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Republican Maricopa County official decries the ‘big lie’ behind third vote audit

An order to audit the 2020 vote by the Republican-controlled state senate in Arizona has been opposed by several members of the county board of supervisors, who say the process has made Arizona a "laughing stock" and it's time to accept the results. Stephanie Sy speaks to Bill Gates, the vice chair of the Maricopa County board of supervisors and one of the signers of that letter, about the matter.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, it's been six months since Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the state of Arizona, but officials in one county are still defending the integrity of the vote against an audit ordered by the Republican-controlled state Senate.

    Stephanie Sy has the story.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Amna, nearly two-thirds of Arizona's voters live in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. And for the first time in more than 50 years, a Democrat, Joe Biden, won the presidential race here.

    But, for the last month, a private company hired by the state Senate has been counting and examining millions of those ballots. And now even Republican election officials are saying, enough is enough. In a 13-page letter, several members of the county Board of Supervisors argue the process has turned the state into a laughingstock and they say it's time to accept the results and move on.

    Bill Gates is the vice chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and is one of the signers of that letter.

    Mr. Gates, thank you for joining us on the "NewsHour."

    It is a scathing letter addressed to the Senate president, Karen Fann, a fellow Republican. And you accuse her in this letter of renting out the good name of the Arizona Senate to grifters and con artists.

    Is that who has millions of Arizona's ballots in hand right now, con artists? And do you believe this is all an attempt to swindle voters and change the results of the 2020 election?

  • Bill Gates:

    Well, thanks for having me.

    And, look, this — the way this worked out was the Arizona Senate went to court to get the authority to get these ballots and machines from Maricopa County, who were holding them after the votes were all counted.

    And they indicated they wanted to review all this — all these materials to come up with potentially new election laws. Instead of doing that, what they have done is, they have turned over all these ballots, they've turned over these election machines to companies, one, that don't have expertise in dealing with elections audits, and, two, companies that peddle in conspiracy theories.

    And, unfortunately, they're the ones that now have their hands on the ballots of Maricopa County's 2.1 million voters who voted in the November 2020 election.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Senator Fann said this afternoon that this process has never been about overturning or decertifying the election.

    And she said that your Board of Supervisors has done nothing but throw up roadblocks to their requests. Bill Gates, what's your response to that?

  • Bill Gates:

    Yes, I don't think that's a fair statement at all.

    Again, we went to court to determine whether these ballots should be turned over. When the court said that we needed to do it, we did that. Now, we did — we never agreed, though, to be a part of this so-called audit.

    Maricopa County did two audits earlier this year, where we brought in companies that were voting system laboratories to examine things like, were the machines connected to the Internet? Was there any malware connected to the machines? We had these professionals come in, and they determined that there were no issues.

    What we're getting to now is essentially a recount that they're doing at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. And under Arizona law, recounts are only allowed in certain instances, where the votes are very, very close.

    But we're not obstructing this. We have watched them go through this so-called audit. And then, last week, they sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors alleging our good elections professionals of numerous improprieties, including some that could be criminal violations.

    So we said, enough is enough. And we went through and we responded in that letter to each one of these allegations. There's simply no basis to this. And instead of asking us these questions, they put these loaded questions out, these accusations out, both in their letter and on a Twitter account called the Arizona Audit Twitter, which, by the way, the Senate claims they have no control over.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    I want to talk about that tweet, because you do take specific issue with it in the letter that I have here.

    It came from the organizers of the audit, claiming that Maricopa County election officials deleted voter databases. President Trump then issued a statement supporting that theory.

    Bill Gates, why did the auditors of firm Cyber Ninjas believe databases had been deleted? And is there any truth to that?

  • Bill Gates:

    I think the reason they believed that was because, frankly, they didn't know what they were doing.

    Yesterday, we made it clear that those databases are still there. And guess what? Today, in a so-called hearing that President Fann had with their auditors, they admitted now they could find those. They're saying that they recovered them. The reality is, they were never gone, but they now have found them.

    But, interestingly, there was no apology issued by those contractors or by the Arizona Senate for baseless allegations of fraud by the employees of the Maricopa County Elections Department.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    They have also not deleted that tweet. I just checked.

    You have in this letter demonstrable facts that you're presenting that prove there was no deleted database.

    Why do facts not seem to be enough these days for so many Trump supporters?

  • Bill Gates:

    It's a great question.

    I don't understand. As a Republican — as long as I have been a Republican, I have known as the party of the rule of law, right, the party of facts and evidence, not the party of emotion.

    But, unfortunately, somewhere along the way, some members of our party have gotten away from those facts.And now they're simply peddling these conspiracy these. And you know what? I don't blame any of our citizens out there who are buying into these conspiracy theories, because they're hearing it from our leaders.

    That's why my colleagues and I and other elected officials at Maricopa County are standing up now, saying, enough is enough, and that we have to talk about facts and evidence. And, most importantly, we need to move on from the big lie.

    As Republicans, if we're going to be successful in the 2022 elections, we need to end this, and then we need to make a strong case for why we should be governing, and not the Democrats.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Other Republicans, as you know, including, recently, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, condemned Mr. Trump and his perpetuation of the election fraud lie, and have suffered politically.

    Bill Gates, what process did you have to go through to get to this point, where you were willing to take such a strong stance on this?

  • Bill Gates:

    Well, again, in my position as a member of the Board of Supervisors, we have had to stand up several times since November of 2020.

    First of all, we had to vote as a board to unanimously certify the election results in Maricopa County. And we took a lot of heat from that. Then we were demanded these ballots and election machines in December. We stood up again. We said we need to go to court, because we were concerned that that would be a violation of Arizona law.

    Then, in February, the Arizona Senate, despite the fact that our lawsuit was pending in court at that time, the Arizona Senate was only one vote away from holding us in contempt and throwing us in jail because of our failure to turn over these ballots.

    And now, finally, we're getting accused again of criminal acts, and our employees are being accused of criminal acts. So, quite frankly, it's been six months of us standing up for the rule of law, standing up for facts and evidence.

    And I have no problem doing it, because, if you didn't run for office to do what was right, to stand up for democracy, then why did you (AUDIO GAP) office in the first place?

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Bill Gates, vice chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, thanks for joining the "NewsHour."

  • Bill Gates:

    Thank you.

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