GOP election supervisors in Maricopa County: It's time to end this "Cyber Ninjas" audit of the 2020 election

We haven’t covered the Maricopa County ballot audit much because there isn’t much to say. It’s a transparent attempt by the GOP-controlled state senate to cast doubt on Biden’s victory in Arizona by enlisting a bunch of conspiratorial MAGA-friendly outfits to “recount” the ballots. Never mind that the county has investigated and upheld the integrity of the vote there three times, never mind that the county board of supervisors is now attacking the effort as an embarrassing sham. The state senate hired a small out-of-state firm called “Cyber Ninjas” led by a CEO who’s voiced rigged-election concerns to do the recount and they brought in the Trumpiest network in America, OAN, for special access to cover it. It has no force of law (and wouldn’t affect the outcome of the election even if it did), but the point isn’t to overturn Arizona’s electoral votes. It’s to put on a pageant that gives Republican voters some pretext to be able to claim that the state was stolen from Trump.

What makes it newly newsy is that the board of supervisors is fed up — and four of the five members of that board are Republicans. Suddenly we have an Arizona version of the drama that played out in Georgia over the winter in which GOP election officials like Brian Kemp, Brad Raffensperger, and Gabriel Sterling were asked to choose between their party’s interest in delegitimizing their state’s outcome and their institutional interest in defending the integrity of the process they oversaw. Kemp et al. chose their institutional interest and will probably pay with their careers. The Maricopa County supervisors have made the same choice, to their credit.

“Our state has become a laughingstock,” the county officials wrote. “Worse, this ‘audit’ is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic.”…

Jointly, the county officials agreed that they would refuse to attend a meeting that had been called Tuesday by Fann to discuss what she had termed “serious issues” with the vote that Cyber Ninjas claims to have identified.

“I will not be responding to any more requests from this sham process. Finish your audit and be ready to defend what you’re finding in a court of law,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers (R), at the public meeting…

“You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’,” wrote the county’s five supervisors in their letter Monday. “None of these things are done in a serious audit. The result is that the Arizona Senate is held up to ridicule in every corner of the globe and our democracy is imperiled.”

The board spoke out for the cameras too:

You can read the full 14-page letter that they sent to the Republican president of the state senate, Karen Fann, here. It’s not just a general critique of the audit, it’s a point-by-point rebuttal of some of the conspiracy theories that Fann and her cohort have already leveled about the election results. If you can’t spare time for that, at least scroll through this Twitter thread from a few days ago posted by the board of supervisors detailing the many ways in which the audit is a shoddy, unprofessional effort. It’s an open question whether the people involved even fully understand how to process the data they’ve been given. Misunderstandings lead to conspiracy theories, then the conspiracy theories trickle up to Republican leaders, and then the supervisors are forced to debunk them — same as happened in Georgia last year.

One breaking point for the board, I think, was watching Trump start pushing misinformation about the process a few days ago. Stephen Richer, a Maricopa County supervisor and a Republican, suddenly found himself in the Raffensperger role:

“They can’t find the files because they don’t know what they’re doing,” one Republican supervisor said during yesterday’s press conference. “We wouldn’t be asked to do this on-the-job training if qualified auditors had been hired to do this work.”

Fann and the auditors have been demanding passwords for Dominion voting machines and for routers used by the county, “which the auditors say they need to determine whether voting machines were connected to the internet and subject to hacking.” Dominion says it’ll cooperate with any federally certified auditors, understandably not wanting to give access to their machines to people who don’t know what they’re doing, but the Arizona senate isn’t using anyone federally licensed. And the county won’t hand over router passwords, fearing that that would risk compromising police operations that have nothing to do with the election.

Richer made a point of saying in an interview this morning that the damage being done here to Dominion — again — is “irrevocable”:

Liz Cheney has been at pains lately in interviews to say that the reason she keeps speaking out about the election isn’t because she’s hung up on the past, it’s because she’s worried about the future. Unless Republicans dispense with conspiracy theories about 2020, she insists, they’re going to create the conditions for trying to block certification of a Democratic victory again in 2024 if it doesn’t go their way. Charlie Sykes made the same point today about the “Cyber Ninjas” audit. “[W]hat is happening in Maricopa County is a foreshadowing of what our future looks like,” he warned, adding, “the next time round, the GOP base will not just tolerate a Trumpian attempt to overturn an election — they will DEMAND it.” Correct. That’s what the audit is about, feeding the sense of doubt about the outcome of the last election to justify Republicans taking extraordinary measures if need be to disrupt the next one. Naturally Trump is paying very close attention to it.

I’ll leave you with one last bit from Richer.