Senate Republicans in Arizona are still indirectly pushing former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that he won states that he actually lost in the 2020 Presidential election by continuing to pursue an audit of the election results, according to a report from The Hill.
The audit wouldn’t be newsworthy in and of itself, but the firm they’ve chosen to lead the audit has made it so, as the firm is headed by a security consultant who also spread baseless conspiracy theories about the election of Joe Biden and defeat of Donald Trump.
Karen Fann, State Senate President and a Republican, said on Wednesday that the state would retain four firms to conduct an audit of the Maricopa county election results, led by one, Cyber Ninjas, a company owned and operated by Doug Logan, a Florida man who pushed Trump’s election lies last year.
Logan retweeted tweets from Ron Watkins, former administrator of 8chan and, according to some, the man behind QAnon, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
Logan also posted plenty of false claims himself about Dominion Voting Systems and is in fact listed as an expert witness in a suit that seeks to challenge the validity of the vote count in a Michigan county
Dominion criticized the companies that conducting the Arizona audits in a statement:
“The firms selected to conduct this audit are beyond biased. Publicly available information shows they are led by conspiracy theorists and QAnon supporters who have helped spread the Big Lie. Dominion supports all forensic audits conducted by independent, federally-accredited Voting System Test Labs — but this is not that.”
Maricopa County, Arizona, was one of hundreds of counties that used Dominion’s voting machines, and a hand recount in Maricopa County last year found a perfect match between the machine counts and the manual count, and an audit of the machines last month also found no irregularities.
Fann explained her perspective on the further audits, which seems like overkill to critics:
“Our people need to be assured that the Senate and Maricopa County can work together on this audit, to bring integrity to the election process.”
Republicans have been pushing baseless claims about irregularities in the Maricopa County votes after Joe Biden became the first Democrat in a generation to carry the state’s electoral votes.
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Biden won the state by over 10,000 votes, including a whopping 2 percentage points (45,000 votes) in Maricopa County.
In fact, the audit has been underway for some time. An activist assisting with the ongoing audit of the ballots told reporters this week that Arizona Republicans are looking into whether there is bamboo fiber in ballots used in the 2020 election. The most recent argument exemplifies how rightwing conspiracy theories continue to sow skepticism about the outcome.
The remark came amid increased criticism of the audit, which many analysts believe is untrustworthy and would only erode public confidence in the 2020 election. On Wednesday, the Justice Department sent a letter to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, expressing concern that the audit could be violating federal laws about ballot custody and voter intimidation (workers will allegedly knock on voters’ doors to validate their 2020 vote during a separate part of the audit.)
“There’s the accusation that 40,000 ballots were flown into Arizona and it was stuffed into the box and it came from the south-east part of the world, Asia, and what they’re doing is to find out whether there’s bamboo in the paper,” John Brakey, a longtime election audit advocate told the media.
Brakey told reporters that he didn’t personally believe auditors would find bamboo fibers.
“I do think it’s somewhat of a waste of time, but it will help unhinge people,” Brakey said. “They’re not gonna find bamboo … If they do, I think we need to know, don’t you?”
The quest for bamboo fibers exemplifies how the GOP’s recent audit of all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, which is home to the majority of Arizona voters, has elevated ludicrous arguments about the 2020 election. Following the election, right-wing activists wrongly alleged that China had smuggled ballots to sway the election in Biden’s favor and that those ballots could be detected because the paper contained bamboo. Staff had previously been inspecting ballots with UV lights; although the meaning of this was never made clear, there was a conspiracy theory after the election that Trump had watermarked ballots.
On the audit floor of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, there are about a dozen tables where auditors are photographing ballots and then running them through microscopic cameras that are supposed to produce high-quality photographs of the ballots. Those photographs are expected to aid auditors in determining the ballots’ validity by allowing them to inspect fibers, folds in the paper, and ink marks on the ballots.
Experts also expressed reservations about the method’s accuracy in detecting fraud.
In an interview, Ken Bennett, the liaison between the auditors and the Arizona Senate, said he wasn’t sure whether auditors were explicitly searching for bamboo fibers.
“I think that’s more of a euphemism for saying ‘we’re looking for everything related to the paper so that we can verify that the ballots are authentic,’” Bennett said. “They’re looking for folds in the paper. They’re looking for where the ovals are marked, is there a little bit of an indentation or was the mark made by a Xerox machine? It’s just kind of a general expression for ‘we’re checking the paper and the folds and everything to make sure that these are authentic ballots.’”
Arizona’s top election official, Katie Hobbs, sent Bennett a letter on Wednesday expressing her dissatisfaction with the audit’s behavior. Auditors, she said, did not have a consistent method for tallying ballots, left laptops unattended, and did not have clear processes in place to employ unbiased counters. She wrote, “Either do it right or don’t do it at all.”
Javon Pulitzer, a treasure hunter, and inventor who is currently assisting with the Maricopa county audit were one of the people who spread the lie about China dumping ballots. Though it’s unclear how Pulitzer is helping, Brakey told reporters on Tuesday that the devices that captured the microscopic images of the ballots were connected to Pulitzer. He exclaimed, “This man is crazy.” “He’s a con artist… It’s absurd that we’re even doing any of this.”
On her husband’s first full day in office, January 21, First Lady Jill Biden, a former teacher, welcomed the representatives of the country’s largest teachers’ unions. Presidents of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association were at the White House for a live interactive event honoring the teacher, along with Miguel Cardona, the candidate for Education Secretary at the time, and his wife Marissa.
Visitors to the White House for appointments, official business, and tours, once they resume after a pandemic absence, are listed in the logs.