The Arizona Audit
The latest front on the war on truth.
For those who may have missed it, the latest attempt at proving massive fraud in the 2020 presidential elections is underway in Maricopa county, Arizona. The State Senate was able to subpoena the ballots, hard drives, and the voting machines used in that election so as to engage in a hand recount and to engage in other checks on equipment. Private companies have been engaged in the effort, which will go through at least May 14th (when the lease on the old coliseum being used to house the materials is supposed to expire).
Note that we have here a recount only of one county, the process can have no legal force (the results have been certified both as a state and federal matter), and the “audit” is being led by a firm of questionable skill in this type of matter (they have never done it before) led by a CEO who has posted about electoral fraud conspiracy theories on social media.
Nothing about this will build trust nor knowledge. This is a stunt driven by a combination of those who believe in conspiracy theories and those who are cynically exploiting those conspiracy theories.
There is no way this ends well if anything because the very act has the effect of confirming to a lot of people their suspicions that there was massive fraud in 2020 (I mean, why else would the state Senate call for an audit if there weren’t real questions to ask?). The lack of evidence for said fraud matters not, but having official government action feed the conspiracy by engaging in this activity just adds fuel to the conspiratorial fires of way too many people.
This is some combination or credulous and cynical politicians all too willing to inflict long-term damage on democracy for short-term antics.
Here’s a refresher for the AZ results in 2020:
Maricopa County is the country wherein Phoenix is located.
CBS News has an extensive write-up about the audit: The Arizona GOP’s Maricopa County audit: What to know about it.
Although every state has certified its results, the Republican-controlled state Senate in Arizona has undertaken a full hand recount and audit of the ballots and voting machines in Maricopa, the state’s largest county, a move that has been frequently praised by the former president. President Biden won the county, a longtime Republican stronghold, by 45,109 votes, and he won the state by 10,457 votes. At the same time, Democrats also picked up a U.S. Senate seat from Arizona.
By subpoena, the state Senate took possession of 2.1 million ballots and nearly 400 election machines and turned them over to be audited by companies that include one whose CEO promoted debunked election fraud theories after the election. The majority-Republican county board of supervisors vehemently objected to the action and pointed to the multiple audits of ballots and machines that Arizona had already completed that had found no issues.
It should be underscored that the count has already been checked in Arizona.
Before and after every election, it’s standard procedure in the county to conduct a “logic and accuracy” test on election equipment. In 2020, those tests turned up no issues. State law also mandates a hand-count audit of a statistically significant sample of ballots after each election to be compared to the machine count. That, too, came up with 100% accuracy, according to county election officials.
In January, after waves of protests, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved two additional audits of election equipment. The board hired two independent firms, Pro V&V and SLI Compliance, which are certified by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. The firms conducted their separate audits in February and found no issues.
The audits included tests for malicious software and hardware, source codes, network and internet connectivity, and accuracy to detect vote switching. Observers from both parties were invited to attend, and the audits were live streamed.
The Republican-led board of supervisors has already certified the election results and deemed its own additional audits sufficient. In response to a subpoena from the state Senate, the board argued the legislature had no right under state law to access private ballots and election machines. The GOP-led Senate tried to hold the board in contempt, but fell a vote short.
The courts sided with the Senate and the audit was on.
The current process is being handled by essentially partisan amateurs:
Senate Republicans in Arizona hired several firms to conduct the new audit, and chose Cyber Ninjas, a cybersecurity firm, to lead it. The state lawmakers called the contractors a “qualified team” who had been selected after “months of interviewing forensic auditors.” Cyber Ninja’s website touts its consulting services on software application security but does not mention expertise in conducting election audits.
The CEO of Cyber Ninjas, Doug Logan, has previously promoted the unsupported theory that there was fraud in the 2020 election, according to a review by the Arizona Mirror of his now deleted Twitter account. The Mirror also reported that Logan authored a document on former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell’s website with untruthful allegations of fraud concerning Dominion Voting Systems. In a statement given to the Arizona Mirror, Logan stood by the document and the assertions in it, among them, the false claim that Dominion Voting Systems has links to the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
Cyber Ninjas issued a statement late last month in which Logan claimed “each member of our team has been part of election audits, including Cyber Ninjas, which was part of election audits in Michigan and in Georgia.” But officials in those states told CBS News that Cyber Ninjas wasn’t involved in any of the audits carried out by election officials.
And what they are looking for would be humorous if all this didn’t have significant consequences:
Tammy Patrick, a former elections official in Maricopa County, said the audit includes a “high-level forensic analysis of the paper” and workers are “keeping track of folds on ballots,” to check to see if ballots were actually mailed, even though Patrick noted that not all mail ballots end up with folds. She said examining the folds and paper helps “fuel and continue a narrative of some of the conspiracies.”
John Brakey, an official helping oversee the audit, told CBS station KPHO Wednesday that workers are examining ballots to “find out if there’s bamboo in the paper.” That stems from a baseless conspiracy theory that 40,000 ballots were flown into Arizona from Asia and stuffed into ballot boxes. Brakey said he didn’t believe that theory about ballots shipped from Asia, but examining them is “part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about.”
Election experts are also wondering if UV light being used to examine the ballots, according to procedures in one document, could damage them. A debunked conspiracy theory claimed Mr. Trump put watermarks on ballots to prevent cheating. The Maricopa County Elections Department issued a statement affirming there are no watermarks on ballots.
Yes, that’s right: they in engaging in fold analysis, a bamboo hunt, and search for secret watermarks. Because this is all a very serious business.
It is worth noting, in the context of conspiracy theories about vote-by-mail, the AZ was already a heavily VBM state, although even moreso in 2020:
In 2016, when Mr. Trump won the state by about 91,000 votes, about 76% cast their ballot early or by mail, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. In 2020, about 88% voted early or by mail.
Speaking of amateurism:
They say proper procedures aren’t in place to create a chain of custody, raising concerns about whether ballots are being tampered with, which could damage their integrity as records of the election.
For example, on the first day of the audit, a local reporter noted that workers were equipped with blue-ink pens, which are prohibited by the Arizona election procedures manual during hand counts because marks on the ballots would be indistinguishable from a voter’s marks. The blue-ink pens were swapped out for red-ink pens before any ballots were taken out of the boxes.
There is much more along these lines in the piece.
Then there’s this:
There are questions about who is funding the audit. The Arizona Senate is chipping in $150,000, but Logan and Bennett have not disclosed who else is paying for it. The Senate’s contribution would only cover a fraction of the cost of an effort that could go on for weeks. They’re getting some help from a host at the pro-Trump One America News Network who’s helping to raise some of the money. Another entity, called The American Project, is trying to raise $2.8 million for the audit. By Wednesday, it had raised over $1.5 million.
It is difficult to see anyone not captured by conspiracy-theory level thinking looking at this process and thinking it a good idea.
Note this essay in WaPo (linked from the CBS piece) by Chris DeRose, a Republican elections attorney:
I know the stakes involved with election fraud. I am a proud Republican. I have and will continue to support efforts to increase the fairness of elections. This Arizona audit is not one of them.
There is no reason to question Arizona’s election results. Representatives from all parties were welcome to observe every step of the process, from the machine testing in October (and retesting in November), to the operating of polling places on Election Day, to the bipartisan counting of ballots. As required by law, a sample of 8,100 ballots were hand-counted and compared with the machine totals. There was a 100 percent match.
It was a good year for Republicans in Maricopa County. Excepting a sheriff reelected over lackluster opposition, we won every countywide election while maintaining our 4-to-1 majority on the county board of supervisors. President Biden carried the county by more than 45,100 votes.
This points to one of the most amazing aspects of theories of massive fraud: they ignore that Republicans did pretty well in November. If Dems or their allies could perpetrate massive fraud across the country to help Biden win, why didn’t they do it for Democrats across the board?
The Maricopa County board, despite no evidence of an unjust result, responded to public questioning of the election by performing additional audits. Two companies, SLI Compliance and Pro V&V, are certified by the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission to test election machines and software. Maricopa County hired both to run every conceivable test for fraud or errors. They found none.
The Trump campaign filed one post-election lawsuit in Arizona, which the president’s attorney made clear was “not alleging fraud.” It focused on a small handful of ballots and was ultimately dismissed.
This hits another important point: while the conspiracy theorists can say what they like on social media, and people like Rudy Giuliani can say crazy things to TV cameras, when it comes to court and actual consequences, the evidence is scant (which is a polite ways of saying nonexistent).
His whole piece is worth a read, but I will include his conclusion:
How could anyone expect a partisan process to yield a result more accurate and trusted than the one administered by professionals of all parties following established rules? If you’re a Republican who supports this audit, ask yourself this: If the Democrats had lost, how would you feel if this was their response?
See, also, The Atlantic: The Unfolding Disaster in Arizona.
This whole thing should be self-evidently a very bad idea. I cannot imagine that most people, if told that an election had been conducted and audited (both in a situation of high scrutiny) and then certified would support an ad hoc review months later by a firm with a) no experience in this matters, and b) run by someone with clear partisan preferences (not to mention sympathy for conspiracy theories).
This scenario, described out of context and with the partisan stakes removed, would sound ridiculous (because there is no way around the fact that is it).
The whole thing is tantamount to a group of Chief’s fan hiring a firm led by a die-hard fan to review all the penalties in the Super Bowl to prove that the NFL wanted Brady to win. It is just absurd.
Republican politicians who support this type of behavior are playing with fire because they are promoting distrust in the elections process solely for their own short-term political gain. I cannot stress enough that the belief that the 2020 election was stolen is what led to a mob storming the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. And the more people who believe the big lie that there was massive fraud in 2020 the closer we get to a repeat of January 6th in one form or another. I would further note that the fact that there are too wat many otherwise normal Americans who believe the big lie is dangerous because while most of them may not engage in the next violent anti-democracy action, they will be willing to support or forgive it.
In 2000, when the election really was stolen*, the only violence came from Republicans trying to stop the recounts.
*Maybe W actually won; we’ll never know, because the (successful) Republican strategy was to steal the election by preventing counting the votes.
“Republican politicians who support this type of behavior are playing with fire because they are promoting distrust in the elections process solely for their own short-term political gain.”
I think it’s more than playing with fire. It’s a practice run for 2024, when all the Republicans who are willing to act as Raffensperger did in Georgia and accept an honest defeat will have been drummed out of the party, and Republicans will declare they won, regardless of what the actual votes are. That is the underlying point to removing Liz Cheney from House leadership — anyone who does not accept the Big Lie must be purged.
See also Greg Sargent’s opinion piece:
“This combination is toxic: Republicans are untethering themselves from any obligation to recognize future legitimate election outcomes, which will provide the rationale to overturn them, a freedom they are also effectively in process of appropriating. Cheney is insisting on a GOP future premised on a full repudiation of these tendencies, and getting punished for it.”
I for one look forward to a full-throated defense of this by all the proud Republican-voting readers of OTB–just like they have done for every step of Trump’s long-standing stolen election claims.
Oh wait, that’s right, ya’ll been completely silent for months on these topics. I wonder why…
This audit is a clown act, but part of a nationwide (Well, Red state wide. Is ALEC plaqying a role?) effort to undermine the independence of election officials.We all ask what problem all this is solving since the 2020 election went so well. The problem is that Republican election officials felt bound by the law. Now Maricopa county officials are under threat of contempt citations if they don’t go along with this. GOPs don’t want anymore of this Raffensperger style integrity shit next time around.
@mattbernius: Well, how about a text from my brother?
I’ve got lots of these. I didn’t even read this one until I went skimming for the latest to mention the election. My other brother is worse?
I really wish I would have taken a picture as our society flew over that shark.
@Mike Schilling: Sometime around late 2001 or so, the right-wing comic strip Kudzu ran a piece where one character asks where some other character has been, and they’re told “He’s down in Florida trying to recount the votes to make Al Gore president.”
This is what’s amazing to me: when the Dems had an election actually stolen from them in plain sight, most of them quickly put the ordeal behind them and moved on. Now, after an election with absolutely no irregularities, the Republicans made up a stolen-election narrative out of whole cloth and are attempting to bring the entire country down over it.
Curious about what my brother thinks about masks? He shifted the topic to this, which I have only skimmed.
The War On Truth is pretty addictive.
I don’t know how a society gets past this level of brain rot. All I can do is point and laugh.
We’ve been there before, though.How did we go from the era of yellow journalism and every city having newspapers just making shit up to an era where there was semi-reputable news that everyone mostly acknowledged from the 1930s until recently?
I’m hoping that Maricopa County sues all sorts of people for the expenses they’re going to incur recertifying their machines and trying to verify that they got all their ballots and envelopes back intact.
Uh, with all respect, WT-freaking-fracking-F?????
Reminds me too much of most of the relatives I’ve outlived. My condolences to having to share familial DNA.
@Gustopher: I can’t say about worse, but he’s certainly less lucid. And he appears to be a non-native speaker from some part of Asia (“erection” “printing loading up”). Was he adopted at an advanced age or something?
@Just nutha ignint cracker: No, “erection” rather than “election” is just a dick joke. He’s also the one that sends more heavily racially tinged memes.
I freaked him out one day by replying to one with something like “I know that they are darkening AOC’s skin here to make her a scary dark minority, but I think she looks good this way. Really good.”
I don’t want to entirely derail Dr. Taylor’s well researched post that depends on logic and facts with the freak show that is my family, but…
Logic and facts aren’t useful here. My brothers aren’t going to be pursuaded by logic and facts, and they think they are well informed — especially about the Clovis people and glaciers, apparently.
Yes, this is dangerous as can be for our democracy — I think everyone here agrees with that, and my brothers probably think it’s dangerous for democracy that their brother has fallen for The NY Times’ lies.
But… what can we do about it?
My brothers are probably unreachable, but mostly harmless. They live in a Dem+many house district in NY, so at least their votes don’t count… although the one was gloating that because they didn’t fill out the census and NY lost a (libtard) Rep by 89 people and a vote in the electoral college.
But, is everyone that far gone? How do we try to find and reach those that can be turned away from the crazy?
@Mike Schilling: The election was not stolen in 2000. This bullcrap is every bit as lame and debunked as the current tripe.
@Mike Schilling: And Gore was not attempting to “count the votes.” He wanted recounts in select, heavily Democratic counties run by Democrats, not a state-wide count. Later state-wide recounts by the media found Bush to have had more votes.
A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year’s presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.
Contrary to what many partisans of former Vice President Al Gore have charged, the United States Supreme Court did not award an election to Mr. Bush that otherwise would have been won by Mr. Gore. A close examination of the ballots found that Mr. Bush would have retained a slender margin over Mr. Gore if the Florida court’s order to recount more than 43,000 ballots had not been reversed by the United States Supreme Court.
Even under the strategy that Mr. Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida standoff — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Mr. Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations.
@mattbernius: Because we are bidding our time until the swamp is drained. We might find you in there!
@MDS 19: That qualifies as a non-answer.
@Cam: The whole state should have been recounted.
Beyond that, it is also the case that Gore lost Florida, and the presidency, because of the Butterfly Ballot used in Palm Beach County. But there was no way to fix that fact ex post facto.
It is absolutely the case that 2000 was far closer than 2020 ever was.
@Michael Cain: You think someone should be sued for wasting money! Start with Joe Biden notice I didn’t say President!!!
@Kylopod: No Joe Biden is bringing the country down all by himself!
@Cam: The notion that post-election studies indicated Bush was the rightful winner is a myth that was misreported in a number of places. As Jonathan Chait explained:
Here is how Wikipedia explains the matter (and you can click on the link to find the sources):
I agree that the Gore campaign’s attempts to count in heavily Democratic counties was wrong. However, the solution wasn’t to shut down the counting of the votes, but a full, comprehensive statewide recount, which is what would have happened if the four SCOTUS justices who voted against the final decision in Bush v. Gore had gotten their way. What that decision amounted to was a shutting down of the vote-counting process. The 537 vote gap separating Bush from Gore in the final tally was from a recount that was literally stopped in the middle by five justices with a vested interest in making sure the count wasn’t completed.
And make no mistake, the justices knew exactly what they were doing:
Sandra Day O’Connor, whose vote proved decisive in the 5-4 decision, deliberately abused her position as justice to shut down the democratic process and install the candidate she favored. Years later, she said she regretted her vote in the decision.
Ok, so what do you feel it means to drain the swamp? How will you know when it’s drained?
That’s a legit question. I really am curious about your perspective.
I am also curious to understand how you think Trump was draining the swamp. Can you point me to an example of two of how he was draining the swamp?
Perspective is important. Large scale fraudulent voting is a long running claim by the GOP. They keep looking for it and cant find it. They form commissions, name attorneys general and send out their journalists. They cant find it. They got recounts galore this time. Couldn’t find it. Now you bring in a fraudulent firm to look for fraud. Cant find it then you need to create it.
I’m quite certain we are just a presidential election cycle or two of the GOP simply installing their candidate in the White House because they have the power to do so. I hope the democratic party and the blue states have a proper response in place by then.
@Mattbernius: Thank you for asking this thread’s “proud Republican-voting readers of OTB” (Cam & MDS 19) to answer a straight forward question with a substantive answer. Nothing scares away the Trumpkins quite like a request for evidence.
Given that the Supreme Court stopped a recount when their dude was ahead, at the urging of their dudes lawyers…
I do not know who would have won had there been a fair and complete recount — which neither Gore nor Bush wanted. It’s entirely possible Bush would have been legitimately elected President.
I do know that the election was stolen. Not from Gore, but from the people of the United States. What happened caused irreparable harm to the country.
So wait he’s arguing that the melting glaciers are an even bigger problem than we realize? He’s clearly stating there’s more CO2 in those glaciers than is estimated.
This is kind of hilarious on a few levels. So is he incapable of looking at complex interactions or does he just insist everything operates in a simple vacuum? Does he not know that some lands are sinking and others are rising? Does he know how mountains are formed?? Does he not know that the Earth itself isn’t a perfect sphere? Does he know about tides and why they occur?
I’ve read many of your posts involving these people but this is worse than I realized/expected by a good amount.
@Matt: wait… you read the middle of that mess? I didn’t do that! I did a quick skim for racial epithets before posting, and beyond that just enjoyed it ending with megafauna and Clovis culture.
There was something in the middle about his doctor telling him that Covid attracts junk science, and you know that poor doctor was trying to warn him off the shit he was picking up from the right wing, but nope, Randy is never wrong, so it was confirmation that Fauci doesn’t know anything.
I’ve been considering publishing his texts to me as a blog and promoting it on right wing sites, to monetize it and get the sweet, sweet ad revenue. What else could one do with free content like this?
Want to know something scary? He has the same vocal intonations as Donald Trump… and has had them since he was 16, over 40 years ago. Long before he knew Trump existed.
@Gustopher: Curiosity got the better of me so I read the full text. If it was my family member texting me that shit daily I’d just ignore it too..
How typical of us online commenting addicts to spend half the thread distracted from the topic so we can relitigate Bush v Gore.
The Arizona stunt is significant. It demonstrates the extent to which Trump Republicans will engage in manufacturing “evidence” to support their alternative versions of reality. It’s the electoral equivalent of Lysenkoism. The ridiculously-named Cyber Ninjas have retained as a “consultant” a certifiable lunatic named Pulitzer whose last gig was a hunt for the ark of the covenant, which he didn’t find. But he did find a magic sword, so that was something.
This is not limited to Arizona. The same freaks have been accorded respectful hearings by Republican state legislatures in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Thinking it’s a sufficient response to laugh at them is a tragic error, even though the mockery is fully justified. European cemeteries in 1941 were full of comedians who’d brought the house down with their impersonations of Hitler, Goering et al. We might have thought it hilarious that Giuliani staged a comical press conference in the carpark of a nursery; Trump Republicans were consumed with righteous indignation at the stories of election fraud he and his colleagues narrated.
I’m not convinced the American left understands the peril it faces. Despite countless words and speeches deploring what Trump Republicans are doing, I still sense an underlying belief that “it can’t happen here”. They believe (without evidence) that the majority of Americans, when the chips are down, will come through on the side of truth, justice and the American way.
My observations suggest that tens of millions of Americans are thoroughly fed up with politics. They’d love an American Lee Kuan Yew/Charles de Gaulle/Benito Mussolini/Binyamin Netanyahu to take over the government as a benign autocrat, making the planes fly on time, getting the economy to hum and keeping the goddam minorities under control and out of America. And I’m not at all sure liberals would do any more to resist such a development than write endless posts online deploring the end of democracy.
Indeed, it is not. I recently saw that Trump had started to bleat on about the vote in NH and I was curious as to where this was coming from.
It turns out that the town in NH that is the home of Cory Lewandowski had a Democratic candidate for state representative lose by 24 votes. She requested a recount, as was her right with such a narrow margin. The recount ended up with *300* additional votes for each of the Republican candidates (we have multiple reps per district, it’s complicated).
The Republicans have seized on this as evidence that the vote was somehow rigged by Democrats. To recap: the Republicans won, and then won again with a substantially high number of additional votes, and yet somehow it’s the…Democrats? who have cheated.
Can we ban mentioning Jovan, please?
@Gustopher: “Want to know something scary? He has the same vocal intonations as Donald Trump… and has had them since he was 16, over 40 years ago. Long before he knew Trump existed.”
IMHO, Trump has a standard con-man fast-talk patter. Fast, jumpy, throwing sh*t out and seeing what lights up his mark’s eyes.
In a similar vein, I think most (white) Americans can’t understand what living in a non-democratic society would actually look like, so they can’t imagine it happening here.
We tend to think of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, or Maoist China as exemplars, but those were actually freakishly abnormal examples of authoritarian societies.
Far more common are places like Latin American countries like Guatemala or Honduras, or the African states like Nigeria, or Middle Eastern nations like Egypt and Libya.
There aren’t concentration camps or gulags, no bodies in the streets. In fact, daily life in most of these places appears remarkably normal and benign. The fact that elections are a preordained joke and the cops can’t catch a burglar but can ferret out a dissident a mile away is, for most people, just how the world works.
This could be America in less than a decade, and yet even then, the tee vee shows would still run like they always do, the traffic jams and stores and restaurants would be just as they are now.
Authoritarianism only really puts its boot on the neck of the minority groups, those who are heated and despised to begin with. For the elite and well to do, authoritarianism is invisible.
And if it does, they’ll rationalize it with “America’s a republic not a democracy” and justify it to each other by referring sagely to the consequences of leftist overreach in government.
To the new commenter who may be wondering where their comment is: if your first comment on the site is going to be an insult aimed at one of the other commenters, your comment will not be approved. I will allow that the insult was mild, but it was hardly necessary.
We would ask that commenters be civil and engage intellectually, not rattle off mindless insults.