The recount of Maricopa County, Arizona’s 2.1 million ballots includes an analysis of whether the ballots have any bamboo fibers, an audit leader said Wednesday. The official said that the auditors were seeking to vet a wild claim that 40,000 counterfeit ballots were shipped in from Asia.
The explanation for the review by John Brakey — who is serving as an assistant liaison for the Arizona Senate Republican-ordered “audit” — confirms suspicions by outside election experts that the rules for the audit had been shaped with crazy conspiracy theories about the 2020 election in mind.
Brakey had been asked by a reporter for the local CBS affiliate to elaborate on a reference to bamboo fibers he had made at a press conference last week.
“There’s accusations that 40,000 ballots were flown into Arizona and stuffed into the box. And it came from the Southeast part of the world — Asia — and what they’re doing is to find out if there is bamboo in the paper,” Brakey said Wednesday.
John Brakey, an official helping oversee the audit of the 2020 Arizona election, says auditors are looking for bamboo fibers because of a baseless accusation that 40K ballots from Asia were smuggled here. #AzAuditPool pic.twitter.com/57UOBYIehg
— Dennis Welch (@dennis_welch) May 5, 2021
He later added that he didn’t actually believe the 40,000 counterfeit ballot allegation, but that it was “part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about and this is the way to do it.”
A spokesperson for the cybersecurity firm that had been hired to organize the audit did not immediately respond to TPM’s inquiry about the comments. But Brakey may have been referring to a scheme alleged in an unhinged lawsuit rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.
The lawsuit, which had also been pursued in Arizona state court, described a wild account of ballots being smuggled in via a South Korean airplane that supposedly landed at a Phoenix airport the day before the election.
The sensational claims of foreign election hacking have been widely debunked, including by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials appointed by President Trump.
In 2016, Brakey was a self-avowed Bernie Sanders supporter who sued to challenge the results of the state’s Democratic presidential primary. In the 2020 general election, he said, he voted for Biden. Because of his lefty credentials, the audit leaders have touted his involvement as a sign that the recount is not a partisan effort — though it is roundly opposed by Arizona Democrats and several Republican officials have also spoken out against the audit.
Brakey recently made an appearance on Steve Bannon’s show to discuss the audit, and said it could “put to bed the rumors that we were going to find bamboo in the paper.”
Of course, prominent Trump supporters have already expressed confidence that the recount will reveal mass fraud, and have claimed that it will be the first of several audits across the country that could ultimately reverse Trump’s loss.
Democrats filed a lawsuit in court challenging the recount’s rules, but have since reached a settlement with the auditors. In a letter to the auditors issued with the announcement of the settlement, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) said she still had concerns about the approach — including its close review of the ballot paper.
“Though conspiracy theorists are undoubtably cheering on these types of inspections — and perhaps providing financial support because of their use — they do little other than further marginalize the professionalism and intent of this ‘audit,'” she wrote.