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Arizona GOP lawmakers pressure Kelli Ward to audit party election

Kelli Ward reacts as supporters welcome her at an election night event in Scottsdale to give her concession speech in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on August 28, 2018. Ward went on to be elected chair of the Arizona Republican Party, but her reelection last month remains under scrutiny. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) — Pressure is rising on the leader of the Arizona Republican Party to allow an audit of her recent reelection as she continues to question President Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

A large group of GOP state lawmakers sent party Chair Kelli Ward a letter this week demanding that she allow an audit of her January reelection, which she won by 42 votes but is increasingly being challenged.

The letter demands that Ward either allow an audit or step aside from efforts to audit results in Maricopa County that saw Biden win.

“We urge you to heed the calls of your voters and allow for an immediate audit of the election that was held on January 23rd, in a manner that is fair and transparent,” said the letter signed by 18 state House and Senate lawmakers. “Or we would ask that you remove yourself from efforts to properly audit the elections held in Arizona on November 4th, 2020, as you would be an unwelcome distraction and foil for the media to use to discredit our efforts to protect our state’s voters.”

Rep. Kevin Payne, who used his House letterhead to send the missive, said Ward was trying to have it both ways and it didn’t sit well with him and other Republicans.

“If you’re going to do one then you’ve gotta do both – that’s the way I look at it,” Payne said Friday. “That election didn’t go well on the 23rd – there were all kind of abnormalities about it, so we just want the same treatment. If you’re going to call out the national election, you’ve got to have integrity on her election.”

Ward has refused to allow an audit of the state party election, where questions immediately arose after she squeaked out a victory and held her post. She said in a Jan. 28 video that there was no mechanism for a recount of an audit.

“Because no once challenged the election on the day of the election, there was no complaints and actually there was a lot of unity that was claimed there at that meeting, these are the final, final result of that election,” she said.

Ward didn’t return immediately messages seeking comment on Friday.

Ward is a major backer of former President Donald Trump who has consistently questioned Arizona election results that saw him lose the state. She’s been touting the state Senate’s efforts to audit Maricopa County’s election results and either she or the state party were plaintiffs in three of the eight failed post-election lawsuits that challenged Biden’s Arizona victory.

Sergio Arellano, a southern Arizona businessman who narrowly lost to Ward in a runoff election, has asked state party officials for an audit of the election results.

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