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Secretary of State: Recount in Arizona is a ‘frightening precedent to set’

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 01: Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has been known to call out her party in the past when they make a move she disagrees with, and she recently called out Republicans in Arizona for the recount that’s being done now of the 2020 election results.

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“The precedence of this is just unnerving for election officials across the country and it should alarm every American in the country because we don’t want people to be able to just walk into a crime scene and contaminate evidence for a future trial,” Wyman said previously.

For those who haven’t been following the story in Arizona, Wyman joined KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show to explain, and share why she’s bothered by the precedent it sets.

“One of the things that I’ve been very proud of, my profession as election administrators, that over the last 30 years we’ve worked very hard to have policies and procedures and laws that make our elections fair and that inspire confidence in everyone from the most liberal Democrat to the most conservative Republican,” she said. “And what we’re seeing in Arizona is this move to privatize administrative processes, politicize them, and try to have an outcome that calls into question the election by giving 2.1 million ballots to a private company with no accountability to the public or to the voters of Arizona.”

“This is a frightening precedent to set that I guarantee you will be attempted in other states,” she added.

A pro-Trump private consulting firm called Cyber Ninjas has been enlisted by Republican leaders in Arizona to do this count.

“The state Senate in Arizona decided that they wanted to do an audit independent of the Maricopa County election officials and independent of the Arizona Secretary of State’s office,” Wyman explained. “And while that sounds good on the surface, the problem with it is they — and this was taken to court, so it has been challenged in court and the judge said that they had the statutory right and constitutional right to do that — the problem is that the Senate did not outline or specify any of the parameters or details.”

“So this private company has come in and they’ve taken over the equivalent of our Lumen Field [Event Center] and they have pallets and pallets of ballots,” Wyman said. “They have voting machines that were used in the election and they are now attempting to do some sort of, I don’t want to call it a recount because I don’t think you can even say that. It’s an event. And the problem is that now they’ve contaminated all of those ballots.”

Arizona, like every state in the country, Wyman says, has an obligation to protect the records of any election ballots and materials for 22 months after an election.

“So that if you ever had to go back and visit those ballots, you could, and you could show the chain of custody, you could show all of the audit procedures that election officials employed at every step of the election,” she said. “And now all of that has been thrown out the window because you’ve given these ballots and these materials to a third party.”

Unfortunately, those who have spoken out against the party, including Wyman herself and her staff, have gotten a lot of heat, including death threats. Wyman isn’t sure if her speaking out against what’s happening in Arizona will make her a target again.

“We’ll see,” she said. “It certainly did — you guys are getting me all choked up on air — it certainly did in the aftermath in 2020. … When you’re in public, you’re always going to have the critics, you’re always going to have people who are going to make outlandish claims or criticize your work. That comes from the territory and that’s a good, healthy part of democracy.”

“In the 2020 election, people crossed the line and they made death threats and things to people on my staff. That’s why I’m getting upset,” Wyman said. “It’s still, months later, it’s just frightening that people would start attacking government officials online thinking that’s OK.”

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Wyman says she understands the emotion and frustration that people feel, but when you start threatening people because of a job, she says that’s when it goes too far.

“When you start really threatening people’s lives because of a job they hold, I think that’s time where you need to take a step back, and take a deep breath, and there’s other ways to get to the issue you’re trying to address,” she said.

So why does she continue in this position?

“I’ve spent 28 years doing work that I’m proud of,” Wyman said. “And it’s important. I think I can say this for any election official across the country that the work we do, we never lose sight of. Democracy is in our hands, and it’s important.”

“And I guess what has always driven me is I can’t imagine somebody coming in and undoing the work that we’ve done and undermining the accomplishments we’ve made in the state to balance access and security, to make sure that every vote is protected, and that our elections are well run,” she added.

Part of her frustration is how well Washington’s election was run in 2020.

“How accurate, how accountable, how we could reconcile every single ballot we received back and tell you what happened to it,” she said. “And to have people now just make up a narrative that is patently false on its face, to be able to get the air time that they’re getting that advances that narrative.”

“The irony that I keep finding in this with all of the cybersecurity training that I’ve had over the last four years, this plays right into the misinformation and disinformation campaigns that our foreign adversaries have been really trying to advance,” she added. “…  This is exactly what what Russia was trying to do eight years ago, was to try to divide Americans and trying to undermine democracy, and you know what? They are winning. So the irony of this is a lot of the narrative that’s being advanced by people on the right is a narrative that was created in Moscow in 2014.”

Wyman says it’s an honor to her to get to do the work she does.

“Every day, even on those hard days, it’s worth every emotion and every tear, and every drop of sweat,” she said.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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