Republicans are trying to have 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County—where the majority of the state’s voters live—“audited.” So far, the conspiracy theorists in charge of the effort have gotten through 250,000 ballots, which puts them on track to finish in August. They only have the space where they’re currently working reserved until May 14, at which point they will have to find someplace else to move the ballots and equipment, because there are high school graduation ceremonies scheduled at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum beginning on May 17.
A former Arizona secretary of state involved in the effort claims they will finish in June or July, depending which news outlet he’s talking to, after hiring more workers—currently less than half of the tables available for counting are staffed. The hiring process has already led to a former Republican state representative and participant in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol being paid to count ballots, so that should go well. Maybe he can recruit some of his buddies.
An conspiracy theory-inspired effort to find watermarks on the ballots has been abandoned, but the people being paid $15 an hour to inspect and count them are still looking for bamboo fibers due to another conspiracy theory involving a planeload of counterfeit ballots from South Korea. (Apparently Asian nations do not have access to paper without bamboo in it?)
The Justice Department has raised serious concerns about the proceedings, noting that “the ballots, elections systems, and election materials that are the subject of the Maricopa County audit are no longer under the ultimate control of state and local elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors at an insecure facility, and are at risk of being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed,” which could violate federal laws relating to the preservation of election records.
The Justice Department further expressed a concern that the plan to “identify voter registrations that did not make sense, and then knock on doors to confirm if valid voters actually lived at the stated address” and to contact voters in selected precincts to “collect information of whether the individual voted in the election” is potentially in violation of federal laws against intimidating voters, including in the Voting Rights Act. Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann subsequently backed off of that part of the plan.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who has criticized the partisan and slipshod manner of the proceedings, now requires a 24/7 security detail after death threats.
All of this when the votes were counted the first time, then underwent a partial hand recount and two audits, in a county where the Board of Supervisors is controlled by Republicans who have strongly defended the integrity of the election and the count. The reason is simple: “They lost, and they can’t get over it,” as Grant Woods, a former Republican Arizona attorney general who became a Democrat during the Trump years, told the Associated Press. “And they don’t want to get over it because they want to continue to sow doubt about the election.”