Cyber Ninjas, UV lights and far-right funding: inside the strange Arizona 2020 election ‘audit’

Inside the coliseum – nicknamed the Madhouse on McDowell – there is another carnival of sorts happening. The arena floor is where the Arizona senate, controlled by Republicans, is performing its own audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa county. The effort, which comes after multiple audits affirming the results of the November election in the county in favor or Joe Biden, includes an examination of voting equipment, an authentication of ballot paper, and a hand recount of the nearly 2.1m ballots cast there.

The review – unprecedented in American politics – may also be one of the clearest manifestations to date of Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud and the conspiracy theories that spread after the election (the former president and allies have loudly cheered on the Arizona effort). Far-right conspiracy theorists appear to be connected to the effort and the firm hired to lead the charge, a Florida-based company called Cyber Ninjas, has little experience in elections. The firm’s CEO has voiced support for the idea that the election was stolen from Trump.

Election experts are watching the unfolding effort with deep alarm, pointing out that officials are not using a reliable methodology – they hesitate to even label it an audit – and will produce a results that will give more fodder for conspiracy theorists. More troublingly, they worry the Arizona audit could be a model for Republicans to try elsewhere.