Report from the AZ Audit Front

It's at least as bad as you thought it was.

Jennifer Morrell reports in WaPo: I watched the GOP’s Arizona election audit. It was worse than you think.

To be honest, I was pretty sure it was going to be awful, so I wouldn’t say it worse than I thought it would be. But man, it really is bad:

I was stunned to see spinning conveyor wheels, whizzing hundreds of ballots past “counters,” who struggled to mark, on a tally sheet, each voter’s selection for the presidential and Senate races. They had only a few seconds to record what they saw. Occasionally, I saw a counter look up, realize they missed a ballot and then grab the wheel to stop it. This process sets them up to make so many mistakes, I kept thinking. Humans are terrible at tedious, repetitive tasks; we’re especially bad at counting. That’s why, in all the other audits I’ve seen, bipartisan teams follow a tallying method that allows for careful review and inspection of each ballot, followed by a verification process. I’d never seen an audit use contraptions to speed up the process.

Speed doesn’t necessarily pose a problem if the audit has a process for catching and correcting mistakes. But it didn’t. Each table had three volunteers tallying the ballots, and their tally sheets were considered “done” as long as two of the three tallies matched, and the third was off by no more than two ballots. The volunteers only recounted if their tally sheets had three or more errors — a threshold they stuck to, no matter how many ballots a stack contained, whether it was 50 or 100. This allowed for a shocking amount of error. Some table managers told the counters to go back and recount when there were too many errors; other table managers just instructed the counters to fix their “math mistakes.” At no point did anyone track how many ballots they were processing at their station, to ensure that none got added or lost during handling.

It goes on from there.

My favorite (so to speak):

At one point, I overheard some volunteers excitedly discussing a stain on a ballot. “It looks like a Cheeto finger,” one said. “Like someone’s touched it with cheese dust!” That had to be suspicious, their teammate agreed. Why would someone come to the polls with cheese powder on their hands? But I’ve seen ballots stained with almost anything you can imagine, including coffee, grease and, yes, cheese powder. Again, when you have experience working with hundreds of thousands of ballots, you see some messes: That’s evidence of humanity’s idiosyncrasies, not foul play.


What are the odds that this “audit” is going to produce a report that shows a disjuncture between its findings and the official record? Those odds are essentially at a 100% chance. And all that will do is the give the already deluded even more “evidence” for their delusions.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. mattbernius says:

    Oh Steven you’re just a running dog of the deep state, so you can’t possibly understand “Real America” counting.

  2. CSK says:

    Well, if there was Cheeto dust on a ballot, it clearly means that Trump was in there rigging things in his favor.

  3. Michael Cain says:

    If Cyber Ninjas publishes a report that is anything except “We found no evidence of fraud or other problems,” Maricopa County and Dominion (and possibly the firms that did the previous audits) will sue them into oblivion.

    I think the most likely outcome is the AZ legislature adjourns sine die before the “audit” is finished, the legislative subpoena lapses with the session so the ballots and equipment must be returned, and no report is ever issued.

  4. @Michael Cain: If they write a “report” that says their count rendered X and that X was different from the official tally, I am not sure that Dominion would have the basis of a suit.

    Indeed, if I say “I counted 53 cards” but you know you dropped 52 cards, it isn’t untruthful for me to say that I counted 53. More accurately, my count was an error. Proving me wrong doesn’t change the fact that I counted 53.

    Further, my error won’t stop the 53rd Card Conspiracy Brigade from using my erroneous count to further their cause.

  5. @mattbernius: This is quite likely.

  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: In some ways you are describing the classic National Enquirer playbook. My aunt used to subscribe and I amused myself a few times by reading it, and everything is couched in very contingent terms, so as to avoid libel.

    I mean Trump’s shorthand, “people are saying”, is kind of the same territory.

  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    This fiasco just might convince all but the most loyal to TFG, that all this whining about vote fraud, is well, fraudulent.

  8. CSK says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    I think that should be “Many people are saying.”

    Funny how he never specified exactly who.

  9. Scott F. says:

    And all that will do is the give the already deluded even more “evidence” for their delusions.

    Since perpetuating delusions was the objective of this audit, it’s Mission Accomplished.

  10. Kathy says:

    Covidiot: Let’s miscount the ballots and then look for a way make up the numbers we want.

    Maskhole: Too much work. Let’s just say we found proof of Cheeto dust and bamboo fibers.

  11. Michael Cain says:


    I live in a vote by mail state. One time when I spoke with one of the county workers here, he said that I wouldn’t believe the kinds of things spilled or smeared on some of the returned ballots. He asked if I thought computer vision would get good enough to match humans’ ability to read the marked bubbles through a coffee stain, so that they could eventually stop having to produce a clean clone for the machines to read. I suspect the software is good enough already, but getting it certified might be a pain.

  12. Jen says:

    @Michael Cain: Through my years in politics and beyond, I’ve known a number of county/town clerks who open and record absentee ballots.

    People are so strange. They mail ALL kinds of stuff in with their ballots–and sometimes, *without* their ballots–in the ballot privacy envelopes. Coupons, letters, Bible verses, junk mail…you wouldn’t believe the crap that gets sent in. That’s not even counting the number of people who spoil their ballots by messing them up with food and whatnot.

    It’s crazy. Just like this b*llsh!t “audit” in Arizona.

  13. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Or like no one’s ever eaten or drank anything standing in line, right? I usually drink coffee or soda and have snacks when I’m reading. I’ve many books with all sorts of stains on their pages. The same goes for papers at my desk.


    I used to send candy with correspondence. Is topped because ti was really hard to get the candy in the DSL jack 😉

    What strikes me is how much like their idiot leader these people tend to become: stupid and lazy and shameless. Also overly self-important crybabies, with skin so thin it makes onionskin paper look like steel plate armor.

  14. ptfe says:

    I just want to point to this letter, which is mind-bending and hilarious:—FINAL

    Especially related to the post above:

    You seem to be stating that you counted 218 ballots in Batch 1643, but our Transfer Transmittal Sliplog only recorded 200 ballots. We examined the Daily Tabulator Log slip for Batch 1643, and have verified that there were only 200 ballots in that batch—as there should have been. We also verified that the Daily Tabulator Log slip indicates that zero of the 200 ballots were sent from the tabulation center to be duplicated, but rather all 200 ballots were immediately able to be tabulated by the Central Count Tabulators. Thus, there should have been—and, we believe there were—200 ballots in Batch 1643 in the sealed box, not 218 as your contractors counted.

    There’s plenty more in there as the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors rips apart the Ninjas for their incompetent practices.

  15. Liberal Capitalist says:


  16. Ken_L says:

    What are the odds that this “audit” is going to produce a report that shows a disjuncture between its findings and the official record?

    Given the whole purpose of the exercise is to give the Arizona Senate an excuse to take over the certification of votes in future elections, I’d say it’s a foregone conclusion. I expect the report will be careful not to make any findings about who was responsible for voter fraud – that would raise awkward questions about why the Attorney General wasn’t locking them up – but simply to narrate a series of factoids which in their “expert” opinion mean fraud was rampant.

  17. Mikey says:

    I initially read this post’s title as “Report from the AZ Idiot Front” which I guess is accurate too…

  18. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Anyone with a smidgen of industrial experience knows that processes which rely on human checking will have a larger error term than those which have a minimal reliance on human intervention. I guess that knowledge hasn’t made its way to Arizona yet.

  19. CSK says:

    I thinking they’re counting on it.

  20. Joe says:

    It’s fascinating to see someone generate an audit process that, with the luxury of time and resources, is designed to be less reliable than the initial count(s).

  21. To the first-time commenter whose comment was put into moderation: if your very first comment is simply to attack another commenter, even if in a mild manner, your comment will not be approved.

  22. Nightcrawler says:

    @Michael Cain:

    I think the most likely outcome is the AZ legislature adjourns sine die before the “audit” is finished, the legislative subpoena lapses with the session so the ballots and equipment must be returned, and no report is ever issued.

    I can understand why you would think that, for the reason you specified, but we’re not dealing with logical people here. They’re lunatics fighting what they see as a holy war, and by god, they’re going to release that report and claim that DT actually won Maricopa County by, like, a zillion points.

    I hope Dominion does sue them into oblivion. At this point, lawsuits filed by Dominion and other stakeholders are the best hope of preventing this country from being destroyed.

    That’s sad and pathetic, but if I’m still holding out hope that I’ll get a free Vorta with my Dominion Pillow!

  23. @Steven L. Taylor: Steven l taylor your supposed to be an educated man tell us why maricopa county fought so hard not to let an audit be done???@Nightcrawler:

  24. @Randy taulbee:

    tell us why maricopa county fought so hard not to let an audit be done???

    I am not sure, btw, they “fought so hard” as much as they objected to the process knowing full well it would be highly flawed, which is exactly what we are seeing. Fundamentally, it is my understanding that their objection was based on their understanding of the law in terms of who could take possession of these ballots and other items.

    More here to inlcue links to even more informtation.

    Basically: if an irresponsible set of persons wants to do something irresponsible, it is not unusual for responsible people to object. Indeed, such objections are, well, the responsible thing to do.

  25. Ken_L says:

    @Randy taulbee: It should be noted that a similar question was posed about Trump’s frantic opposition to any attempts to see his taxes, investigate his campaign’s links to the Russian government, have his staff comply with subpoenas and so on. Needless to say Trump Republicans laughed at the idea this meant he had something to hide.