several counties in Florida have pioneered this image-based analysis, a version of which is used by the state of Maryland to double-check its results before certifying its election winners.

“The fact that he overcame opposition from election supervisors is telling because the number one problem with the [elected county] supervisors is [acquiring and learning to use] new technology; it’s more work to do,” Sancho said. “The new technology is not expensive in this case. Everyone already has scanners in their offices because every voter registration form must, by law, be scanned and sent to the Division of Elections.

The appeal of using images of ballots, besides the administrative efficiency of a searchable library of ballots and votes, is that the images allow non-technical people to “see” the intent of voters, which builds confidence in the process and the results, said Larry Moore. , the founder and former CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, whose federally certified technology is said to be used in Florida recounts.

But Florida’s likely incorporation of ballot images into its recount procedures, while a step forward for transparency, is taking place against a difficult background. In 2021, his GOP-majority state legislature passed election laws that are seen as winnowing voters and rolling back voting options. In other words, it perhaps offers more transparency on arrival but also limits upstream participation.

The new recount rule is expected to be in place by this spring, months before Florida’s 2022 primaries and midterm elections. Among the issues to be resolved is when campaign and political party officials and the public will observe the new process, as election administrators do not want supporters to intentionally disrupt the re-digitization process. These concerns were raised by participants and observers during the teleconference.

Arizona model

In Arizona, Maricopa County released a report on January 5, “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senator Inquiry.” The report is his most substantial rebuttal of virtually all the stolen election accusations leveled by Trump loyalists who have spent months investigating his presidential election.

Beyond references to the dozens of stolen election charges advanced by pro-Trump contractors hired by Arizona Senate Republicans, the report offered an unprecedented roadmap to understanding how the election unfolded by explaining the procedures and data sets involved at key stages.

The report explains how Maricopa County, the nation’s second-largest electoral jurisdiction (after Los Angeles County) with 2.6 million registered voters, verified that its voters and ballots were legal. He also explained the main cybersecurity features, such as the voucher and the Incorrect– a way to read the computer logs that prove his central vote-counting system was never compromised online, as Trump supporters in Arizona (and Michigan) claimed.

“I’ve never seen a single report putting it all in one place,” said John Brakey, an Arizona-based election transparency activist who has sued Maricopa County in the past and regularly files requests for records. public election data. “Usually it takes years to figure it all out.”

Taken together, the expansion of recounts in Florida to include the use of digital ballot images and Maricopa County’s compilation of data and procedures to monitor voters, ballots and vote counts , reveal that there is more evidence than ever available to confirm and legitimize the participants and results of the elections. .

For example, the Maricopa County investigation found that of the 2,089,563 ballots cast in the 2020 general election, a batch of 50 ballots were counted twice and there were “37 cases where a voter can illegally cast multiple ballots”—likely a spouse’s ballot after the voter died. Neither delay affected the outcome of the election.

“We found fewer than 100 potentially questionable ballots out of 2.1 million,” the report said. “It’s the very definition of exceptionally rare.”

When Maricopa County explained how it represented all but 37 of 2.1 million voters, it noted that the same data sets used to represent virtually all voters were also used by political parties to obtain the vote. Thus, the report’s discussion of these datasets – the voters rolls and the list of people who voted – offered a template for debunking allegations of voter fraud. This accusation has been a mainstay of Trump’s false claims and is a longstanding cliché among the far right.

It is significant that this methodology, indeed the full report, was produced under the direction of Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a conservative Republican who has repeatedly said he voted for Trump, and has been fully approved by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which has a GOP. majority and held a special hearing on January 5 to consider the findings.

In other words, the report isn’t just a rebuttal of the Arizona Senate’s post-2020 Republican conspiracy review. This is a roadmap for anyone who wants to know how modern elections work and how to debunk misinformation, including conspiracy theories involving alleged hacking in cyberspace.

“There is not a single definite statement contained in [Arizona Senate cybersecurity subcontractor] CyFIR Analysis of Maricopa County Tabulation and EMS Equipment [election management system]says the report, referring to accusations that the counts have been altered. “This includes the allegation that county staff intentionally deleted election files and logs, which is not true.”

When you add to the Maricopa County model the introduction of a second, independent analysis of every ballot in future recounts in Florida, what emerges are concrete steps to verify results from Republicans who understand how elections work. and can be held responsible.

Of course, these trails of evidence only matter if voters or political parties want to know the truth, as opposed to following an ex-president whose political renewal is based on lying about elections. However, more moderate Republicans seem to recognize that Trump’s stolen election rhetoric is likely to erode their base’s turnout in 2022 as Trump continues to say their votes don’t matter.

“You have Republican buy-in,” Florida’s Sancho said, speaking of his GOP-led state’s embrace of more transparent and detailed recounts. “And Republicans, more than anyone, should be asking themselves whether their votes were counted as cast and as the voter intended.”

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