(AP) — Six months after Donald Trump
's defeat, conspiracy theorists and Trump supporters
are pushing for more ballot recounts, with only minor success.
judge last week granted a group the opportunity to review mail ballots in a large Georgia county that includes Atlanta, while officials in a rural Michigan
county have expressed interest in a review of their voting
machines, and a similar debate has sparked sharp divisions in a New Hampshire town.
The efforts are unlikely to yield any new revelations about President Joe Biden
's victory in the 2020 election
; the votes
have been counted — and frequently recounted — and certified by local officials. Nonetheless, the lingering debate and legal wrangling have propelled suspicions and advanced debunked theories, and their sometimes misleading conclusions have been amplified by Trump, whose false allegations have been amplified.
The flood of audits concerns election experts, who note that the Arizona
audit has established a troubling new precedent of third-party, partisan review of ballots long after elections
“Seeing it happen once is bad enough,” said Eddie Perez, an expert on voting systems at the OSET Institute, of Arizona, but seeing it elsewhere in the country is “dangerous for democracy
The audits are clearly serving a political purpose in terms of energizing the Republican Party
's base. At a rally outside Phoenix last week featuring GOP
Reps. Matt Gaetz
and Marjorie Taylor Greene
, references to the Arizona audit drew far more enthusiastic applause than even immigration
, which is normally the top hot-button issue on the right in the border
In a statement issued late Monday night, Trump chastised Republican Party leaders for not doing more to address "what happened" in November, citing ballot reviews that are currently underway and promising "more to come."
The Arizona audit has been cited as a template for the others, despite the fact that each is unique. In Arizona, the Republican-controlled state Senate
subpoenaed more than 2 million ballots and voting machines from the state's most populous county, which includes Phoenix, and delegated control of the review to a small cybersecurity firm whose founder, Doug Logan, had tweeted pro-Trump election conspiracies.
Logan is also involved in the Michigan effort. In April
, Logan and another cybersecurity expert involved in the Arizona audit, Ben Cotton, filed separate expert witness
reports alleging security problems in voting machines in a lawsuit
filed in rural Antrim County, Michigan, that sought to compel a statewide election audit. That case was dismissed by a judge last week — one of more than 60 c
However, Logan and Cotton's claims were used by a Michigan attorney earlier this month to strengthen the case for a "forensic audit" of voting machines in rural Cheboygan County, in northern Michigan.
“We don’t have a free country if your vote isn’t counted as it was intended to be counted,” attorney Stefanie Lambert, who had filed an appeal of the dismissal of a separate, unsuccessful lawsuit challenging Trump’s loss in Michigan, told the Cheboygan County elections committee, offering to provide auditors free of charge.
Pro-Trump groups have also called for their own choice to oversee a post-election audit of a statehouse race in Windham, New Hampshire, which is home to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
The most significant new entrant into the audit field, however, is in Georgia's Fulton County, where a judge ruled on Friday that plaintiffs could inspect 147,000 mail ballots as part of their lawsuit alleging fraud in the state's most populous county.
Garland Favorito, a longtime skeptic of Georgia's voting systems who has embraced conspiracy theories about 9/11, Clinton-era scandals, and Supreme Court
justices, spearheaded the lawsuit. Favorito claims to have voted for Don Blankenship, the U.S. Constitution Party candidate, last year.
“Our ultimate goal is the truth, so what is the truth of this election?” Favorito said in an interview
. “Don’t tell us what the results are and then hide it from us, pretending we have to accept whatever you tell us.”
“It is outrageous that Fulton County continues to be a target of those who cannot accept the results of last year’s election,” said Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts in a statement. “The votes have been counted multiple times, including a hand recount, and no evidence of fraud has been found.”
Favorito said Jovan Pulitzer, an inventor and key figure in the pro-Trump movement to overturn the 2020 election, may be one of the people
he consults for the ballot examination.
Pulitzer had pushed unsuccessfully for a statewide audit of Georgia's election results, despite the fact that two recounts by the state's Republican secretary of state
confirmed Biden's victory, which infuriated Trump, who has slammed both Raffensperger and the state's Republican governor
, Brian Kemp
Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump supporter running against Kemp in the GOP primary, held a news
conference outside the state Capitol
last week to chastise the governor for failing to order a statewide audit. “There’s a dead cat on the end of this line, and we just want to find out what it is,” Jones said.
That is the kind of sentiment that concerns Tammy Patrick, who used to oversee post-election audits in Maricopa County
. Those examinations, she argues, are necessary, but they must be performed by election experts, not ideologically motivated novices, and they must be completed soon after voting.
“In a healthy democracy, you have an auditing process, you have legal recourse, and when that period is over, all the candidates who won take over and you move on,” said Patrick, an adviser at The Democracy Fund, adding that those calling for audits clearly want only one outcome.
“They will not be satisfied,” Patrick predicted, “and this will go on indefinitely.”
Jeff Amy in Atlanta and Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report, as did Brumback from Atlanta and Riccardi from Denver