As the Arizona election audit wraps up more than a month behind schedule, it leaves questions about the partisan nature of our politics. But which side is right?
The audit of Arizona’s 2020 election results in Maricopa County is scheduled to finally wrap up this week, more than a month behind schedule.
The recount, done by a private firm hired by Arizona’s Republican-led state Senate and by disgruntled right-wing million and billionaires, has focused in recent weeks on searching for secret watermarks and Chinese bamboo fibers in the ballots.
Nothing was found.
According to recently uncovered emails, former President Donald Trump has been infatuated with recounting the 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County, where he lost by more than 10,000 votes. There has been no evidence of voter fraud in Arizona or anywhere else in the country, meaning this audit is as much political theater as anything else.
The Arizona Senate chose Cyber Ninjas — a virtually unknown application security company based in Florida and founded upon a “Christian worldview” — to complete the audit, though they have zero experience working with elections. Their CEO, Doug Logan, has been a staunch supporter of the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theory and openly touted the campaign on his now-deleted Twitter account.
The company’s mission is to “Equip and provide others with the data and skills necessary to build secure software,” meaning that they offer consulting services aimed to find and prevent software security vulnerabilities that lead to technology hacking and data stealing. The choice by the Arizona GOP Senate members to use such an unapologetically partisan and underqualified organization is reflective of their improper judgment and lack of foundation for election fraud conspiracy theories, according to Pinny Sheoran, the president of the League of Women Voters Arizona.
“No self-respecting auditing organization would be engaged in this,” Sheoran said. She highlighted the extreme measures to which Cyber Ninjas resorted when conducting the audit process, such as scanning ballots for bamboo for indication that they originated from China, which Sheoran contends is absurd.
The state Senate donated $150,000 for the audit, but the majority of the funding comes from wealthy right-wing businessmen and women who have publicly supported former President Trump. Patrick Byrne, former chief executive of Overstock.com, donated $1 million to the cause and met with Trump in the Oval Office to discuss overturning the election. Voices and Votes, an organization founded by Christina Bobb, a correspondent for the far-right One America News Network, donated $150,000.
Arizona Democrats warn that tactics like Maricopa’s independent audit serve only to muddy the waters of our democracy through false narratives and misplaced distrust in our systems.
“We know that this isn’t really about election security. We know that this isn’t really about trying to stop any sort of fraud. This is a clear attempt to continue to try to mobilize a lot of people that are Trump supporters and perpetuate this lie that there was some giant fraud that happened that placed Biden into that seat,” said Edder Diaz Martinez, the communications director for the Maricopa County Democratic Party.
“If you win here in Maricopa County, you’re gonna win the entire state,” Martinez said.
With nearly 4.5 million people in Maricopa, the county makes up more than half of the Arizona population, which went blue in the November 2020 election. Given that the swing state was won by Trump in 2016, his motivations in targeting this particular county are abundantly clear. “It’s not happening in California, it’s not happening in New York. It’s happening in Arizona,” Martinez said.
This audit creates privacy issues as well, according to the ACLU. Sheoran is concerned that the data Cyber Ninjas has access to could be used to threaten and intimidate individuals based on their vote.
An individual’s vote is a sacrosanct private matter, and the lack of response by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to possible violations of that privacy is irresponsible, Sheoran said.
Post election, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters sent a dozen of their members to complete election integrity measures such as signature verification and machine certification, and the group saw no indication that there was fraud of any kind.
Not only did the audit cost taxpayer money, but the damage caused to the election equipment and ballots is so severe that they are rendered unusable, according to Sheoran. She is concerned about how this audit will affect the state’s reputation and is alarmed that today’s news media is not accurately reflecting the general perspective of Arizonans. “Arizona was a shining star in how we managed our elections and how we conducted our elections. And they have actually besmirched the name of Arizona. Most people in Arizona don’t want this to continue. We are seen as a laughing stock. We are seen as a place you don’t want to come and live.”