Following a public meeting of the county Board of Supervisors in which the board voted unanimously to call for a stop to the audit, Jack Sellers, the board's Republican chairman, slammed the whole affair as a "circus" and said that the audit is a "grift disguised as an audit."
"I will not be responding to any more requests from this sham process," he added.
"Now it is time to say, 'enough is enough.' It is time to push back on the big lie," said Supervisor and vice-chair Bill Gates, also a Republican. "Otherwise, we are not going to be able to move forward and have an election in 2022 [where] we can all believe the results."
For months, Arizona Senate Republicans battled with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in court over access to ballots that were cast in the 2020 election and other material for a supposed audit. That audit finally got going in late April, generating national headlines and late-night television comedy material — for its absurdity. The company running the audit, Cyber Ninjas, is operated by a man who promotes the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, while one representative of the audit told a reporter that they were looking traces of bamboo in ballots based on a wild conspiracy theory that some ballots were smuggled in from Asia. Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice have warned that the audit could amount to illegal voter intimidation.
Last week, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann sent a lengthy letter to the Board of Supervisors alleging "serious issues" with the the county's response to the audit and demanding that the supervisors appear at a meeting on Tuesday to answer lawmakers' question. Monday's meeting and the subsequent press conference convened by officials, including newly elected Republican Recorder Stephen Richer and Democratic Sheriff Paul Penzone, was a response to that letter.
During the public meeting, the board voted 5-0 to send a letter to Fann calling for the audit to stop. Sheriff Penzone and other officials signed the letter, while county officials also publicized a point-by-point report that rebuffed Fann's claims.
"You, Senate President Fann, are the only one with the power to immediately end it. We implore you to recognize the obvious truth: Your 'auditors' are in way over their heads. They do not have the experience necessary to conduct an audit of the election," the letter reads. "It is inevitable that they will arrive at questionable conclusions. It is time to end this."
County Recorder Richer, who over the weekend publicly called on Republicans to stop spreading "insane lies" about the 2020 election and the Arizona audit, appeared to be particularly frustrated.
"I have been accused of shredding ballots tabulated in an election that I didn't run, run by my predecessor, my political opponent. I have been accused of inserting fake ballots from a South Korean plane. The claims have even been endorsed by the Senate majority whip," he said during the meeting. "This is what happens when you put good people behind bad leaders. It's a disaster."
Later, at the press conference, Richer said that Republican state senators are bowing to pressure from the rest of their party
"Any Republican who has stuck his head out, it's just been whacked off because they've gone out on their own," he said. "I promise you that there are Republicans in the state senate, Republicans throughout the state, who do not believe a word of this."
Gates said that the fervor among conservatives to attack Republicans who don't believe in conspiracy theories about the 2020 election is a "bloodthirsty culture."
"A large percentage of Republicans believe that the election was stolen in 2020, and that, you know, Donald Trump actually won," he said. "I want to be clear that I believe that Joe Biden won the election."
Steve Gallardo, the only Democratic member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said at the meeting that Senator Fann has "let the Senate be controlled by outside forces instead of standing up and being the real Senate of the president."
Chairman Sellers said that the county wouldn't immediately pursue legal action to halt the audit. But he left the option on the table.
"If it continues, if the attacks on our people continue, then we will do what we have to do legally to stop it. But right now we just want it to be over," Sellers said. "It really is up to them at this point if they want to continue this."
Senator Fann did not respond to New Time's request for comment.