Two community groups and Democratic lawmakers asked Senate President Karen Fann to stop the controversial election audit and focus instead on hearing from families struggling to recover economically from the pandemic as lawmakers hammer out a budget.
At a Thursday press conference, Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, said the audit, which she and other speakers called “fraudit,” is a misuse of public funds. Her colleague in the upper chamber, Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, called on Fann, other GOP leaders in the legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey to end the audit.
“For the good of our state, for the good of the people of Arizona, I ask that they swallow their pride and take this opportunity to exercise true leadership and we end this unnecessary and dangerous audit,” Quezada said. “Let’s focus on finding solutions to the real problems that the people of Arizona face.”
The Arizona Senate’s historic recount and audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County kicked off on April 23. The Senate agreed to pay $150,000 to the audit team headed by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based firm owned by an advocate of the “Stop the Steal” narrative. Since the audit began, auditors have chased bizarre conspiracy theories, some of the people counting the ballots have been proponents of baseless claims that the election was rigged against former President Donald Trump, and the U.S. Department of Justice sought assurances that federal laws aren’t being broken. Who’s funding the work handling sensitive voter information is still unclear.
Instead of investing resources in the Senate audit, Quezada said lawmakers should focus on securing budget resources to provide direct aid to Arizonans affected by COVID-19, funding remote learning and investing in affordable housing or rental assistance.
“These are the real needs of Arizonans, and these should be our priorities,” Quezada said. “Let’s focus on finding solutions to the real problems the people of Arizona face.”
Arizona has a “multibillion-dollar (budget) surplus” and the state received billions in fiscal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
David Lujan, president of the Children’s Action Alliance in Arizona, told lawmakers at the press conference to focus on passing a budget that better funds schools and healthcare coverage for families in need.
“This year, with so many Arizonans struggling, it’s important and critical that we have our legislators’ attention on the budget rather than the sham fraudit that’s been going on for the last three weeks,” Lujan said. “They should be focusing and listening to the communities about the things our communities need.”
Members of Living United for Change in Arizona, a community advocacy group that represents working class and immigrant families, sent a letter to Fann requesting she end the audit and meet with them.
“We do not just want free and fair elections, we need them. We do not just want housing affordability, we need it. That is why we do not just want a meeting with you, we need it,” the letter states. “And frankly, you need to hear the several priorities real people across this state are relying upon you to act on.”
Galya Ochoa, 19, is a LUCHA member. She lives in Mesa.
At the press conference, she shared that in 2014 her father had an accident at the construction site where he worked. His pelvis was shattered. His wrist was injured and ribs bruised. But he continued going to work in construction because he was the sole provider in their five-member household.
Last June, after her parents separated, her dad stopped paying child support so Ochoa found a job in customer service for a retail company to cover the bills. She then tested positive for COVID-19, but she was told to still attend in-person training and work remotely while she was sick. To keep the disease from spreading in their two-bedroom house, Ochoa locked herself in her room, wore a mask and gloves and talked to her mother, brother and sister through video calls.
Years after her dad couldn’t afford to take time off to heal his injuries because he couldn’t lose the income, Ochoa said she was in the same situation.
“I couldn’t breathe, I had a really bad temperature, and I’m a diabetic. I didn’t know what could happen to me. I still had to work because I was the only person providing for my family,” she said. “This is a whole new generation that is suffering from not having paid family leave, and here we are focusing on an audit.”
Quezada and Terán have proposed legislation to create paid leave for people who need to take time off to care for a seriously ill family member. Those bills didn’t advance in either chamber.
“What are we going to wait for? Are my kids going to have to see me work while I am injured? Are my kids going to have to work even though their bones are broken and they can’t leave because their employers are going to fire them if they don’t show up to work?” Ochoa said. “We don’t need to focus on this audit, we need to focus on families like my father and me.