First Day Of AZ Audit Of 2020 Election Goes Off The Rails Immediately

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 31: Ballots are pulled aside for a hand audit by Maricopa County Elections Department staff ahead of Tuesdays election on October 31, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Early voting lasted from October 7... PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 31: Ballots are pulled aside for a hand audit by Maricopa County Elections Department staff ahead of Tuesdays election on October 31, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Early voting lasted from October 7th through the 30th in Arizona, which had a record number of early voters. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images) MORE LESS

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that an order by a judge halting the Arizona audit will not go into effect.

Well that didn’t take long.

The sketchy Arizona Senate GOP-ordered audit of the 2020 election began in earnest on Friday and almost immediately ran into trouble, with security concerns raised by Democrats prompting a judge to consider pausing the audit activities over the weekend.

Maricopa County Superior Judge Christopher Coury indicated on Friday he would halt the audit if Arizona Democrats, who had brought a lawsuit against the auditors,  put up $1 million in bond to the court. Later Friday, the state party announced that it would not put up the money, meaning that the audit will move forward.

The state Democratic Party, along with a Democratic member of the county board of supervisors, had filed the lawsuit on Thursday, just before the audit was set to begin. They alleged that the “Defendants’ planned Audit does not comply with” the election “safeguards and requirements” laid out in Arizona procedures, and that the “Defendants’ planned Audit undermines the integrity and security of Arizona’s elections and voter information.”

The judge has asked the Democrats to put up $1 million in bond to cover potential costs that the auditors could face when trying to make up for the lost time.

Ever since state Senate Republicans embarked on the audit of Maricopa County — Arizona’s largest county and one that helped President Joe Biden win the state in 2020 — the review effort has been a locus of controversy and incompetence.

As TPM previously reported, the audit is being at least partially bankrolled by a private fundraising effort led by the some of the biggest promotors of former President Trump’s lies about his electoral defeat, including conspiracy theorist Lin Wood.

The cybersecurity firm the Senate tapped to lead the audit has come under fire for its lack of experience in election administration. The firm’s leader also promoted bogus fraud theories about the 2020 election and apparently assisted in the attempts to challenge the results by Trump’s allies.

As the audit began on Friday, there were many questions about the protocols the auditors planned to follow. Press access has also been severely limited. Reporters have only been allowed to view the audit in-person if they play the role of citizen observer, which includes lengthy shifts and a ban on taking notes. One reporter who did make it in to the audit site as an observer tweeted Friday that she noticed auditors using blue-ink pens. That is a no-no in election administration because many ballot scanners are programed to read marks made in black or blue ink, so auditors are usually instructed to use red-ink pens instead.

This incident was raised during a Friday hearing in the Democratic lawsuit, according to a reporter for the local Fox affiliate. The Democrats’ complaint also pointed to security concerns about how the auditors were handling the ballots.

Had the Democrats put up the bond money, the audit would have been halted at 5 p.m. local time Friday and on pause until at least noon Monday.

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