PHOENIX — It seemed so simple back in December.
Responding to angry voters who echoed former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, Arizona Republicans promised a detailed review of the vote that showed Mr. Trump to have been the first Republican presidential nominee to lose the state since 1996. “We hold an audit,” State Senator Eddie Farnsworth said at a Judiciary Committee hearing. “And then we can put this to rest.”
But when a parade of flatbed trucks last week hauled boxes of voting equipment and 78 pallets containing the 2.1 million ballots of Arizona’s largest county to a decrepit local coliseum, it kicked off a seat-of-the-pants, glaringly partisan audit process that seemed more likely to amplify Republican grievances than to put them to rest.
Almost half a year after the election Mr. Trump lost, the promised audit has become a snipe hunt for skulduggery that has spanned a court battle, death threats and calls to arrest the elected leadership of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.
The head of Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm that Republican senators hired to oversee the audit, has embraced Mr. Trump’s baseless theories of election theft and has suggested, contrary to available evidence, that Mr. Trump actually won Arizona by 200,000 votes. The pro-Trump cable channel One America News Network has started a fund-raiser to finance the venture and has been named one of the nonpartisan observers that will keep the audit on the straight and narrow.
had asserted that Arizona voting machines had been hacked in an “insidious and egregious ploy” to elect Mr. Biden.
it is an industry leader. But The Arizona Republic soon reported that the company’s chief executive, Doug Logan, had posted a litany of stolen-election conspiracy theories on a Twitter account that he had deleted in January.
Among them was a retweeted post suggesting that Dominion Voting Systems, a favorite target of the right, had robbed Mr. Trump of 200,000 votes in Arizona. Dominion says Cyber Ninjas is “led by conspiracy theorists and QAnon supporters who have helped spread the “Big Lie” of a rigged election.
Mr. Logan, at a news conference last week said the company was committed to a fair, transparent process. “It’s really, really important to us that we have integrity in the way we do this count and in the results that come out of it,” he told reporters.
Ms. Fann has said that the firm and others it will oversee are “well qualified and well experienced.”
But unease about the audit has continued to mushroom. Ms. Hobbs, the secretary of state, asked the state attorney general, Mark Brnovich, a Republican, to investigate the Senate’s handling of the procedure, citing a lack of transparency about security of ballots. She noted that some of the Legislature’s furthest-right firebrands have had free access to the coliseum even as it remained unclear whether reporters and impartial election experts would be allowed to observe the proceedings.
Greg Burton, the executive editor of The Arizona Republic, said in a statement on Friday that “Senate leaders have throttled legitimate press access and handed Arizona’s votes to conspiracy theorists.”
Amid the growing uproar, the Republican senators who have approved and stood behind the audit since its beginning have largely been silent about concerns over its integrity.
Alain Delaquérière and Susan Beachy contributed research.