The Arizona Republican "recount" of Dear Orange Leader's presidential election loss continues, and continues to be the Fyre Festival of fascist conspiracy peddling. It is the “Springtime for Hitler” of election audits. No matter how bad you think at can be, it somehow manages to be inspirationally worse.
To review, the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate ordered a bizarre private audit of the state's 2020 presidential election results after a large chunk of the Republican rank-and-file and party officials both simply refused to believe that an unpopular twice-impeached incompetent blowhard responsible for a half-million pandemic deaths could possibly be rejected by the American electorate, so there must have been "fraud" involved. The Republican senators hired an online conservative conspiracy theorist peddling those fraud theories to conduct the "audit" through his company, Cyber Ninjas, which has absolutely zero experience in any of this, and the results have been a fountain of bumbling conspiracy-premised chaos.
Some of the chaos is mere ridiculousness, and therefore funny. Some of the chaos has called into question the integrity of the ballots the conspiracy-promoting Republican volunteers are thumbing through, which is not funny because at the end of this the ballots will have been permanently spoiled, thus introducing the very "uncertainty" this conspiracy-promoting clown car of militant weirdos claim they are attempting to put to rest.
Among the not-funny fiascos introduced by the Chuck E. Cheese-inspired Cyber Ninjas Ballot Ballpit since its late-April start:
• Observers reported that the ballot auditors were using black- and blue-ink pens on the counting floor. These are banned in real recounts, because they can obviously be used to alter ballots and change votes. Organizers had to scramble to procure the customary red pens instead.
• Both ballots and computers used in the audit procedure have been left unattended at times, raising the possibility that they could have been tampered with.
• There are no fixed procedures for doing the counting. Ballots are being evaluated according to varying standards depending on which workers are doing it and when.
• Observers have warned of a possible intermingling of counted and uncounted ballots, which could result in ballots being counted multiple times or not at all.
• Cyber Ninjas claim that their methods of counting ballots are a trade secret, and thus has refused to divulge their procedures. A judge has declared that to be absolute bullshit, in the very real and legally binding sense, and ordered them to produce it.
As a result of those court battles, we now know that while the private auditing team had no apparent standards for evaluating how the ballots should actually be counted, once they got to the actual counting part, they did spend considerable time gaming out what would be done if antifa attacked the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in an attempt to ruin their counting efforts.
If we're being honest with ourselves, the vibes coming off from this thing already have a heavy aura of "somebody is going to end up in jail by the end of this, and it's not going to be antifa."
Actual non-seditionist authorities are, after two weeks of this bumbling, now paying close attention. The potentially criminal incompetence in how Arizona voters' official ballots are being handled has resulted in the Arizona secretary of state, a Democrat, penning a six-page letter asking the Senate's appointed "Audit Liaison" what they intend to do to rein in this clown show, only to be quickly rebuffed by clown management.
More ominously for the audit's backers, the Department of Justice is now warning the Arizona Senate that its audit appears to be breaking federal laws. Federal law requires ballots to be kept in control of state elections officials for 22 months after an election; delivering the ballots to a collection of private cranks may not count as keeping "control" of them. The Justice Department is also warning about Cyber Ninja's plan to contact individual voters to ask them about their ballots, which could amount to "intimidating" those voters—especially if the private company appears to target minority voters with such calls.
Given that most of the Republican-backed hoax theories as to how the election was "stolen" from Trump are specifically premised on supposed plots by Black Americans, Latino Americans or "China," the Justice Department doesn't have to go far with its speculation that Cyber Ninjas may highlight names that don’t sound white for these additional ballot checks.
Already, then, we have at least one sure outcome of this Republican-ordered, propaganda-premised audit: These Arizona ballots will never be able to be recounted again, because chain-of-custody concerns and incompetent ballot handling has resulted in ample opportunities for just the sort of crooked ballot tampering the auditors claim they themselves are looking for. Whether that is by plan or only side effect is not fully apparent. Whether any of it will turn out to be criminal is also unclear.
In any case, this truly is a ballot "audit" unlike any government-conducted election audit in modern U.S. history. In exchange for spoiling every presidential ballot in Arizona, what crack tools are being brought to bear by the hired team now "checking" the ballots for evidence of conspiracy?
• Holding them up to UV light. This is, um, never actually done in real audits, but is ostensibly being used by this team to check for fingerprints on each ballot, with some theorists speculating that all of the ballots on which such traces of bodily fluids are not readily apparent may have been mass-produced by robot and dumped into the ballot stream "somehow."
• Looking under microscopes to determine the manner in which they were folded, if they were folded. This one's a stumper, but apparently hand-folded and machine folded ballots would look different, under a microscope, enabling the crack Ninja team of "whoever we could find" to sort them into human piles and robot shenanigans piles.
• Looking for bamboo fibers in the ballots.
No, really. I am not f--king making that up.
In an interview, volunteer observer John Brakey explained that one piece of equipment is meant to take high-definition images of the ballots to test for "bamboo in the paper." This is because there is an insurrection-backing conspiracy theory that supposes "that 40,000 ballots were flown into Arizona and stuffed into the box, okay, and that it came from" Asia. Obviously, the way to test this theory is to look carefully to see if any of the ballots have "bamboo" in them. Or pandas. Or fragments of communist literature. Mostly the bamboo, though.
So after the ballots are tested for Suspicious Asian Bamboo, what tests are next? Do the auditors then test the ballots for werewolfism? Do they put each ballot under bright lights and ask the ballot a series of math questions? The Senate Republican audit of Donald Trump's election loss appears, literally, to be a carte blanche means of poking at the ballots to test any and all conspiracy theories any anonymous brickhead on the planet ever tweeted out in the past six months.
The premise of the audit, at least according to the Republican sedition-backers justifying it, is that if this collection of incompetent, inexperienced yahoos can find no bamboo fibers or robot sperm on the ballots even after a comprehensive regime of whatever, it will reinstall "confidence" in the election that they have lied about since last November. A more likely scenario might be that the Cyber Ninjas collection of Some Guys will file a report declaring that they still believe trickery was afoot, but the plot between Communist China and sexy robots was simply to complicated to unravel in the limited time available.
That argument is already being field tested. The ballot free-for-all is scheduled to end on May 14, because the Veterans Memorial Coliseum has been booked next for the Phoenix Union High School District's graduation ceremonies. Because the counting so far has been (say it with me now) an incompetent, bumbling fiasco, the conspiracy team is already trying to weasel out of that deadline by proposing that, like, what if we just move the ballots into some other room so the high schoolers can graduate, then move them back.
It will never end. Conspiracy theories by design never have an end date to them; if the conspiracy cannot be proven to exist, say its promoters, that only proves that the conspiracy is even more wide-ranging and nefarious than anyone had anticipated. They will demand another recount, and a recount to be done by some other group, and a recount of that other group's recount, and it will not end because the Republican Party has declared that the election was "fraudulent" not based on any evidence at all, but simply because they did not win. It is a fascist propaganda campaign, and one that Donald Trump and his team of deplorables openly stated they would be promoting if Trump lost the election. He did. They did. It resulted in insurrection inside the U.S. Capitol, a barrage of new voting restrictions premised on ex-presidential delusions, and an Arizona Republican move to throw the counting of ballots to the very people promoting the hoaxes.
The Arizona Senate will simply declare that the results are whatever they wanted them to be, much like William Barr announced that Robert Mueller's conclusions were whatever William Barr said they were. The propaganda is the strategy; the goal is to stoke the notion that elections not won by the Republican Party are illegitimate, and that new means must exist for throwing out those election results when Republican lawmakers don't like them. It is a fascist movement; the insurrection is still going on.