A count of the votes of November's presidential election in Arizona found that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by 10,458 votes. Republicans immediately zeroed in on Maricopa County, home of Phoenix, which provided Biden with his winning margin.
A hand recount of two vote centers in Maricopa County, required by state law, "matched electronic counts exactly." That process involved representatives from the "Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties." A Republican lawsuit demanding a new hand recount was tossed out of court. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which is controlled by Republicans and oversees the election, voted to unanimously certify the vote total, which showed Biden ahead by 45,109 votes. Clint Hickman, the Republican chairman of the Board, said the election "was administered with integrity, transparency and in accordance with state laws."
You would think that would be the end of the story. After all, the election was held in November. Biden was inaugurated in January. He has been president for more than 100 days.
It is not the end of the story.
The Arizona Senate issued a subpoena to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, demanding they turn over its ballots. The purpose of the subpoena was to allow the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans who backed Trump's false claims about voter fraud, to conduct their own "audit" of the results in Maricopa County. The Board fought the subpoena in court but was ultimately ordered to turn over 2.1 million ballots to the Arizona Senate.
At first, the Arizona Senate didn't know where to put the ballots, but eventually secured Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the former home of the Phoenix Suns. It hired Cyber Ninjas, "a Florida-based technology company with no known experience in election audits," to oversee the process.
The CEO of Cyber Ninjas is Doug Logan, "who has a history of posting unsubstantiated claims of election fraud online." Logan deleted his Twitter account, @securityvoid, in January. But archives of the account preserved online shows that he trafficked in numerous conspiracy theories alleging the election was stolen from Trump.
In December, Logan retweeted Ron Watkins, the administrator of the 8chan message board, who is closely associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. In the tweet promoted by Logan, Watkins claimed, "Trump got 200k more votes than previously reported in Arizona."
Logan also retweeted conspiracy theories from discredited attorney Sidney Powell, including the false claim that Dominion servers were seized by the United States military in Germany. He also authored tweets claiming voting machines "switched" votes and Dominion machines, in particular, had "glitches." Arizona Senator Warren Petersen (R), one of the strongest proponents of the new audit, defended Logan's selection. "Retweets are not endorsements," he said.
Logan has set up a series of bizarre procedures to examine the ballots, including putting them under a UV light to check for watermarks. Arizona ballots do not use watermarks.
Prior to taking charge of the Arizona audit, Logan was "involved with a previous effort to overturn election results in Michigan." He was listed as an expert witness by plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging the state's voting machines were rigged. Logan is now being paid $150,000 by Arizona taxpayers.
Insurrectionist counts votes
Former Arizona Representative Anthony Kern (R) was on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the insurrectionists. Kern "insisted that Trump’s defeat was fraudulent" and, while still an elected official, "signed a 'joint resolution' with fellow Republican lawmakers in a bid to invalidate the state’s election results." Kern's name also appeared on the ballot as a Trump elector.
Now Kern is on the floor of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum "auditing" the votes.
Logan claimed that all of the people working on the audit were screened to make sure "there was nothing on their social media or other details that showed strong opinions one way or another."
Kern's presence was noted by Arizona Republic reporter Ryan Randazzo. After reporting on Kern's involvement, Randazzo was "told his press privileges were revoked" and escorted out of the facility by security. A spokesperson for the Senate audit said that Randazzo was removed for posting an image of a ballot on Twitter, but there was nothing legible on the ballots in the picture.
Senate President Karen Fann (R) later suggested that this was really about identifying Kern. Fann said that "journalists should not closely photograph the faces of workers involved in the process, raising concerns that they could be identified." Fann was asked why it's different than the election itself when election officials and staff are visible to the public. "It’s OK to be subject to scrutiny, but it's not OK to zoom in on their faces and plaster it all over social media," Fann said.
Follow the money
The Arizona Senate is paying Cyber Ninjas $150,000, but that is not enough money to conduct a hand recount of 2.1 million votes. So where is the rest of the money coming from? The Arizona Senate is pushing people to a private website, fundtheaudit.com, that is seeking to raise $2.8 million.
Fundtheaudit.com was created by a new non-profit organization, The America Project. The organization was created this year by former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne "to continue the fight over the 2020 election results."
"It was a fraudulent election," Byrne said, "It didn't end for us on January 20."
Shortly after the election, Byrne said he "funded a team of hackers and cybersleuths" and "other people with odd skills" to prove Trump actually won the election. He later told the Salt Lake City Tribune that he has "been funding a Bad News Bears collection of just the right spooks, lawyers and ethical hackers, patriots all, to reverse engineer, infiltrate, and disrupt this coup."
In December 2020, Byrne tweeted that "a Christmas Day suicide bombing in Nashville actually was a 'missile strike' designed to take out a 'spy hub' used by AT&T and the National Security Agency." His Twitter account has been suspended. Byrne claimed "on his personal blog, DeepCapture.com, that he has fled the United States," and he has conducted interviews from "undisclosed locations."
An audience of one
The Arizona Senate has no power to overturn the state's election result, no matter what the result of Logan's "audit." But don't tell that to Trump, who promoted the audit in front of a small crowd last week at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Watch Arizona, some very interesting things are happening in Arizona. Let's see what they find, I wouldn't be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes. So we're going to watch that very close to the end after that we'll watch Pennsylvania and you watch Georgia and you're going to watch Michigan and Wisconsin and you're watching New Hampshire, they found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire, a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now, you saw that? Because this was a rigged election, everybody knows it and we're going to be watching it very closely.
Trump is referring to an error of a few hundred votes in a state legislative election in New Hampshire — an error that was discovered months ago.
But this is the danger of the Maricopa County audit. Trump will seize on anything to perpetuate his lies about election fraud. And these lies are then used by his allies to justify voter suppression legislation around the country.