One day after Arizona’s 2021 state Legislature was sworn in, influential Republican senators subpoenaed voting equipment used in the presidential election with the aim of “confirming the results.”
It was the latest sign the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden won’t end the 2020 election in Arizona, where lawmakers are pushing bills to address alleged voting irregularities and the state Republican Party will vote Saturday on censuring prominent party members. Questioning the results of the election and the integrity of the state’s election system has become a litmus test among a vocal segment ofa stateGOP.
State party officials have verbally sparred with Gov. Doug Ducey (R) over his role in certifying the victory of Biden, the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Arizona since Bill Clinton in 1996. Ducey said he will attend Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, calling him a good man who “wants to serve his country.”
Election finger-pointing has led to leadership dustups, like the resignation of Rae Chornenky as chair of the Maricopa County Republican Party. Chornenky, who was criticized for her election preparations in a county at the center of fraud allegations, said factionalism within the state party is hurting its ability to keep and attract voters.
Chornenky, an attorney, said she expected Trump to win the state but that Biden deserves the respect of acknowledging that he won. The state GOP, she said, has seized on distrust and frustrations felt by some Republicans and fed it with claims of a fraudulent and rigged election.
“I think that’s just a battle cry that’s uniting a great many of them,” Chornenky said.
At least one state lawmaker, Rep. Mark Finchem (R), said he was at the Jan. 6 rally-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol, and on Jan. 12 leaders of the state Senate issued subpoenas to officials in Maricopa County, population 4.4 million, demanding election equipment and documents.
State Senate President Karen Fann (R).said the information was sought because of interest in “confirming the results of the election and investigating whether we need to modify statutes regarding the voting process.”
Some proposals for changing those voting processes have come straight off the rumor mill. Among them: a bill (SB 1023) that would outlaw the use of a particular kind of pen — a response to false information on social media that the ink in sharpies could bleed through paper and invalidate ballots.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) has repeatedly dismissed claims of fraud as baseless. Ducey said Arizona “didn’t explore or experiment” in the 2020 election and followed its long-established laws.
A core group of people most active in the Republican Party—the ones who volunteer even in non-presidential years and show up at party functions—as well as the party’s chairwoman, Kelli Ward, insist without showing credible evidence that President Donald Trump was cheated in Arizona’s election and that the “old wing” of the party refuses to investigate it.
They’re more than a little frustrated with fellow Republicans who say the election was conducted fairly. For instance,”#STHU” — commonly used to mean “shut the hell up” was how Ward responded on Twitter to Ducey’s defense of Arizona’s presidential election.
At the state party’s annual meeting Saturday, the gathering will be asked to censure former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, widow of U.S. Sen. John McCain, for failing to support Trump and aligning with “leftist causes.” Cindy McCain endorsed Biden for president.
Ducey’s in line for a similar symbolic vote, intended as punishment for his coronavirus restrictions.
The state GOP’s response to the election has drawn a backlash from business leaders who’ve declared their checkbooks closed until there’s “a return to civil discourse and the fundamental principles upon which the Republican Party was founded.”
The statement from the group Greater Phoenix Leadership said financial support of the Arizona Republican Party was ending because “We find the weeks of disinformation and outright lies to reverse a fair and free election from the head of the Arizona Republican Party and some elected officials to be reprehensible.”
The Arizona GOP didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The Republican-against-Republican infighting is about more than just fealty to Trump, said Bettina Nava, owner of consulting agency OH Strategic Communications and previously a state director for John McCain.
In addition to giving Biden a winning margin of about 10,400 votes out of more than 3.3 million ballots cast, Arizona voters went for another Democrat, now-Sen. Mark Kelly, by a wider margin. It shows that the state is making a political transition, Nava said.
“This scorched-earth demonization of brothers and neighbors is hardly a way to grow,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brenna Goth in Phoenix at firstname.lastname@example.org