“Why did this EAC commissioner talk to the senator behind Arizona’s audit?”

Jessica Huseman (in Votebeat’s indispensable weekly newsletter):

A newly revealed text message about Christy McCormick, a commissioner and past chair of the Election Assistance Commission, raised eyebrows among election observers this week. The exchange between two Arizona state senators notes that McCormick agreed to let them use her name in their press release announcing the “audit” Cyber Ninjas would conduct, to be sent out in late January, though it was apparently never released.

A screenshot of the message came in a document dump given to American Oversight, as part of the organization’s lawsuit against Senate Republicans in pursuit of more transparency into Cyber Ninjas’ contract and work. In a message to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, state Sen. Warren Petersen writes, “McCormick says she’ll be in our press release too.” 

“So won’t she be in deep dodo [sic] for saying this public[ly]?” Fann asked. “Nope, it’s a fact,” Petersen responded. 

The text messages weren’t clear about McCormick’s role in the press release or whether it would signal her support for the audit, and McCormick has provided no public explanation, so I asked for one. McCormick offered a statement: “Commissioners respond to requests from state officials on a weekly if not daily basis. As I do with any state official, I relayed the factual and publicly available information that EAC labs are not accredited by the EAC to perform the type of work that Arizona was seeking to do. The EAC did not track nor see a press release in this instance, and what gets published is not always within our control.”

Those who have talked to McCormick about this tell me they believe her: She was asked by Arizona officials if the EAC-accredited labs could do the kind of audit Fann and Petersen sought, and McCormick — not knowing what kind of audit they even wanted — told them it was not the EAC’s function. Because the press release wasn’t issued and Arizona Republicans haven’t been transparent about the decision-making behind the audit, we’ll probably never know the details of the exchange, but McCormick’s explanation seems plausible. It’s not helped by the fact that apparently no one else at the EAC knew McCormick had taken such a call, or green-lighted her name for a press release. (It’s not clear from McCormick’s statement if she even knew if a press release was in the works, or expressly gave permission.) 

The explanation would be believable and entirely reasonable coming from most other election officials. But McCormick has a years-long history of working behind the scenes at cross purposes with the EAC’s goal of strengthening elections, as revealed in text messages or emails made public in lawsuits or by records requests. Let’s review the evidence.

After 2016, McCormick began to surprise those who had known her work by actively resisting the finding that Russia had interfered in the November election. She repeatedly attempted to convince state election officials it was nonsense. She did so at conferences, she did so by email. “It is my opinion that the entire thing is complete BS,” McCormick wrote to her fellow EAC commissioners and the director of an election association on Dec. 30, 2016. “It sickens me that this administration appears to be creating false intelligence narratives to bolster whatever their agenda is.” She forwarded the full chain to Georgia Secretary of State (now governor) Brian Kemp. “I am appalled by what I am seeing,” she said. He replied to her, calling it “unreal.” 

She didn’t keep it to election officials — she made these claims publicly and with no regard for the facts. In a blog post she published on the EAC’s website in January 2017, McCormick wrote that the claims were “deceptive propaganda perpetrated on the American public” by the outgoing Obama administration. She would not publicly correct this assertion until 2019.

And it wasn’t just words: I reported in 2018 that in the months after the 2016 election McCormick passed up multiple opportunities to hear classified briefings on the issue, essentially lying down on the job as an EAC commissioner. Neil Jenkins, who worked with DHS at the time, told me that she rarely came to meetings, and when she did was actively hostile to the information presented. 

In 2017, McCormick shocked the election world by willingly participating in Trump’s “voter fraud commission,” the drama of which I covered from start to finish. Emails released (also by American Oversight) show that McCormick worked behind the scenes with Republican commissioners Hans Von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams to find right-leaning staff members to employ. She recommended one statistician, and said she was “pretty confident that he is a conservative (and a Christian too).” When I spoke to her at the voter fraud commission’s first meeting in 2017 at the White House, she told me she’d joined the commission because she’d seen voter fraud with her own eyes. She didn’t elaborate. …

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