Texas taxpayers likely face a steep bill for 'election audit' Trump ordered from Gov. Greg Abbott

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott (center) appears with State Rep. Briscoe Cain (left) and Sen. Paul Bettencourt, Republican lawmakers who pushed the state's restrictive new voting laws. - INSTAGRAM / GOVABBOTT
Instagram / govabbott
Gov. Greg Abbott (center) appears with State Rep. Briscoe Cain (left) and Sen. Paul Bettencourt, Republican lawmakers who pushed the state's restrictive new voting laws.
While Texas officials have yet to explain how they'll pay for their probe into 2020 election results in four of the state's most-populous counties, evidence suggests it won't come cheap to state taxpayers.

Former President Donald Trump last Thursday issued an open letter demanding a "forensic audit" of the 2020 election in Texas, a state he handily won. Hours later, in a statement echoing Trump's "forensic audit" language, the Texas Secretary of State's Office said it would probe the election results in Dallas, Collin, Harris and Tarrant counties, three of which were won by President Joe Biden.

The probe comes under the watch of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a Trump ally running for reelection in 2022. It's the latest so-called "forensic audit" ordered up by GOP state lawmakers as Trump continues to push discredited lies that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election.

This summer, a 30-page nonpartisan report documented the high cost of the probes ordered up by Trump-coddling lawmakers. A collaboration between the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, center-right R Street Institute and nonpartisan anti-authoritarian watchdog Protect Democracy, the study also found that in some states, unaccredited contractors were allowed to access voting machines.

Arizona's recently completed investigation alone had already racked up $2.4 million in expenses at the time of the report's July 8 street date. Much of that price tag comes down to Maricopa County being required to replace its voting machines after they'd been "compromised by this interference."

The months-long review by a firm called Cyber Ninjas last week confirmed Joe Biden had won both Maricopa County and the state by more votes than counted in the initial tally. Cyber Ninjas revealed earlier this summer that Trump-supporting groups had kicked in $5.7 million to fund its work, while the state Senate had funneled it $150,000 for the effort.

“The takeaway is that this was a colossal waste of time,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said. “And anyone who is considering replicating it in their state, or taking further action based on this report, should not be considered a serious leader.”

Beyond Arizona

According to the same report, a statewide probe ordered up by Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin is estimated to run more than $63,000 and could expand statewide.

That Wisconsin price tag appears poised to go up further, according to news reports. Late last month, Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature began seeking approval to spend up to $680,000 in taxpayer money to bankroll the investigation.

Meanwhile, the report estimated the cost of Pennsylvania's ongoing Republican-ordered election investigation at $25,000. However, Philadelphia officials have warned that the city could be forced to replace $40 million in voting machines compromised during the process.

Michigan's GOP-backed probe has so far generated an estimated price tag of $5,000, the report states. However, Republican lawmakers in that state's legislature are also pushing for legislation that would appropriate $2.5 million in funding for the project.

The cost of Georgia's review was unclear at the time data was compiled, according to the report.

Just as alarming as the expense of the audits are what Republican officials are getting for their money, the report warns. The partisan reviews examined by the study failed basic standards of objectivity, transparency and competence, according to the authors.

"[T]he procedures proposed for these reviews are not designed to obtain secure and accurate results and are radically different from proven election integrity procedures, such as post-election tabulation audits, routinely conducted by election officials across the country," the report notes. "That these efforts are gaining traction more than six months after certification of the election is a blinking red warning light."

Calling out Abbott

That high price tag for partisan election probes didn't go unnoticed by journalist Chris Wallace, who quizzed Abbott during the governor's appearance on normally GOP-friendly Fox News Sunday.

"Isn't it just a terrible waste of taxpayer money to have an audit in a state that everybody says went fine and that President Trump won by 600,000 votes, and aren't you contributing to this undermining confidence in our election process?" Wallace asked.

Abbott ducked the question, instead asserting that because governments regularly audit other functions, they should also do so for elections.

Even though Texas' announcement of its probe came mere hours after Trump shared an open letter demanding an audit of the Texas results, Abbott asserted to Wallace the probe was unrelated to the former president's request.

“They actually began months ago because the secretary of state of Texas has an obligation to make sure that we do conduct audits in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. 

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