What’s behind Arizona’s bizarre, haphazard, and highly partisan “audit” of the 2020 election

Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican-led Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. | Ross D. Franklin/APNo one can figure out why Republicans are shining UV lights on ballots, among other things. Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his loss in the 2020 election was a cocktail of equal parts ridiculousness and menace. On the one hand, a sitting president actively encouraged efforts to destroy American democracy — including an attack on the US Capitol. On the other hand, the Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference was a thing that happened. So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that, months after Joe Biden won the 2020 election and was sworn in as president, Trump loyalists in Arizona are engaged in the same kind of absurdist anti-democracy that drove the final weeks of Trump’s term in office by auditing all ballots cast in the state’s largest county. Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate does not have the power to overturn the 2020 election — indeed, the Constitution provides no mechanism whatsoever to contest a presidential election once the victor has taken office. But the state Senate is able to subpoena the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, which Biden won by more than 2 percentage points in 2020. The terms of this “audit” appear designed to destroy confidence in the process. The lead company conducting the GOP’s audit is a Florida security company called Cyber Ninjas, which has no experience with elections. Cyber Ninjas’ CEO, Doug Logan, however, does have a history of spreading pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. AZ Mirror via Archive.org A screenshot of a tweet from Doug Logan’s since-deleted Twitter account. After a state court ordered Cyber Ninjas to disclose how it is conducting this so-called audit, a subcontractor revealed that the process involves weighing ballots, examining them under a microscope, and examining the “thickness or feel” of individual ballots in order to identify “questionable ballots” that need to be examined by a “lead forensic examiner” and then “removed from the batch and sent for further analysis.” And then there’s a giant mystery involving ultraviolet lights. As part of the audit, according to a document laying out the process for examining ballots, workers are required to place ballots “under UV-B and UV-A source” to compare the illuminated ballots to “representative specimens.” It’s not at all clear what exposing the ballots to UV light is supposed to accomplish — a coalition of election experts wrote the Justice Department asking it to send observers to monitor this quizzical audit, and one of their concerns is that “ultraviolet light causes not only paper to deteriorate, but also leads to the deterioration of marks on paper ballots.” Nevertheless, Trump reportedly talks “constantly” about how these UV lights might reveal — something — that will undercut Biden’s victory. It’s all nonsensical if you’re the kind of person who is inclined to ask critical questions like “Are these Cyber Ninjas guys really on the level?” or “So what is the UV light supposed to accomplish?” But if you’re the sort of person who asks such questions, you also aren’t the target audience for this audit. Pro-Trump outlets like One America News Network (OAN) and Newsmax feature breathless coverage of how, in Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward’s words, this audit will be “the first domino that will fall and then other states will look into irregularities, abnormalities, mistakes and potentially outright fraud that happened.” Trump himself touts the audit, claiming that Democrats are trying to stop it because “it won’t be good for the Dems.” The real purpose of the audit, in other words, appears to be feeding Trump’s big lie — the false idea that the 2020 election results are fraudulent. How is this “audit” being conducted? Nothing about the processes used during this GOP-led audit inspires confidence that it will achieve reliable results, including the fact that the audit is occurring in the first place. There is simply no reason to suspect widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and even many high-ranking Trump administration officials admit as much. In the words of former Attorney General Bill Barr, there’s no evidence of “fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election” While the state Senate contributed $150,000 to help pay for the audit, much of the funding comes from unknown sources, or from fundraising drives led by right-wing organizations. OAN has raised money for the effort. This dubiously funded audit, moreover, comes after Maricopa County conducted its own hand recount of all ballots cast in 2020, and after the county hired two independent firms to examine its voting machines. These nonpartisan investigations found no evidence of fraud or other serious problems in the 2020 election. A significant portion of the GOP audit involv

May 5, 2021 - VOX
Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican-led Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. | Ross D. Franklin/APNo one can figure out why Republicans are shining UV lights on ballots, among other things. Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his loss in the 2020 election was a cocktail of equal parts ridiculousness and menace. On the one hand, a sitting president actively encouraged efforts to destroy American democracy..