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Arizona uncovers a lot of ‘maybe’ in vote count

The Maricopa County, Arizona voting audit test results came back at the end of September.

They show 23,344 mail-in ballots were received from voters’ previous addresses.

They show 9,044 more ballots were returned by voters than were sent out.

They show 5,295 ballots were affected by voters who potentially voted in multiple counties.

They show 17,322 duplicates of early voting ballot return envelopes, with more than 25 percent of them received from Nov. 4 through 9, the six days following the election.

Auditors stated that “a large number of files in the election management server and scanner machines were deleted.” Those files would have aided in the review and analysis of the audit.

Do those numbers indicate race results for the Senate and presidential elections in that state were impacted by flaws in the system? We will probably never know the answer to that question.

What we do know is this: Those numbers represent an awful lot of “maybe” for a presidential election in a state with a 10,457-vote margin. Do they show Arizona’s presidential and Senate election results are fraudulent? No. But they do make it presumptuous to dismiss claims this election was hijacked as “the big lie.” Remember, this is just one county, albeit a populous one, in one state among thousands of counties in 50 states. It’s naive to think no other county in America produced these flaws in the vote count.

Local officials are divided on the need for an audit of the Pennsylvania results. Should there be similar audits in Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia?

Those audits might turn out the same as Arizona. Or maybe not.

That matters less, at this point, than the fact that there is so much “maybe” involved with our presidential elections, not just in 2020, but with most of them in the 21st Century. At one time or another, both major political parties have questioned legitimacy of the results.

The bottom line: We have to stop waking up divided and angry the morning after the election. That will only happen when one, bipartisan goal lives within all of us – trust.

Some 33 states have been evaluating legislation designed to avoid a repeat of the 2020 mess. A local state representative has proposed legislation including a battery of election changes.

There is one litmus test for all of these proposals: Do they increase trust in our election/voting system?

People who do not want to change what is becoming a very questionable election operation for a free democracy complicate proposals to change it with charges of racism and voter suppression.

When did voter IDs become a matter for racial division, IDs that can be as simple as a utility bill or a drivers license that almost everyone of voting age has?

When did showing up at a polling place to vote rather than mailing a ballot in, with anyone’s signature and decision possible on the ballot, become voter suppression?

When did expanding voting hours morph into “making it harder to vote?”

The solutions are simple if trust and fairness are our goals. Expand in-person voting hours to allow the maximum opportunity for all people to vote — perhaps a four-day voting period starting the Saturday before “election day,” perhaps on multiple weekends prior to the election.

Make it as easy as possible to vote, with only these caveats: An ID, a signature, local control with strict supervision of the results and a paper trail to verify them.

Limit mail-in voting to only instances where no other alternative is possible. The system of absentee balloting has proven to be the only mail-in version of voting that is traceable and reliable.

You think mail-in balloting — the predominant method in many states already — is the future?

I recently listened to a woman caller from North Carolina to a radio show. Her parents were moving from California to North Carolina and she was receiving their mail while they were moving, including ballots for California’s recent governor retention vote. She received three ballots in the mail – one for each parent and one for a sister. There’s only one problem with that. She doesn’t have a sister.

You think she is the only person in the country who would be receiving a fraudulent ballot in 2024? I am thinking you are smarter than that.

The people who want to make the voting booth obsolete have done a really good job of finding excuses to make that happen, including a virus.

This is not meant to disparage the seriousness of the virus.

But it can’t be the conduit to radical changes in an election system that rely more on our deteriorating mail system and less on in-person, more traceable methods.

The virus is serious and sadly lethal for some people.

But in our democracy, voting without trust in the results is lethal to all people.

David F. Troisi retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of the Sun-Gazette.

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