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Mark Finchem

PHOENIX -- One Republican legislator who has built a national following by falsely insisting there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election in Arizona is now pushing a new evidence-free conspiracy theory: A planned audit by the Arizona Senate might turn up nothing because Maricopa County officials “destroyed evidence” when they conducted two audits of the election last month.

Maricopa County commissioned its own audits to examine the ballot tabulation machines used in the 2020 election. Those audits found no evidence of hacking, tampering, malware, changes to the software that was approved by federal regulators, vote switching or internet connectivity.

The two audits were done in response to baseless claims of voter fraud and conspiracy that the election was rigged against former President Donald Trump, but they have not satisfied Trump supporters, including state Rep. Mark Finchem, an Oro Valley Republican, who has been at the forefront of spreading lies about the election in Arizona.

“We are hopeful that the shenanigans the Board has engaged in with their version of an ‘audit’ has not destroyed the evidence needed to prove or disprove the allegations that the election was illegitimate,” Finchem said in an interview with The Epoch Times, a pro-Trump far-right website that boosted election conspiracy theories.

Finchem reiterated that point in an email to supporters, calling the audit a “sham” and asserting that the audits destroyed evidence and “interfered with a legitimate Senate subpoena.”

And appearing on Steve Bannon’s show War Room, Finchem said the audits the supervisors did amount to interfering with a “crime scene.” He said he has also asked Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office to open a criminal investigation and convene a grand jury.

Brnovich’s office said that’s not true.

“Representative Finchem has not met with investigators from our office to discuss allegations of voter fraud or the 2020 election,” Brnovich spokesman Ryan Anderson said in a statement to the Arizona Mirror. “We have consistently said that if anyone has evidence of voter fraud, they are encouraged to contact our office and speak with investigators.”

Finchem did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Finchem presented nothing to support his claim that the county supervisors or their auditors destroyed any records. But Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the board’s lone Democrat, said that absence of evidence is itself being used as proof that there’s a conspiracy.

“We kinda saw this type of talking point being used in other YouTube videos,” Gallardo said, referencing the litany of conspiratorial videos that have surfaced online in the wake of the 2020 election that have alleged malfeasance in Arizona’s election. “There is no audit that can be done that will satisfy Mr. Finchem.”

The reality, he said, is that the “deep-dive analysis” of the machines conducted by auditors showed there was no truth to any of the claims that the equipment had been tampered with or connected to the internet, or that they were programmed to rig the election.

The new allegations left Bill Gates, the Republican vice chair of the board of supervisors, frustrated.

“We have nothing to hide. These were two transparent audits where we had representatives of various governmental agencies there,” he told the Mirror. “It sounds to me like Finchem is trying to continue these politically motivated political prosecutions.”

“Despite our best efforts, we know there will be a percentage of folks that will still believe that this was a fraudulent election — even though there was no evidence of that,” Gates said. “It’s sad to see that some people can’t be convinced by the facts.”

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy is a reporter for the Arizona Mirror.

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