Today Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury ordered the Arizona Senate to halt its recount of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots from the November election.

[Judge Coury said] he wants to ensure the recount fully complies with Arizona law and asked for more information by Monday morning on the audit’s policies and procedures.

You might ask what “policies and procedures” he’s talking about. Let’s review.

1. No evidence exists that Maricopa County’s tally was fraudulent. In fact, two recounts, including a hand recount, already verified the results. Republicans in the Arizona Senate, some of whom were behind the original “Stop the Steal” movement that culminated in the Jan. 6 riot, simply did not like the way both earlier recounts were conducted, mostly because they were not involved, so they sued to recount the ballots using their system (and now we know what that looks like). Of course, they’re only interested in recounting the votes for President and US Senate, both won by Democrats. All Republican victories were evidently hunky dory.

2. Even the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which is 4-1 Republican, certified the vote and refused to cooperate with Senate Republicans. 

3. The Republican Senate sued the County and a judge ordered the ballots sent to the Senate (which certainly was not prepared to receive truckloads of ballots). The first company hired to conduct the recount turned out to be associated with Trump and in legal jeopardy over another project. Republicans had no audit firm to count the votes, so the ballots sat; no one had any idea where to store them or who would count them (this went on for weeks).

4. The Senate eventually contracted with the Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the site to store and count the ballots. Formerly the home of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, sitting on McDowell Road, the building was known as the “Madhouse on McDowell” during the Suns’ years. Today the name fits even better.

5. The Florida-based firm eventually hired to conduct the audit is Cyber Ninjas, whose CEO Doug Logan has promoted conspiracy theories about the election; his company also has zero experience with election audits. Assisting Logan will be Jovan Pulitzer, another election conspiracy nutball

Jovan Pulitzer, a favorite of election fraud conspiracy theorists who claims to have invented technology that can detect fraudulent ballots and whom Georgia’s Republican secretary of state recently derided as a “failed inventor and a failed treasure hunter,” will have a role in the Senate’s audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

6. The Senate refuses to say who is paying for the audit; they agreed to pay Cyber Ninjas $150,000, but it’s estimated to cost up to ten times that amount, and dark money groups are making up the difference. The far-far-right One America News Network (OANN) has launched a campaign to raise $150,000, but when asked about the funding Senate Republicans say, “It doesn’t matter who paid for it,” nor will they discuss Cyber Ninjas’ role in the “Stop the Steal” movement. (BTW, their search for private funds follows immediately after Arizona Republicans passed a bill forbidding outside money to help pay for elections.)

7. Republicans are refusing journalists access to the audit (except for OANN), arguing that the Coliseum doesn’t have enough space for the recount and observers (forget about the fact it’s a 15,000-seat arena that’s held monster truck shows). Rather than access, the Senate says they’ll hold a daily press briefing (they estimate 20 days to finish). Several media outlets sent a letter to Senate President Karen Fann, pointing out that conducting the audit in the dark flies in the face of their stated reason for pursuing a third recount:

… if the purpose of the audit is to foster public trust in Arizona’s elections [which is what the GOP argued], it is critical that there also be public trust in the audit itself. Such can only be achieved by fair, open access to the press…”    

8. That brings us to yesterday, when a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo (the lone Dem) argued that the Senate has not established security to protect the millions of ballots, nor have the auditors received proper training (they were seen using blue pens, which is a serious no-no that auditors were not even aware of). Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said it best: “They should not be trusted with our ballots.” Most importantly, the entire procedure, which is being led by election conspiracists, does not appear to be balanced and is certainly not transparent. What could go wrong?

The count has been taken and retaken and re-retaken; Biden won Arizona. This circus will result in nothing but headlines that make Arizona’s Republican Party look even more deceitful and stupid, if that’s possible.  

UPDATE: The judge’s order was contingent on the Democratic Party posting a $1 million bond to cover any costs that the delay might cause. The Dems refused to put up the bond for a two-day postponement, so the recount will begin again. Democrats are not too deflated, however, since the lawsuit “requiring them to produce policies and training procedures is a huge victory.” We’ll see, since we just don’t know WTF is going on, except that whatever they “find” (or invent) will become ammunition for Republican voter suppression bills.

UPDATE 2: After a meeting with Republican officials that the Arizona Mirror characterized as “confrontational,” they and other journalists spoke with election experts about the audit—organizations that, unlike Cyber Ninjas, actually have experience with election audits. No one had anything good to say, calling the procedures “reckless and they in no way, shape or form resemble an audit.” Reporter Jen Fiefield, who was the only local journalist on the floor, reported that training and security are lacking, and rules appear to be made “on the fly.” She was later banned from covering the audit. 

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