Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and other elected officials from Maricopa County refute allegations of irregularities with the county's handling of the 2020 election during a news conference in Phoenix, May 17, 2021. Credit: Jonathan J. Cooper / AP

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There’s an old Latin phrase that translates roughly to, “Who guards the guardians?” which is often used in the context of holding the government or powerful people accountable. As we watch the haphazard 2020 election audit stumble forward in Arizona, we’re left wondering: Who audits the auditors?

The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate initiated this audit in Maricopa County, a reflection of the dangerous staying power of former President Donald Trump’s repeatedly disproven claims of massive election fraud in last year’s presidential election. The audit effort, overseen by a firm without prior election audit experience and a leader who has echoed Trump’s claims about the election, has taken longer than it was supposed to, done a questionable job securing election materials and shown a poor understanding of the election system it purports to be reviewing.

Rather than demonstrating fraud, this process has provided decent evidence that these auditors don’t know what they’re talking about.

Just look at a supposed bombshell uncovered in their work, and then amplified by Arizona Senate Republicans and the former president. The claim: that an entire election database had been deleted in Maricopa County. This was news to Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, and everyone else living in the real world.

“Wow. This is unhinged. I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now,” Richer, a Republican whose office is in charge of maintaining county voter files, tweeted on May 15 after Trump further amplified the false claim. “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5.”

The auditors later backtracked, though not strongly enough. This was a pretty big detail to get wrong.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, a group of mostly Republicans, has urged Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to end the audit.

“We implore you to recognize the obvious truth: your ‘auditors’ are in way over their heads,” the board wrote in a letter to Fann. America should recognize the same.

That brings us to a recent interview on pardoned former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s podcast with Eric Greitens, a former Missouri governor who resigned in 2018 and is now running for U.S. Senate.

In the interview, Greitens supported the Arizona audit and said he would welcome the opportunity to debate Democrats about the November 3, 2020 election. “And I would let them say, the minute that I say one thing that’s factually incorrect, they can cut off the mic,” he told Bannon.

Well, if we apply that thought to the Arizona auditors, that means it’s probably time to stop listening to them since they’ve had trouble with the facts.

Even a Republican state senator who initially supported the audit is backing away from it.

“Who wouldn’t support an audit? But the way they’re doing it, it’s embarrassing,” Arizona state Sen. Paul Boyer told the Hill. “It makes me embarrassed to be a state senator at this point.”

He’s right to feel that way. It’s another embarrassing — and dangerous — installment in the false narrative of a stolen election.

“I feel like we’re in this fantasy land,” Boyer said. “I still have yet to see any evidence [of fraud], and I don’t think it’s coming.”

Even a quick audit of the Arizona auditors’ work shows them to be unreliable. To borrow from Greitens, it’s time to turn off their mic.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...