The politicized “audit” of Maricopa County, Arizona’s 2020 vote is weeks behind schedule, overseen by a conspiracy theorist, fueled by untraceable private donations, and may well produce an inaccurate count.
So why not try again?
The Arizona Republic reported Friday that the GOP-controlled Arizona Senate is close to signing a second recount deal, this time using digital images of the county’s ballots rather than the real paper objects.
The auditor this time, rather than “Cyber Ninjas,” would be the nonprofit Citizens Oversight, which, similarly, had no experience auditing elections prior to Donald Trump’s months-long tantrum over losing his reelection bid.
The group’s founder Ray Lutz told the Republic that the audit would amount to a “grand test” of his technology, which he calls “AuditEngine,” and which purports to be able to re-tabulate ballots cast on other machines.
“I think it is certainly a big test for me, because I have put a lot of work on it for the last year and a half or so,” Lutz said. “We have enhanced it to the point now where I believe we can do a lot to provide information about how well (this election) went.”
He added later that “sometimes we see mistakes that are made, on our side.”
“This is a new system that is valuable for the public to have and we can use for examining these elections and finding out what happened,” Lutz said. He told the paper he would accept outside donations — but not from political organizations or “crazies.”
Senate audit liaison Ken Bennett said that yet another audit could be important for comparison purposes, if the official count and the Cyber Ninjas audit come to different numbers.
The Cyber Ninjas audit is not going well.
“In more than a decade working on elections, audits and recounts across the country, I’ve never seen one this mismanaged,” Jennifer Morrell, who served as an observer for Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ (D) office in the Cyber Ninjas audit, wrote last week in The Washington Post.
And while Lutz says his technology is open source, ballot images are not public record in Arizona, the Republic noted, meaning Lutz’s analysis wouldn’t be publicly accessible. Also, Maricopa county has around 1,800 different ballot styles — accounting for neighborhood-specific races and the like, the paper reported — which could take weeks to program for Lutz’s review.