A judge on Friday afternoon ordered Arizona’s presidential election recount to stop over the weekend, according to local reports, but the count will now go on because Democrats have refused to put up $1 million to cover the cost of possible wrongful delays after the party brought a lawsuit to block the recount, taking place well over five months after Election Day.
The state Senate-ordered election audit, which involves a hand recount of more than 2 million Maricopa County ballots, began Friday.
The Arizona Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop the recount, claiming the recount held almost 100 days into President Joe Biden’s term is a “sham audit that has been corrupted by agitators and conspiracy theorists.”
The recount is being overseen by Doug Logan, CEO of the Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas, which was chosen by the Republican-led Senate to lead the audit.
Logan is also known for making the absurd claim a company tied to long-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez somehow rigged voting machines as part of a conspiracy against former President Donald Trump.
The recount pause would have gone into effect at 5 p.m. local time and been effective until noon on Monday if Democrats paid the $1 million bond, which would have been held to reimburse the Senate for any wrongful expenses due to the pause.
Accounts from reporters witnessing the recount Friday described a scene where there was some confusion. In one case, Arizona Republic reporter Jen Fifield noted counters were using blue pens around ballots, but red pens should only be used since blue ink could alter how ballots are read by machines. She altered Logan, who “seemed unsure” about the situation and said “they would work on this.” Organizers later banned Fifield from tweeting updates about the recount.
There are a great deal of unknowns about how the recount is being run. It’s unclear how counters were chosen and what their political affiliations might be, while it’s also unclear who’s paying for the audit. According to the Arizona Republic, the Senate’s agreed to pay Cyber Ninjas $150,000 to come up with a report in about 60 days, but Logan said there’s also outside funding paying for the audit. It’s not known how much the audit actually costs and where that outside money is coming from.
The counting is expected to take at least two weeks, and will solely examine ballots in Maricopa County—home of Phoenix and its sprawling suburbs, by far the state’s population center. It’ll also only look at two races—the presidential election and the state’s U.S. Senate race—both of which were won by Democrats. An earlier recount took place after Election Day in November, which was legally required because of how close the presidential race was in the state. The review of around 8,000 ballots took around a day and a half and did not find evidence of widespread fraud, despite Trump’s continuous false claims that rampant fraud cost him the election.
“Thank you State Senators and others in Arizona for commencing this full forensic audit. I predict the results will be startling!” Trump said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Who’s counting? Who’s paying? Who’s watching? Big questions loom as election audit set to begin (Arizona Republic)
Maricopa County ballots delivered for Senate election audit (Arizona Mirror)