As the Republican so-called “audit” of Maricopa County’s election results slithers its way to an eventual close, actual election experts remain uniform in their belief that the weirdos and conspiracy theorists assembled by inexpert company “Cyber Ninjas” do not have the slightest notion of how to actually do an audit. Or how to handle the ballots they are currently “testing for bamboo” in an effort to determine whether they came from China. Or, possibly, how to count.
Another group of experts is calling out Cyber Ninjas, daring them to test their claims against actual experts. As reported by The Arizona Republic, Arizona Republican Benny White, Clear Ballot Group founder Larry Moore, and retired Clear Ballot technology officer Tim Halvorsen are daring Cyber Ninjas to, quote, “put up or shut up” on their ballot-counting claims.
Their proposal is gloriously straightforward: Pick a box, any not-yet-opened box, from the stored archive of ballots the current “audit” team is working their way through. The expert team will then tell Cyber Ninjas and the Republican-held Arizona Senate who set this whole fiasco in motion the exact vote totals they will find in that archived bundle of ballots, in every race—without going to Arizona or even lifting the box’s lid.
Why? Because elections officials archive these ballots in a very specific manner, have compiled a database of the votes on each ballot, and have recorded which ballots have gone into which boxes as matter of standard procedure. It’s all in the systems. This is very basic stuff that is the whole premise of auditable, testable election administration, and any team of actual experts would know all this.
Then, the team challenges, Cyber Ninjas can send the box through their Tilt-a-Whirl of counters and spinning tables and bamboo seances and see what vote they come up with. Will the experts be proven right? Will the Ninjas? Wouldn’t that be a hoot to watch.
While the Republic reports the team has made a formal pitch to Senate President (Republican) Karen Fann—and the Republic kindly went to special effort to make sure Fann indeed saw the proposal—it seems unlikely that Senate Republicans will allow the challenge to take place. It’s been clear from the beginning that Cyber Ninjas has been botching their procedures in ways that are all but assured to result in botched counts and spoiled ballots that will never be able to properly be audited again, and at this point the incompetence of the effort has turned a nationwide embarrassment. There’s no upside to Republicans putting a final capper on things with definitive proof showing their “audit” isn’t even able to count ballots.
It’s likely to be a moot point. The Republic reports that the Ninjas are allegedly only a few days away from completing their “count,” which means they will have opened (and therefore spoiled) every box of votes. Soon after that we can expect the Ninjas to either release their vote totals, which will absolutely not be the same as the counts generated on election night because of their own screw-ups, or issue a statement explaining that because of insufficient bamboo testing, unusual sunspot activity, or an insufficient supply of snacks, they are unable to reach any conclusions unless someone, um, pays them to do it again.
The point was never to “count” the ballots. The point is to produce something, anything, that Republicans can generate new conspiracy theories from. The point is to produce a narrative that can be used by party leaders to nullify future elections that don’t produce the vote totals the party wanted to see.
Still, it seems a shame that the Ninjas will have no opportunity to prove that they are not incompetent scammers. Even if all the boxes are opened and spoiled, a fascinating post-count test might be to put a box of ballots before the Cyber Ninja team, have them count the votes, then put the same box of ballots in front of them the next day and have them recount it. That would go a long way towards settling the question of whether their human counters can even tally the numbers the same way twice.
We’re probably not going to be getting that one, either. The first rule of carnivals is to never let on how the games are rigged, and this game has been rigged since fascism-promoting state Republicans picked an experienced team headed by a conspiracy peddler rather than any of the actual experts who do these things for a living. It is governing by hoax, and Republicanism has lost the ability to govern by anything else.