Clown Show Arizona Recount’s Ultimate Goal: No Election Will be Safe From Partisan Meddling

Clown show "recount" in Arizona.
“Recount” in Maricopa County, Arizona. Photo by Matt York/AP

Is relitigating the past the smartest electoral strategy for the GOP?

The bogus recount of ballots cast in Arizona’s Maricopa County (home to Phoenix and 60% of Arizona’s population) in the 2020 presidential election is now set to expire at the end of June, though in a proceeding beleaguered by a lack of transparency, defections and procedural blunders…who knows?

To quickly review: President Biden won Arizona by a little over 10,000 votes and thus its 11 electoral votes. In accordance with state law, a bipartisan audit board conducted a hand recount of Arizona’s ballots right after the election. Not a single discrepancy was found.

Six months after the election, it appears Maricopa County’s ballots are still being counted…but not by election officials. The Arizona State Senate used its subpoena power to seize the county’s 2.1 million ballots and turn them over to a firm called the Cyber Ninjas, which does not have a shred of election much less recount experience. The founder and CEO, Doug Logan, has peddled in Trumpian conspiracy theories about a stolen presidential election.

"Security" at the Arizona recount.
This is what security looks like in the Arizona recount. Source: AZRepublic/AP
A Tense Atmosphere

Of course, this recount was never about simple mathematics. Cyber Ninjas have been observed scanning ballots with UV lights to look for secret watermarks conspiratorially placed by Trump’s Department of Homeland Security to differentiate legitimate ballots from fraudulent ones. Cyber Ninjas have also searched for traces of bamboo to determine if ballots had been imported from Asia.

This exercise started out as a totally secret operation that prohibited any outside observers. That changed when Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs won a court order to dispatch an independent group of eyewitnesses to the audit. One of those was Jennifer Morrell, a partner at the Elections Group and a national expert on post-election audits.

Auditing the Auditors

Morrell described to the Washington Post her first day of watching the so-called auditors at work:

I arrived at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the morning of May 4. Security was conspicuously high…I had to surrender my phone, laptop and smartwatch. I was allowed a yellow legal pad and a red pen to take notes and provided a pink t-shirt to wear so that I would be immediately identifiable. The [security] hired by Cyber Ninjas, in orange t-shirts, followed me wherever I went and reported random things about me they found suspicious…Several times, someone asked me to test my pen [the one they issued to her], to ensure it really had red ink. Once, they even demanded that I empty my pockets in which I carried that pen and a pair of reading glasses. The atmosphere was tense.

Jennifer Morrell
Cyber Ninjas at work.
In this May 6, 2021 photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined by the Florida-based Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. For some conspiracy theorists, the 2020 election still hasn’t ended. AP Photo/Matt York, Pool
Republican Litmus Test

Lately, the Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix has become a mecca for right-wing elected officials paying fealty to Trump’s brand of grievance politics. These people see the writing on the wall. As one official admitted, “The audit is being conducted because the Republican Party refuses to look at long-term demographics and realize they can no longer be the party of the white male. And they’re doing everything they can to maintain power.”

More ominously, the Arizona recount is inspiring pro-Trump Republicans in other states to promote their own plans to exhume already-certified ballots. At a recent hearing, Arizona Senate president Karen Fann revealed that she’s been in touch with state legislators in other states who told her that “this is going to lay the groundwork for the future of how we audit our elections.”

That sentiment, plus the sum total of the hundreds of voter suppression bills coming out of state legislatures that would, among other things, hijack decision-making from non-partisan election professionals, can only mean one thing: A pillar of American democracy is undermined when there are “two results in an election: the actual results, and the results of a partisan inquisition conduct by the losers.”

“This Is Insane”

A Maricopa County official, a Republican, expressed his disgust over the process to CNN’s Anderson Cooper in this two-minute, 43-second video, published by CNN International via YouTube:

Katie Hobbs

For Katie Hobbs, a Democrat and Arizona’s secretary of state, these last few months have not been happy ones. As a leader of the opposition to the recount, Hobbs has received death threats and armed protesters have shown up at her door. Twice a security detail was assigned to protect her.

Sec. of State Katie Hobbs (D-AZ)
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Source:

Hobbs gave the Washington Post her birds-eye view:

Democracy is under siege in Arizona. As part of the “Big Lie” that Republicans have been pushing about election fraud, they’re conducting an “audit” in our largest county, Maricopa, to dig up non-existent evidence. It’s an absurd spectacle. The proliferation of conspiracy theories is staggering: ballots are being disqualified because of Sharpies; ballots were shipped in from China; ballots were burned in a chicken farm fire.

Republicans…are laying the groundwork to steal the next [election]. They are sowing doubt in our electoral process to justify a crackdown on voting rights. This twisted logic has propelled voter suppression laws across the country.

Katie Hobbs.

Hobbs has given a full-throated endorsement to the federal For the People Act, which would strike down some of the senseless voting restrictions that GOP state legislatures have rushed to impose. Yesterday, Jun. 22, the bill could not overcome a Republican filibuster and failed on a party-line vote in the US Senate.

Are Republicans Playing with Fire?

Just because a political exercise is popular with the rabid Trump base doesn’t mean it “Plays in Peoria,” as some politicos used to say. For the GOP, nursing Trump’s grievances about a mythical stolen election might risk driving away a significant number of people needed to win general elections in 2022. To the polls!

A late May poll of 400 Arizona voters by the respected consulting firm HighGround, Inc. found that more than 55% of respondents opposed the audit, and most of them strongly. About 41% approved of it. By 45% to 33%, respondents stated they were less likely to vote for a Republican candidate who supported the activity at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Predictably, while only 41% of respondents supported the recount, 77% of Republican respondents did.

Swearing Fealty to One Individual

There’s no doubt the 2022 midterm elections was always going to be a tough slog for Democrats. The party in power loses seats…Republicans control the majority of redistricting (and gerrymandering)…the census wasn’t kind to blue states.

But Republicans have an albatross around their necks…and it’s not clear at all whether they’ll be able to remove it. As the Associated Press reported, “The lack of a forward-looking agenda stands in stark contrast to successful midterm elections of past years, particularly in 1994 and 2010, when Republicans were swept into power after staking out clear positions on issues like federal spending and crime.

“Without such a strategy heading into 2022, Republicans on the ballot risk allowing themselves to be wholly defined by Trump” who lost both the 2018 midterms and his own election in 2020.

“I’m unaware of a GOP agenda. I would love to see one,” mused former tea party leader Mark Meckler.

“If Trump is focused on [Democratic] policy failures, he would help us,” said a GOP congressman from a purple district. “If it’s about election fraud and sour grapes from 2020, it will hurt us.”

“Obviously the base likes it, but the base doesn’t win a majority in the House,” the lawmaker added.

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

You may also like...