But these employees are usually not headed to the carnival. They’re going contained in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum to interact in a totally different type of spectacle.

They’re ballot counters, engaged on one more tally of the almost 2.1 million ballots in Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa. But the company immediately overseeing these employees shouldn’t be a governmental one, not like the 2 earlier audits directed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. This audit is as a substitute being pushed by Republicans in the state Senate, perpetuating the falsehood that the 2020 election was crammed with widespread voter fraud — and thus stolen from former President Donald Trump.

The audit, which started final week, has continued amid court docket hearings and questions over procedures and transparency. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin, in a victory for the Republican-controlled state Senate, dominated Thursday that this third ballot review might proceed. In the ruling, the choose mentioned he anticipated appeals to any of his selections, elevating expectations of extra authorized battles to come back.

“Craziness” is how Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers, a Republican, describes what he was witnessing at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. “… It’s really bothersome.”

Sellers is speaking in regards to the little-known tech firm referred to as Cyber Ninjas, a Sarasota, Florida, contractor employed by the GOP-controlled Arizona Senate to conduct this tally. This so-called review, deeply disputed by bipartisan teams from the Republican-led Maricopa County Supervisors to the Arizona Democratic Party, is the third to look at the 2020 ballots solid in the county. President Joe Biden gained the swing state by 10,457 votes, flipping the longtime Republican state blue for the primary time since 1996, when Bill Clinton narrowly gained Arizona.

Since the election, Trump and his allies have been peddling lies and mistrust in the 2020 outcomes, and particularly in Maricopa County, which has a lengthy historical past of bipartisan, public religion in its mail-in ballots and total election safety.

There was little expression of election religion from the ballot counting employees NCS noticed as they lined up heading into the Arizona State Fairgrounds. What they did show was overtly partisan views.

Their cars bore bumper stickers that learn, “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Trump,” and different conservative insignias, just like the “Don’t Tread on Me” image.

“Are you from OAN?” one of the ballot counters requested NCS. When reporters recognized themselves, the girl rolled up her window and drove on.

OAN, or the One America News Network, is a small, far-right wing outlet that has promoted false claims that Trump gained the 2020 election. Trump had beforehand inspired his supporters to show to OAN, angered when Fox News, a longtime Trump favourite, was the primary media outlet to name Arizona for Biden. OAN’s hosts have publicly urged their followers on social media to donate to cowl the prices of the Arizona audit.
OAN can also be the host of the live stream from the ballot counting flooring in the coliseum, which Ken Bennett, the employed consultant for the Arizona state senate, touted as proof of “transparency.”

The course of has been removed from clear. No unbiased reporters have been allowed contained in the Coliseum till a group of Arizona information companies and their lawyer gained entry inside for one pool reporter, one videographer and one photographer at anybody time.

Sellers, the Maricopa Board of Supervisors chairman, referred to as such open bias amongst supposed election employees astonishing.

“When you accept responsibility for an election, it can’t be about a party,” he mentioned. “It can’t be about a person. It has to be about representing all the voters.”

Maricopa’s supervisors — 4 out of 5 of whom are Republicans — initially refused to launch the 2020 ballots to the Arizona state Senate. The Senate, with broad subpoena powers, took the county board to court docket and a choose ordered the supervisors to conform.

The state Senate and its contractor, Cyber Ninjas, now have a lease on the State Fair’s Coliseum that expires on May 14.

On the primary day the unbiased pool reporter was allowed inside, a information digicam caught the weird course of of ballots being scanned with UV lights.

Bennett, the previous Arizona secretary of state employed by Republicans to function an audit liaison, informed reporters earlier in the week that “the UV lights are looking at the paper, and it’s part of several teams that are involved in the paper evaluation.” When NCS requested if he might specify the aim the UV lights served, he mentioned he didn’t know.

Under order by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Martin, Cyber Ninjas on Thursday launched some of their procedures, together with acknowledging the use of UV lights. In the Cyber Ninjas doc, nevertheless, it wasn’t clearly defined why they have been wanted.

Another Cyber Ninjas doc revealed safety plans for the coliseum the place the audit is being carried out. Called “The Arizona Audit Security Overview,” it lays out potential safety breaches, numbers of non-public safety guards and singles out “Antifa” as a safety risk.

The doc reveals that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey denied a request for members of the Department of Public Safety and National Guard members to supply safety. (Trump has usually attacked Ducey for his loss in Arizona, and the state Republican Party censured the governor earlier this yr.)

Instead, non-public safety companies, together with a volunteer group often called the Arizona Rangers, have been employed to guard the ballots and election tools.

Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who’s one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit making an attempt to cease the ballot review, referred to as your entire train a “fishing expedition.” She warned what was taking place on the Arizona State Fair might be repeated elsewhere, believing that is the subsequent web page in the Trump playbook of the “Big Lie.”

“They cried and cried for an audit for months and they finally got it,” mentioned Hobbs. “And they’re going to try to use this and get it to other places too.”