Arizona’s audit of ballots in the 2020 presidential election could have a “QAnon problem,” according to watchdog organization Media Matters.
The state’s Republican-controlled Senate ordered a review of some 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots in April, after months of unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud made by former elders President Donald Trump, his supporters and the fringe groups they claim cost him the election.
Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Arizona since 1996, winning by a margin of around 10,000 of the 3.3 million votes, contributing to Biden’s constituency. victory.
The ballots and computer hard drives containing the data relating to the vote count were seized and handed over to Cyber Ninjas, the company chosen to oversee the audit by the Arizona Senate.
Cyber Ninjas has “no electoral experience” and is led by Doug Logan, “a man who has shared unfounded conspiracy theories claiming that the official 2020 presidential election results are illegitimate,” reported the Associated Press.
Many of these theories have been put forward by QAnon, a wide range of conspiratorial ideas based on the idea that Trump was chosen to fight a liberal “deep state” cabal that harvests the blood of children to stay young.
These plots are believed to have played a motivational role in the January 6 uprising which saw Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent a joint session of Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.
According to Media Matters Report, written by Olivia Little, “It appears that the evidence behind this effort and much of the work to generate support for it comes from two QAnon followers, Liz Harris and Bobby Piton. “
Media Matters claims that Harris and Piton enjoy “influential roles as two of the main promoters of the Arizona election fraud conspiracy theory, working behind the scenes “with the authorities.
A report from the Republic of Arizona cited by Media Matters claims that Harris and Piton are influential audit figures.
Harris ran as a Republican in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2020, but lost. She leads “grassroots” efforts to find voter fraud and “typically streams several live Arizona audit-related videos a day to YouTube and Facebook,” according to Media Matters.
Piton is the head of an investment planning firm in Illinois.
Media Matters also says the three appear to be related. He cites Piton’s claims on the far-right social media platform Gab that he would turn his research into alleged electoral fraud to Maricopa to Logan, “the person who won the bid to perform the audit.” .
Piton confirmed to The Daily Beast in April, he was working on the audit in an “unofficial capacity” after Logan asked for his help. Piton also appeared on YouTube, praying a rosary for Logan and Harris.
His Facebook account appears to have shared numerous images in support of Trump and others challenging the 2020 election results from QAnon groups, according to the report. Some feature the QAnon WWG1WGA slogan, which means “Where we go one, we all go”.
Harris’ social media accounts feature similar content, the report says.
Media Matters said Piton had “live streamed what appears” to have been “a private Election Audit Zoom meeting between Harris, [Representative] Andy Biggs, Members of the Arizona Senate, and himself ”.
More general concerns
The audit has come under criticism for the persistence of conspiracy theories and concerns about its methods.
The Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice wrote to Republican President of the Arizona Senate Karen Fann that seizing ballots could violate federal law requiring ballots to remain under the control of election officials for 22 months.
US Senior Deputy Attorney General Pamela Karlan wrote: “Past experience with similar investigative efforts across the country has raised concerns that they may be directed against minority voters, which may potentially involve the prohibitions against intimidation of the Voting Rights Act … These investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters, which may deter them from seeking to vote in the future. “
Jennifer Morrell, a partner at Elections Group, a consulting firm that advises state and local election officials, who has not worked in Arizona, told the AP: “I think the activities going on here are reckless and form looks like an audit. “
Cyber Ninjas did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment. A call to Piton’s investment planning firm was not answered.
Harris told Al Jazeera in a text message: “The fact that you are talking about it tells me that you are part of the problem.”
Media Matters said: “Harris and Piton’s involvement in auditing the Arizona election is of more concern – if their claims of working with Arizona audit officials and senators are true, it means that an attempt to overturn the Arizona election results was quietly influenced by two QAnon supporters. work from the inside. “
Arizona Republicans don’t seem worried. The Arizona Senate on Friday signed a lease to continue the audit. The lease lasts until the end of June.