Arizona Audit: How Partisan Divisions Upend US' Ability to Sell Its Image as 'City on Hill' to World
18:59 GMT 13.10.2021 (Updated: 19:00 GMT 13.10.2021)
Ongoing partisan strife over the outcome of the 2020 election is mirroring what happened after Donald Trump's victory in 2016, says American journalist Max Parry. Growing partisan suspicions and blame games are disheartening independents and non-voters and dealing a heavy blow to the US democracy, he believes.
The release of the Arizona draft audit report late last month has prompted further controversy: while Democrats claim that the recount confirmed that Joe Biden won the 2020 elections in Maricopa County, the GOP insists that the examination of ballots exposed glaring anomalies and election irregularities.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee chaired by Democrat Carolyn Maloney held a hearing with Arizona election officials and experts on 7 October in an apparent effort to dot the i's and cross the t's with regard to the audit. It appears that the hearing went as the Democrats planned, raising new questions about Maricopa County's election integrity.
Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) got Maricopa Supervisors Board members Jack Sellers and William Gates to admit that they had deleted election data from servers subpoenaed by the Arizona Senate.
The data in question was "archived" and Maricopa supervisors didn't feel obligated to hand it over to auditors because the latter "did not subpoena" those archives
, claimed Gates. When asked by Biggs whether purging data from 2020 election databases was a standard practice, Gates and Sellers shied away from confirming it but said that they needed to clear room for forthcoming election data due to limited space on hard drives.
Still, it turned out that while 2020 election data was deleted from Maricopa County servers, information from previous elections remained on the hard drives intact.
In an exchange with Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) Biggs highlighted that Democrats are "cherry-picking the line which talks about the recount versus the tabulation machines," when claiming that the audit confirmed Biden's victory. In reality, nobody knows who won the election in Arizona, because "there are a lot of issues with this election that took place," Biggs emphasised.
Truly Impartial Audit Seems Impossible in Polarised US Society
The unfolding drama appears to be a repeat of the hyper-partisan issues that plagued the 2016 US presidential election, according to American independent journalist Parry.
While the journo acknowledges that "there were issues with the 2020 election in Maricopa County or anomalies of duplicate ballots and so forth," he understands concerns of those who consider firm Cyber Ninjas "pro-Trump" and "biased."
Parry recalls that five years ago the Democratic National Committee (DNC) also requested help from an allegedly independent cyber-security contractor, CrowdStrike, which publicly claimed that DNC servers were hacked by "the Russians." Later, CrowdStrike admitted under oath that they did not have concrete evidence that "the Russian hackers" had stolen any files from the DNC.
"This is precisely why I believe what is needed is an investigation truly free from outside control and influence, but with the present circumstances of the polarised US political system I am not sure that is even a possibility and it is doubtful that we will ever truly know the results of the election," Parry says. "The very fact that these inquiries and audits have to be contracted out to obscure consulting firms shows that trying to find objectivity and fairness in Washington is like herding cats and this only further damages American election integrity in the long run."
Election Rules and ID Laws
In the aftermath of the 2020 elections which saw loosened election rules and broader use of mail-in ballots amid the COVID pandemic, GOP politicians implemented voting reforms in some states to tighten election rules and ID restrictions. These moves came under heavy criticism from the Democratic Party, who accused the GOP of discrimination against ethnic and racial minorities.
"It is widely argued that low turnout elections historically aid Republicans so it makes sense that Democrats would push for looser voting laws," presumes Parry. "However, I think the GOP should be concerned that this strategy of tighter voting regulations which can arguably amount to voter suppression could potentially backfire on them because if one takes the election results at face value, turnout increased dramatically in the 2020 contest on both sides."
Still, this whole issue was entirely politicised with the circumstances of the pandemic, during which Democrats were more likely to vote by mail than in person, the journalist notes, adding that prior to 2020 and COVID-19 "neither party really benefited from mail-in voting."
2022 Midterms May Result in New Audits & Legal Dramas
The ongoing blame game is likely to spill over into the 2022 midterms, he forecasts. It's also likely to get even worse given that the Democrats are seeking to retain their slim majority in both chambers of the US Congress, while the GOP is planning to take the Senate and, possibly, the House, back. As Biden's approval rating plummets, political observers warn that this could backfire on the Democratic Party's performance during the 2022 elections.
It was also suggested earlier this year that the Republicans could add congressional seats in the House of Representatives due to decennial redistricting
: they are in control in most states that are adding seats as a result of the 2020 Census count. Last month a battle over how states redraw their districts began, according
to CBS News.
"Both sides are going to continue to take legislative steps to ensure favourable outcomes for themselves in swing states while neglecting non-voters and independents," Parry underscores.
Bankruptcy of Both Parties in Washington
The independent journalist notes that while the US two major parties are struggling for power, the crux of the matter is that tens of millions of Americans do not cast their ballots in the elections.
"In the 2016 election, less than half of the US population even voted at all speaks to the bankruptcy of both parties in Washington," Parry believes. "Even in the 2020 election which had record turnout because of the circumstances, 80 million Americans still didn't participate."
This situation, largely neglected in the mainstream press, speaks volumes about the state of American democracy, according to the journalist.
"Undoubtedly, the deepening ideological divisions within the US where hyperbolic discussions about the possibility of a 'civil war' brewing regularly appear in media discourse greatly weakens Washington's ability to project power abroad and sell its image as a 'city on a hill' to the rest of the world," Parry says.
At the same time, "it undermines US imperialism's military adventures of exporting democracy when its own system of government appears to be crumbling before the eyes of the international community," the journalist concludes.