Tag Archives: G.O.P.

Staving Off G.O.P. Attacks, Democrats Show New Urgency on Crime

But in Washington, Democratic leaders are now plainly more focused on heading off attacks from the right than placating the activist left.

If this week has marked a highly visible turning point in Democratic politics, the party’s shift toward treating public safety as a central political concern has been a gradual one. Indeed, the coincidental overlap in Mr. Adams’s strong performance and Mr. Biden’s speech served to create a kind of artificially sudden climax in what was really a monthslong process of reshaping the Democratic message on crime and law enforcement.

As early as last November, congressional Democrats were engaged in a pitched debate over the impact of the “defund” movement on down-ballot elections. In the 2020 general election, Republicans savaged Democrats all over the country by linking them with the most strident faction of activists to emerge during a summer of racial-justice protests. Many Democrats were convinced the party’s candidates had suffered as a result, while progressives bristled at what they described as centrist scapegoating.

Two Democratic reviews of the campaign concluded that the party had not sufficiently pushed back on those attacks. One report, by a collection of Democratic advocacy groups including the centrist think tank Third Way, concluded that Republicans had weaponized the “defund the police” slogan with particular effectiveness “against candidates of color in swing districts with large white populations.”

By late spring of this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was employing a more aggressive approach to answering Republican attacks. In a special election to fill a vacant House seat in New Mexico, Republicans were battering the Democratic candidate, Melanie Stansbury, for endorsing sweeping liberal legislation that would have reduced funding for police departments and placed stricter limits on law-enforcement authorities, among other progressive wish-list goals. With a crime wave buffeting Albuquerque, it was a potentially damaging attack.

But Ms. Stansbury and her national allies mounted a determined response, blanketing the Democratic-leaning district with ads that promoted her votes in the New Mexico State Legislature to fund local law enforcement. She won the race by a huge margin.

In another special election, pitting two Black Democrats against each other for an open House seat in Louisiana, the victorious candidate, Troy Carter, deflected criticism from a more progressive candidate, Karen Carter Peterson, who accused him of being too supportive of the police.

Author: Alexander Burns
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Liz Cheney’s Unlikely Journey From G.O.P. Royalty to Republican Outcast

CASPER, Wyo. — Representative Liz Cheney was holed up in a secure undisclosed location of the Dick Cheney Federal Building, recounting how she got an alarmed phone call from her father on Jan. 6.

Ms. Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, recalled that she had been preparing to speak on the House floor in support of certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election as president. Mr. Cheney, the former vice president and his daughter’s closest political adviser, consulted with her on most days, but this time was calling as a worried parent.

He had seen President Donald J. Trump on television at a rally that morning vow to get rid of “the Liz Cheneys of the world.” Her floor speech could inflame tensions, he told her, and he feared for her safety. Was she sure she wanted to go ahead?

“Absolutely,” she told her father. “Nothing could be more important.”

Minutes later, Mr. Trump’s supporters breached the entrance, House members evacuated and the political future of Ms. Cheney, who never delivered her speech, was suddenly scrambled. Her promising rise in the House, which friends say the former vice president had been enthusiastically invested in and hoped might culminate in the speaker’s office, had been replaced with a very different mission.

“This is about being able to tell your kids that you stood up and did the right thing,” she said.

Ms. Cheney entered Congress in 2017, and her lineage always ensured her a conspicuous profile, although not in the way it has since blown up. Her campaign to defeat the “ongoing threat” and “fundamental toxicity of a president who lost” has landed one of the most conservative House members in the most un-Cheney-like position of resistance leader and Republican outcast. Ms. Cheney has vowed to be a counterforce, no matter how lonely that pursuit might be or where it might lead, including a possible primary challenge to Mr. Trump if he runs for president in 2024, a prospect she has not ruled out.

Beyond the daunting politics, Ms. Cheney’s predicament is also a father-daughter story, rife with dynastic echoes and ironies. An unapologetic Prince of Darkness figure throughout his career, Mr. Cheney was always attuned to doomsday scenarios and existential threats he saw posed by America’s enemies, whether from Russia during the Cold War, Saddam Hussein after the Sept. 11 attacks, or the general menace of tyrants and terrorists.

Ms. Cheney has come to view the current circumstances with Mr. Trump in the same apocalyptic terms. The difference is that today’s threat resides inside the party in which her family has been royalty for nearly half a century.

“He is just deeply troubled for the country about what we watched President Trump do,” Ms. Cheney said of her father. “He’s a student of history. He’s a student of the presidency. He knows the gravity of those jobs, and as he’s watched these events unfold, certainly he’s been appalled.”

On the day last month that Ms. Cheney’s House colleagues ousted her as the third-ranking Republican over her condemnations of Mr. Trump, she invited an old family friend, the photographer David Hume Kennerly, to record her movements for posterity. After work, they repaired to her parents’ home in McLean, Va., to commiserate over wine and a steak dinner.

“There was maybe a little bit of post-mortem, but it didn’t feel like a wake,” said Mr. Kennerly, the official photographer for President Gerald R. Ford while Mr. Cheney was White House chief of staff. “Mostly, I got a real sense at that dinner of two parents who were extremely proud of their kid and wanted to be there for her at the end of a bad day.”

Mr. Cheney declined to be interviewed for this article, but provided a statement: “As a father, I am enormously proud of my daughter. As an American, I am deeply grateful to her for defending our Constitution and the rule of law.”

The Cheneys are a private and insular brood, though not without tensions that have gone public. Ms. Cheney’s opposition to same-sex marriage during a brief Senate campaign in 2013 enraged her sister, Mary Cheney, and Mary’s longtime partner, Heather Poe. It was conspicuous, then, when Mary conveyed full support for her sister after Jan. 6.

“As many people know, Liz and I have definitely had our differences over the years,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Jan. 7. “But I am very proud of how she handled herself during the fight over the Electoral College…Good job Big Sister.’’

In an interview in Casper, Ms. Cheney, 54, spoke in urgent, clipped cadences in an unmarked conference room of the Dick Cheney Federal Building, one of many places that carry her family name in the nation’s least populous and most Trump-loving state. Her disposition conveyed both determination and worry, and also a sense of someone who had endured an embattled stretch.

Ms. Cheney had spent much of a recent congressional recess in Wyoming and yet was rarely seen in public. The appearances she did make — a visit to the Chamber of Commerce in Casper, a hospital opening (with her father) in Star Valley — were barely publicized beforehand, in large part for security concerns. She has received a stream of death threats, common menaces among high-profile critics of Mr. Trump, and is now surrounded by a newly deployed detail of plainclothes, ear-pieced agents.

Her campaign spent $ 58,000 on security from January to March, including three former Secret Service officers, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Ms. Cheney was recently assigned protection from the Capitol Police, an unusual measure for a House member not in a leadership position. The fortress aura around Ms. Cheney is reminiscent of the “secure undisclosed location” of her father in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ms. Cheney’s temperament bears the imprint of both parents, especially her mother, Lynne Cheney, a conservative scholar and commentator who is far more extroverted than her husband. But Mr. Cheney has long been his eldest daughter’s closest professional alter ego, especially after he left office in 2009, and Ms. Cheney devoted marathon sessions to collaborating on his memoir, “In My Times.” Their work coincided with some of Mr. Cheney’s gravest heart conditions, including a period in 2010 when he was near death.

His health stabilized after doctors installed a blood-pumping device that kept him alive and allowed him to travel. This included trips between Virginia and Wyoming in which Mr. Cheney would drive while dictating stories to Ms. Cheney in the passenger seat, who would type his words into a laptop. He received his heart transplant in 2012.

Father and daughter promoted the memoir in joint appearances, with Ms. Cheney interviewing her father in venues around the country. “She was basically there with her dad to ease his re-entry back to health on the public stage,” said former Senator Alan K. Simpson, a Wyoming Republican and a longtime family friend.

By 2016, Ms. Cheney had been elected to Congress and quickly rose to become the third-ranking Republican, a post her father also held. As powerful as Mr. Cheney was as vice president, he had always considered himself a product of the House, where he had served as Wyoming’s at-large congressman from 1979 to 1989.

Neither father nor daughter is a natural politician in any traditional sense. Mr. Cheney was a plotter and bureaucratic brawler, ambitious but in a quiet, secretive and, to many eyes, devious way. Ms. Cheney was largely focused on strategic planning and hawkish policymaking.

After graduating from Colorado College (“The Evolution of Presidential War Powers” was her senior thesis), Ms. Cheney worked at the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development while her father was defense secretary. She attended the University of Chicago Law School and practiced at the firm White & Case before returning to the State Department while her father was vice president. She was not sheepish or dispassionate like her father — she was a cheerleader at McLean High School — but held off running for office until well into her 40s.

Once in the House, Ms. Cheney was seen as a possible speaker — a hybrid of establishment background, hard-line conservatism and partisan instincts. While she had reservations about Mr. Trump, she was selective with her critiques and voted with him 93 percent of time and against his first impeachment.

As for Mr. Cheney, his distress over the Trump administration was initially focused on foreign policy, though he eventually came to view the 45th president’s performance overall as abysmal.

“I had a couple of conversations with the vice president last summer where he was really deeply troubled,” said Eric S. Edelman, a former American ambassador to Turkey, a Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration and family friend.

As a transplant recipient whose compromised immune system placed him at severe risk of Covid-19, Mr. Cheney found that his contempt for the Trump White House only grew during the pandemic. He had also known and admired Dr. Anthony S. Fauci for many years.

At the same time, Ms. Cheney publicly supported Dr. Fauci and seemed to be trolling the White House last June when she tweeted “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK” over a photograph of her father — looking every bit the stoic Westerner — sporting a face covering and cowboy hat (hashtag “#realmenwearmasks”).

She has received notable support in her otherwise lonely efforts from a number of top-level figures of the Republican establishment, including many of her father’s old White House colleagues. Former President George W. Bush — through a spokesman — made a point of thanking Mr. Cheney “for his daughter’s service” in a call to his former vice president on his 80th birthday in January.

Ms. Cheney did wind up voting for Mr. Trump in November, but came to regret it immediately. In her view, Mr. Trump’s conduct after the election went irreversibly beyond the pale. “For Liz, it was like, I just can’t do this anymore,” said former Representative Barbara Comstock, Republican of Virginia.

Ms. Cheney returned last week to Washington, where she had minimal dealings with her former leadership cohorts and was less inhibited in sharing her dim view of certain Republican colleagues. On Tuesday, she slammed Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona for repeating “disgusting and despicable lies” about the actions of the Capitol Police on Jan. 6.

“We’ve got people we’ve entrusted with the perpetuation of the Republic who don’t know what the rule of law is,” she said. “We probably need to do Constitution boot camps for newly sworn-in members of Congress. Clearly.”

She said her main pursuit now involved teaching basic civics to voters who had been misinformed by Mr. Trump and other Republicans who should know better. “I’m not naïve about the education that has to go on here,” Ms. Cheney said. “This is dangerous. It’s not complicated. I think Trump has a plan.”

Ms. Cheney’s own plan has been the object of considerable speculation. Although she was re-elected in 2020 by 44 percentage points, she faces a potentially treacherous path in 2022. Several Wyoming Republicans have already announced plans to mount primary challenges against Ms. Cheney, and her race is certain to be among the most closely followed in the country next year. It will also provide a visible platform for her campaign to ensure Mr. Trump “never again gets near the Oval Office” — an enterprise that could plausibly include a long-shot primary bid against him in 2024.

Friends say that at a certain point, events — namely Jan. 6 — came to transcend any parochial political concerns for Ms. Cheney. “Maybe I’m being Pollyanna a little bit here, but I do think Liz is playing the long game,” said Matt Micheli, a Cheyenne lawyer and former chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party. Ms. Cheney has confirmed as much.

“This is something that determines the nature of this Republic going forward,” she said. “So I really don’t know how long that takes.”

Author: Mark Leibovich
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

She Was a Black Election Official in Georgia. Then Came New G.O.P. Rules.

LaGRANGE, Ga. — Lonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and appoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

Ms. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

G.O.P. lawmakers in Georgia say the new measures are meant to improve the performance of local boards, and reduce the influence of the political parties. But the laws allow Republicans to remove local officials they don’t like, and because several of them have been Black Democrats, voting rights groups fear that these are further attempts to disenfranchise voters of color.

The maneuvers risk eroding some of the core checks that stood as a bulwark against former President Donald J. Trump as he sought to subvert the 2020 election results. Had these bills been in place during the aftermath of the election, Democrats say, they would have significantly added to the turmoil Mr. Trump and his allies wrought by trying to overturn the outcome. They worry that proponents of Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories will soon have much greater control over the levers of the American elections system.

“It’s a thinly veiled attempt to wrest control from officials who oversaw one of the most secure elections in our history and put it in the hands of bad actors,” said Jena Griswold, the chairwoman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and the current Colorado secretary of state. “The risk is the destruction of democracy.”

Officials like Ms. Hollis are responsible for decisions like selecting drop box and precinct locations, sending out voter notices, establishing early voting hours and certifying elections. But the new laws are targeting high-level state officials as well, in particular secretaries of state — both Republican and Democratic — who stood up to Mr. Trump and his allies last year.

Republicans in Arizona have introduced a bill that would largely strip Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, of her authority over election lawsuits, and then expire when she leaves office. And they have introduced another bill that would give the Legislature more power over setting the guidelines for election administration, a major task currently carried out by the secretary of state.

Under Georgia’s new voting law, Republicans significantly weakened the secretary of state’s office after Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who is the current secretary, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands to “find” votes. They removed the secretary of state as the chair of the state election board and relieved the office of its voting authority on the board.

Kansas Republicans in May overrode a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, to enact laws stripping the governor of the power to modify election laws and prohibiting the secretary of state, a Republican who repeatedly vouched for the security of voting by mail, from settling election-related lawsuits without the Legislature’s consent.

And more Republicans who cling to Mr. Trump’s election lies are running for secretary of state, putting a critical office within reach of conspiracy theorists. In Georgia, Representative Jody Hice, a Republican who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory, is running against Mr. Raffensperger. Republican candidates with similar views are running for secretary of state in Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.

“In virtually every state, every election administrator is going to feel like they’re under the magnifying glass,” said Victoria Bassetti, a senior adviser to the States United Democracy Center.

More immediately, it is local election officials at the county and municipal level who are being either removed or stripped of their power.

In Arkansas, Republicans were stung last year when Jim Sorvillo, a three-term state representative from Little Rock, lost re-election by 24 votes to Ashley Hudson, a Democrat and local lawyer. Elections officials in Pulaski County, which includes Little Rock, were later found to have accidentally tabulated 327 absentee ballots during the vote-counting process, 27 of which came from the district.

Mr. Sorvillo filed multiple lawsuits aiming to stop Ms. Hudson from being seated, and all were rejected. The Republican caucus considered refusing to seat Ms. Hudson, then ultimately voted to accept her.

But last month, Arkansas Republicans wrote new legislation that allows a state board of election commissioners — composed of six Republicans and one Democrat — to investigate and “institute corrective action” on a wide variety of issues at every stage of the voting process, from registration to the casting and counting of ballots to the certification of elections. The law applies to all counties, but it is widely believed to be aimed at Pulaski, one of the few in the state that favor Democrats.

The author of the legislation, State Representative Mark Lowery, a Republican from a suburb of Little Rock, said it was necessary to remove election power from the local authorities, who in Pulaski County are Democrats, because otherwise Republicans could not get a fair shake.

“Without this legislation, the only entity you could have referred impropriety to is the prosecuting attorney, who is a Democrat, and possibly not had anything done,” Mr. Lowery said in an interview. “This gives another level of investigative authority to a board that is commissioned by the state to oversee elections.”

Asked about last year’s election, Mr. Lowery said, “I do believe Donald Trump was elected president.”

A separate new Arkansas law allows a state board to “take over and conduct elections” in a county if a committee of the legislature determines that there are questions about the “appearance of an equal, free and impartial election.”

In Georgia, the legislature passed a unique law for some counties. For Troup County, State Representative Randy Nix, a Republican, said he had introduced the bill that restructured the county election board — and will remove Ms. Hollis — only after it was requested by county commissioners. He said he was not worried that the commission, a partisan body with four Republicans and one Democrat, could exert influence over elections.

“The commissioners are all elected officials and will face the voters to answer for their actions,” Mr. Nix said in an email.

Eric Mosley, the county manager for Troup County, which Mr. Trump carried by 22 points, said that the decision to ask Mr. Nix for the bill was meant to make the board more bipartisan. It was unanimously supported by the commission.

“We felt that removing both the Republican and Democratic representation and just truly choose members of the community that invest hard to serve those community members was the true intent of the board,” Mr. Mosley said. “Our goal is to create both political and racial diversity on the board.”

In Morgan County, east of Atlanta, Helen Butler has been one of the state’s most prominent Democratic voices on voting rights and election administration. A member of the county board of elections in a rural, Republican county, she also runs the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a group dedicated to protecting the voting rights of Black Americans and increasing their civic engagement.

But Ms. Butler will be removed from the county board at the end of the month, after Mr. Kemp signed a local bill that ended the ability of political parties to appoint members.

“I think it’s all a part of the ploy for the takeover of local boards of elections that the state legislature has put in place,” Ms. Butler said. “It is them saying that they have the right to say whether an election official is doing it right, when in fact they don’t work in the day to day and don’t understand the process themselves.”

It’s not just Democrats who are being removed. In DeKalb County, the state’s fourth-largest, Republicans chose not to renominate Baoky Vu to the election board after more than 12 years in the position. Mr. Vu, a Republican, had joined with Democrats in a letter opposing an election-related bill that eventually failed to pass.

To replace Mr. Vu, Republicans nominated Paul Maner, a well-known local conservative with a history of false statements, including an insinuation that the son of a Georgia congresswoman was killed in “a drug deal gone bad.”

Back in LaGrange, Ms. Hollis is trying to do as much as she can in the time she has left on the board. The extra precinct in nearby Hogansville, where the population is roughly 50 percent Black, is a top priority. While its population is only about 3,000, the town is bifurcated by a rail line, and Ms. Hollis said that sometimes it can take an exceedingly long time for a line of freight cars to clear, which is problematic on Election Days.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” Ms. Hollis said, saying Republicans had thrown up procedural hurdles to block the process. But she was undeterred.

“I’m not going to sit there and wait for you to tell me what it is that I that I should do for the voters there,” she said. “I’m going to do the right thing.”

Rachel Shorey contributed research.

Author: Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Texas Democrats Stymie G.O.P. Voting Bill, for Now

During debate late Sunday, State Representative Travis Clardy, a Republican, acknowledged that advancing the bill through the conference committee had proved to be a lengthy process, but he defended the panel’s methods.

“A lot of this was done late, I don’t get to control the clock,” Mr. Clardy said. “But I can assure you that the members of the committee did their absolute best, dead-level best, to make sure we’ve provided information to all members, including representative rows. And then we did everything that we could to make sure this was transparent.”

The effort in Texas, a major state with a booming population, represents the apex of the national Republican push to install tall new barriers to voting after President Donald J. Trump’s loss last year to Joseph R. Biden Jr., with expansive restrictions already becoming law in Iowa, Georgia and Florida in 2021. Fueled by Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud in the election, Republicans have passed the bills almost entirely along partisan lines, brushing off the protestations of Democrats, civil rights groups, voting rights groups, major corporations and faith leaders.

But the party’s setback in Texas is unlikely to calm Democratic pressure in Washington to pass new federal voting laws. President Biden and key Democrats in Congress are confronting rising calls from their party to do whatever is needed — including abolishing the Senate filibuster, which moderate senators have resisted — to push through a major voting rights and elections overhaul that would counteract the wave of Republican laws.

After the Texas bill became public on Saturday, Mr. Biden denounced it, along with similar measures in Georgia and Florida, as “an assault on democracy,” blasting the moves in a statement as “disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.”

He urged Congress to pass Democrats’ voting bills, the most ambitious of which, the For the People Act, would expand access to the ballot, reduce the role of money in politics, strengthen enforcement of existing election laws and limit gerrymandering. Another measure, the narrower John Lewis Voting Rights Act, would restore crucial parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, including the requirement that some states receive federal approval before changing their election laws.

Author: Nick Corasaniti
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

‘We Can’t Indulge These Insane Lies’: Arizona G.O.P. Split on Vote Audit

For weeks, election professionals and Democrats have consistently called the Republican-backed review of November voting results in Arizona a fatally flawed exercise, marred by its partisan cast of characters and sometimes bizarre methodology.

Now, after a week in which leaders of the review suggested they had found evidence of illegal behavior, top Republicans in the state’s largest county have escalated their own attacks on the effort, with the county’s top election official calling former President Donald J. Trump “unhinged” for his online comments falsely accusing the county of deleting an elections database.

“We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer,” the official, Stephen Richer, the Maricopa County recorder and a Republican, wrote on Twitter. “As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5.”

Three times, the county has investigated and upheld the integrity of the November vote, which was supervised by Mr. Richer’s predecessor, a Democrat.

It is not the first time Republicans in county government have been at odds with the Republicans in the Legislature over the review of the vote. But Mr. Richer is among various Republicans in Maricopa County sounding like they have run out of patience.

The five elected supervisors, all but one of whom are Republicans, plan to meet on Monday afternoon to issue a broadside against what Republican sponsors in the State Senate have billed as an election audit, which targets the 2.1 million votes cast in November in metropolitan Phoenix and outlying areas. The planned meeting follows a weekend barrage of posts on Twitter, with the hashtag #RealAuditorsDont, in which the supervisors assailed the integrity of the review.

Those posts followed a letter from the leader of the audit, State Senator Karen Fann, implying that the county had removed “the main database for all election-related data” from election equipment that had been subpoenaed for review. Mr. Trump later published the letter on his website, calling it “devastating” evidence of irregularities.

The supervisors’ Twitter rebuke was scathing. Real auditors don’t “release false ‘conclusions’ without understanding what they are looking at,” one post said, ridiculing the allegation of a deleted database. Nor do real auditors “hire known conspiracy theorists,” a reference to the firm hired to manage the review, whose chief executive has promoted theories that rigged voting machines caused Mr. Trump’s loss in Arizona.

Jack Sellers, the Republican chairman of the board of supervisors, issued a statement calling the suggestion that files were deleted “outrageous, completely baseless and beneath the dignity of the Arizona Senate,” which ordered the audit. In an interview, he said the meeting on Monday would refute claims in the letter from Ms. Fann, the Senate president.

“Basically, every one of our five supervisors said, ‘Enough is enough,’” Mr. Sellers said in an interview on Sunday. “What they’re suggesting is not just criticism. They’re saying we broke the law. And we certainly did not.”

The real target of the accusations, he said in the interview, “are the professionals who run the elections, people who followed the rules and who did an incredible job in the middle of a pandemic.

“A lot of the questions being asked right now have been answered,” he said of those challenging the November results. “But the people asking them don’t like the answers, so they keep on asking.”

At issue is the Maricopa County vote. But Ms. Fann’s letter raises the prospect that an exercise dismissed by serious observers as transparently partisan and flawed could become a potent weapon in the continuing effort by Mr. Trump and his followers to undermine the legitimacy of the vote in Arizona, and perhaps elsewhere.

The review has no formal electoral authority and will not change the results of the election in Arizona, no matter what it finds.

One poll by High Ground, a Phoenix firm well known for its political surveys, concluded this spring that 78 percent of Arizona Republicans believe Mr. Trump’s false claims that President Biden did not win the November election. A recent Monmouth University poll found that almost two-thirds of Republicans nationally believe that Mr. Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election. More than six in 10 Americans overall believe that he did.

Beyond the dispute over supposedly deleted files, Ms. Fann is also pressing the county and the manufacturer of its voting machines, Dominion Voting Systems, to release passwords for vote tabulating machines and county-operated internet routers.

Dominion, which has been fighting a series of election-fraud conspiracy theories promoted by Trump supporters and pro-Trump news outlets, has said it will cooperate with federally certified election auditors. But it has spurned the firms hired to conduct the Arizona vote review, whose track record in election audits is scant at best.

Maricopa County officials have refused to turn over router passwords, which the auditors say they need to determine whether voting machines were connected to the internet and subject to hacking. County officials say past audits have settled that question. The county sheriff, Paul Penzone, called the demand for passwords “mind-numbingly reckless,” saying it would compromise law enforcement operations unrelated to the election.

The election review was born in December as an effort by Republican senators to placate voters who had embraced Mr. Trump’s lie that Mr. Biden’s 10,457-vote victory in the state was a fraud. Maricopa County, where two-thirds of the state’s votes were cast, was chosen in part because Republicans refused to believe that Mr. Biden had scored a 45,000-vote victory in a county that once was solid G.O.P. territory.

What once seemed an effort to mollify angry supporters of Mr. Trump, however, has become engulfed in acrimony as Ms. Fann and other senators have steered the review in a decidedly partisan direction, hiring as its manager a Florida company, Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive had previously suggested that rigged voting machines caused Mr. Trump’s Arizona loss.

An accounting of the review’s finances remains cloudy, but far-right supporters, including the ardently pro-Trump cable news outlet One America News, have raised funds on its behalf. Nonpartisan election experts and the Justice Department have cited troubling indicators that the review is open to manipulation and ignores the most basic security guidelines.

Most Arizona Republican officials who have spoken publicly have doggedly supported the review. But State Senator Paul Boyer, a Republican from a suburban Phoenix district evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, made headlines last week after saying that the conduct of the review made him embarrassed to serve in the State Senate.

Senator T.J. Shope, another Republican from a Phoenix swing district, has been more circumspect, saying he believed Mr. Biden’s election was legitimate but that he had been too busy to follow the controversy. But in a Twitter post on Saturday, he wrote that Mr. Trump was “peddling in fantasy” by suggesting that the county’s election records had been nefariously deleted.

The Maricopa County vote review has been forced to suspend operations this week while the Phoenix work site, a suburban coliseum, is cleared out to host high school graduations. Mr. Sellers, the chairman of the board of supervisors, said he hoped the supervisors’ effort to refute the review’s claims on Monday would be the end of the affair.

“It’s clearer by the day: The people hired by the Senate are in way over their heads,” his statement said. “This is not funny; it’s dangerous.”

Author: Michael Wines
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News