The state judge overseeing a Democratic challenge to the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s “audit” of the 2020 election—a secretive effort the state GOP is using as a sort of Hail Mary to overturn or at least delegitimize Joe Biden’s victory there—has ordered that the process no longer be conducted behind closed doors.
Biden won the county by 45,000 votes, and there has been no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever, simply wild speculation by Donald Trump supporters that only some type of insidious conspiracy could possibly explain his loss. The Arizona secretary of state’s office has stated the results have already been certified and there is no possibility of changing them. The “audit” is being conducted by Cyber Ninjas, a little-known and dubiously qualified Florida-based firm owned by “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theorist Doug Logan that claims Trump actually won the state by 200,000 votes.
On Tuesday, per the Arizona Mirror, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin shot down an attempt by lawyers representing the firm and Republicans in the Arizona Senate to restrict the public from attending a Wednesday hearing where Republicans sought to keep secret the manner in which they are conducting the recount of 2.1 million votes. He added he had concerns the privacy of voter data was not being respected, and the GOP side had failed to persuade him “that the rights of the voters in Maricopa County are being protected.” Then, during that Wednesday hearing, according to Fox 10, Martin ruled against state Democrats that the audit can continue, but Cyber Ninja will not be allowed to keep their procedures secret.
Cyber Ninja claimed that the secrecy was needed because their recount procedures are trade secrets. While Martin granted the firm until Thursday to file an appeal, the outlook for the Ninjas looks pretty grim. According to Talking Points Memo, their original legal team has bailed and their new attorneys don’t seem to have bothered to bring themselves up to speed on the case:
Wednesday’s hearing had a particularly rocky start for Cyber Ninjas. Just before the hearing, they asked that it be postponed for one to two days because the lawyers that had been representing the company were were withdrawing from the case and being replaced by a new legal team. Judge Martin granted the request to let the original lawyers withdraw, but would not grant the delay. Nor would he grant a request made after he denied the delay bid that the original legal team be allowed to argue in Wednesday’s hearing.
The new lawyers for Cyber Ninjas were unprepared to argue the company’s position on the issues being discussed at Wednesday’s hearing. When given an opportunity to speak on those issues by the judge, the lawyer Jordan Wolff said merely that they “stood by the filings” that had been already submitted in the case.
As TPM noted, it’s not just Democrats who have fought the audit. Arizona Senate Republicans fought with Maricopa County election officials, who have defended the integrity of the vote and conducted their own audit confirming election machines were secure and vote tallies were accurate. Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers told AZ Central in February that it was “our understanding that state law prohibits the release of the ballots once they have been sealed.” Republicans went so far as to threaten them with a resolution holding the officials in contempt, while Trump revanchists in Arizona and elsewhere bombarded them with vicious death threats; the county is now cooperating with the audit under court order.
Arizona Republicans are intensely invested in the audit, which will cost around $150,000, despite the impossibility of it changing the outcome of the 2020 elections because Biden’s statewide margin of victory of a little over 10,000 votes is slimmer than his Maricopa County margin of 45,000. Trump still holds a stranglehold over Republican politics after his disastrous presidency due to his popularity with conservatives, with that whole assault on the Capitol by his supporters in January serving to underscore how far many of them are willing to go.
The ex-president sent out numerous statements from his sad Office of the Former President in Florida supporting the audit and lambasting Democratic and Republican officials opposed to it, including GOP Governor Doug Ducey, apparently operating under the theory that Cyber Ninjas can somehow prove he won the state and pave the way for a political resurgence (or perhaps just soothe his wounded ego). Even if the audit magically did so, however, it would only reduce Biden’s win in the Electoral College from 306-232 to 295-243.