Private companies hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to recompose millions of 2020 election ballots are concerned about possible Antifa attacks and plan to use UV lamps to hunt fraud, revealed internal documents released in the context of a legal battle with the Democrats.
State Senate Republicans and Businesses also initially sought National Guard protection for their review of Maricopa County ballots, but were rejected by GOP Governor Doug Ducey, according to one of the documents, released Thursday by the Maricopa Superior Court following GOP objections.
The documents offer a detailed look at the conspiratorial thinking behind an extraordinary and partisan scam hunt some six months after former President Donald Trump lost the election and began to lie that he was robbed.
“It would be funny if it weren’t so scary,” Rick Hasen, electoral law expert and professor at the University of California, Irvine, said of the audit.
Republicans and private companies, run by Florida-based cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas, fought last week in state court to keep details of the so-called audit secret. Furious Democrats, who say the tally is yet another attempt to undermine President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020, continued last week in a last-ditch effort to prevent the audit from going ahead, arguing that companies privacy policies did not adequately protect voter privacy and secrecy. ballots. The court has so far refused to end the audit, which began last Friday, but has ordered the release of more information.
Republican lawmakers have said that an audit of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, would help them draft new election laws and restore confidence in the state’s democratic process. After Trump lost the state by roughly 10,000 votes to Biden last year, those same lawmakers have spent months questioning the results. Senate Republicans did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Democrats and national voting rights advocates are warning that the Republican audit further undermines Americans’ confidence in their democracy and advances the stolen election lie that inspired a deadly riot on Capitol Hill in January. Trump, banned from his usual megaphone on social media since the aftermath of the attack on Capitol Hill, has released at least eight statements about the audit in the past week, sometimes issuing statements twice a day.
Arizona State and Maricopa County have already performed extensive accuracy tests and hired two independent outside firms to perform a forensic examination of the election results; those reviews all confirmed the county system was working properly, election officials told NBC News.
The ordered audit documents released by the court, meanwhile, reveal an effort that experts say is out of touch.
After Ducey refused to provide National Guard resources, the company then prepared its own security plan and threat assessment, outlining potential threats to the recount, including Antifa, a network of loosely organized radical groups often accused by Trump’s allies of violence despite little evidence.
In an “extreme threat scenario”, the assessment suggests that a coordinated attack involving a chemical fire and traffic disruption could allow the recount facility to be breached.
“Antifa will likely use the emergency traffic in these six lanes to slow down the response of police and firefighters to any permit violation operation,” the assessment said, adding that this could create a situation that could lead to “access. almost unlimited ”at installation. house the recount.
A document detailing the recount procedure called for using microscopic cameras and shining a “UV-B and UV-A source” on suspected suspicious ballots. But this document does not address how common voting issues would be handled. For example, the document does not mention how counters would deal with an “overvalued” ballot, a situation where a voter appears to have attempted to vote for more than one candidate in a race.
“The documents certainly do not include the specific way elections are conducted in Arizona,” said Tammy Patrick, former Maricopa County election official and senior advisor to the Democracy Fund, a non-partisan foundation aimed at improving US elections. “There seems to be a predetermined outcome here which I think is really problematic.”
National suffrage advocates have urged the Justice Department to send federal observers to observe an unprecedented situation they say could easily violate federal election laws. Ultraviolet lights, they say, likely damage ballots.
The audit was engulfed from the start in the theories of litigation, controversy and conspiracy.
Cyber Ninja CEO Doug Logan has reportedly advanced 2020 conspiracy theories online and is declining to say how much money he will make on this audit. The audit is funded by $ 150,000 in taxpayer dollars, as well as an undisclosed number of private donations whose names are still shrouded in secrecy.
Logan and Ken Bennett, a former Arizona Republican secretary of state who oversees the GOP-controlled state Senate audit, argued with reporters over the cost of the effort. at a controversial press conference Last week.
“There are organizations, individuals, people across the country who are interested in the same things,” Bennett said of the donors, adding later that “it doesn’t matter who paid for it”.
Democrats say Senate Republicans have not been prepared or serious in their efforts.
“It was obvious the Senate had not given this thought to,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, told NBC News earlier this week. “They really made it up as they went along.”
When lawyers for Senate Republicans went to court for custody of the ballots and electoral machinery and won earlier this year, it became clear lawmakers had nowhere to put the documents. Republicans later rented a local arena at the state fairgrounds and said they would complete the count in mid-May.
“My people tell me it would take months,” said Jack Sellers, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County Supervisory Board who oversaw the election in 2020. “In the amount of time they have, how do you count count? 2.1 million ballots? “
Sellers, who has repeatedly pointed out that elected supervisors were not involved in the audit, said he was particularly concerned about what auditors are doing to the county’s electoral equipment; he said he expects the machines will need to be recertified by federally licensed companies before they can be reused.
“If someone who is not qualified to work on these machines gets in there, they will have to go through a certification process again and it could be very expensive,” he said.
His office later told NBC News that the estimated cost of such an effort would be tens of thousands of dollars. When signing the Senate Republicans ballots, Sellers said the county drafted a compensation waiver asking Senate Republicans to cover all costs incurred by such an audit, although it was not convinced that this will happen.
“Either way, it looks like the taxpayer will pay for whatever those costs are,” he said.
He added: “People keep saying what are we afraid of? We are not afraid of anything, if we were afraid of anything, we wouldn’t have hired independent auditors.”
Media access to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum arena where the count takes place was initially limited unless journalists agreed to participate in the audit as observers. When a reporter from the Republic of Arizona did it, she noticed that proper ballot handling procedures were not followed when she spotted blue pens near the ballots. Election officials say red or green pens are used to make sure ink doesn’t mess up or change a vote, as ballot counting machines can read blue or black ink.
One America News Network, a right-wing cable news channel, received special access to cover the audit and reported that listeners were using ultraviolet light to search for watermarks – a possible reference to a thoroughly debunked QAnon plot that Trump secretly watermarked ballots to prove voter fraud.
“It’s a bunch of bulls!” Hobbs said of the alleged watermarks. “They make things up.”
She immediately apologized.
“Sorry, sorry. I’m pissed off about this,” Hobbs said.