Pro-Trump Republicans are flocking to site of partisan Arizona ballot audit

Republican lawmakers and officials from at least seven states have toured or plan to tour the site of the ongoing partisan ballot review in Arizona as former President Donald Trump continues to spread the lie that his loss was the result of fraud.

The Republicans who have made the trip are among the most pro-Trump in their states, and the visits come as far-right media personalities and lawmakers have joined in the former president’s call to expand such reviews to locales outside of Maricopa County.

On Thursday, a Washington Post reporter spotted Colorado state Rep. Ron Hanks taking a tour of Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the Republican-backed review of Maricopa County’s election results has slogged on for more than a month. Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase, who just lost her bid to be the GOP gubernatorial nominee in her state, toured the facilities on Thursday, as well.

“Thank you AZ Senator Wendy Rogers for the warm welcome,” she tweeted Wednesday along with the hashtag “#auditeverystate.”

The GOP-controlled Arizona state Senate authorized the review of ballots and hired a private company called Cyber Ninjas to conduct it after President Joe Biden flipped the state blue for the first time in decades.

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman visited to the coliseum this week. Georgia state Sens. Burt Jones and Brandon Beach made the trip on Tuesday seeking “a blueprint for a statewide forensic audit” in the Peach State, according to a conservative radio host.

Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones visited Wednesday, criticizing Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, for his failure to do the same.

Randy Pullen, a spokesman for the review and former chair of the Arizona GOP, told NPR that Nevada GOP officials visited the ongoing count on Monday while lawmakers from Wisconsin may visit this week. Audit officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

The string of appearances followed a visit last week from a trio of Pennsylvania state senators — Doug Mastriano, Cris Dush and Rob Kauffman, who afterward called for a similar review to take place in their state. Their visit was followed Friday by Trump calling on the Pennsylvania Senate to “conduct a full forensic audit” of the 2020 vote or “there is no way” GOP state Senate leaders “will ever get re-elected!”

Trump’s statement came after a key Pennsylvania state House Republican said his chamber would not initiate a new audit, saying Republicans there, as is the case is legislatures across the country, are focused on altering election laws after last fall’s vote.

“The PA House of Representatives will not be authorizing any further audits on any previous election,” state Rep. Seth Grove, who chairs the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee, tweeted. “We are focused on fixing our broken election law to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

Mastriano, Eastman, Vernon Jones, Hanks and Chase all participated in pro-Trump events in Washington, D.C., that preceded the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The Arizona visits come as efforts to review last fall’s election persist in multiple swing states, with the review of more than 2 million Maricopa County ballots at its center despite prior audits finding no evidence of fraud.

“I think that people in other parts of the country should be looking at what’s going on in Arizona as an example of what not to do,” Bill Gates, a Maricopa County supervisor who helps oversee elections, told NBC News in a recent interview. A lifelong Republican, Gates is among the review’s most outspoken GOP critics.

Voter fraud in American elections is exceedingly rare. Trump’s top cybersecurity official called the 2020 election “the most secure in American history,” while then-Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread malfeasance.

In Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and other presidential battlegrounds, post-election audits or recounts — in some cases, multiple such reviews — have affirmed Biden’s win. But those who still question last fall’s vote say those recounts did not go far enough.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said the partisan ballot review in her state is effectively creating a roadmap for Republicans elsewhere to undermine election results they don’t like.

“They are definitely writing the playbook here in Arizona to bring this type of, I don’t want to call it an audit, but to other states,” Hobbs told NBC News in a recent interview. “And it’s dangerous. It’s continuing to undermine the integrity of our elections. We are now more than six months past the 2020 election. We know that it was secure and that the results reflected the will of voters accurately.”

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