After an Arizona Republic reporter tweeted a photo of former State Senator Anthony Kern working at the Republican Party’s corrupt money-making and voter-suppression scheme they call an audit, the journalist, Ryan Randazzo, was escorted from the building and denied future access (he since got it back). They said Randazzo was booted because he exposed an auditor’s face, a security no-no, but none of the media outlets agreed beforehand to conceal faces and, besides, the 24/7, 9-camera live feed shows lots of faces.

The reporter’s removal became a story but the man whose picture he took attracted even more attention, because Anthony Kern, a loud trumper, lost his legislative race in the 2020 election, became an early leader in the Stop-the-Steal movement, and attended the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Then he gets hired to count ballots for a one-way circus train to fraudville run by QAnon lunkheads, white supremacist, conspiracists, militia nutballs, and a whole lotta trump-loving quackery. As I wrote earlier, that’s who has our ballots and we should not feel too good about that.

Sen. Kern’s presence at the audit became a national story, and no doubt it was awkward for the Republican Party to explain why a man known to believe the election was stolen—and who acted on that belief, often—is a cog in the ballot-review machine.

Republican Party Chair Karen Fann took no responsibility, saying she had nothing to do with hiring Kern. It might’ve been that guy in charge of recruitment who worked for an Islamophobic group. Anyway, the “optics,” they said, just weren’t good, so former Senator Kern is now former auditor Kern. The other optics of the audit, of course, are just hunky dory; everything is moving along smoothly, right on schedule. It’s not like this clusterfuck of an operation is a nightly punchline or anything.

But another thing caught my eye, the last sentence in the Kern story, almost an afterthought:

Finchem has said publicly that an organization he founded is paying for additional security at the audit site.

Wait! Wot? State Senator Mark Finchem, who ran for office as an Oath Keeper, has been part of the Stop-the-Steal bullpuckery since the beginning; along with Kern, he also attended the Jan. 6 insurrection. That guy is paying for security of the ballots, which have been packed up for a week to allow schools to use the Coliseum for graduation ceremonies.

So, a QAnon, conspiracy nutball is in charge of the audit, mostly trump-loving goobers are counting them, election experts allowed into the facility say the Cyber Ninjas don’t know what the heck they’re doing, and the ballots are being guarded by one of the loudest trumpers in the legislature. An editorial in today’s Arizona Republic began:

If you’re reading this, go ahead and assume your digital information isn’t safe and that Arizona’s Republican leaders are absolutely fine with that.  

Arizona Republicans said they started this charade, not to overturn the election results, but so voters would have confidence in the electoral system. I feel more confident every day, but if you’re not confident yet, now they are considering expanding the audit to include all races, not just President and Senate. I’m outta facepalms. 

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