The recounting of Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix continues Saturday.
Neither the Arizona Senate, which subpoenaed the ballots and is ultimately in charge of the effort, nor Cyber Ninjas, the private technology company hired by the Senate to conduct the activities, has agreed to allow journalists inside.
Thus, the only way for the press — and the public at large — to watch events is via nine cameras set up inside the coliseum and that are streaming at https://azaudit.org.
An Arizona Republic reporter served as an official observer at the coliseum Friday but was not allowed to take notes, take photos or do any other work a journalist would do in monitoring a recount.
But that experience did provide some insight as to what is happening on the floor of the coliseum, as well as a press conference Thursday prior to the start of the effort.
Here’s what to know about what you’re seeing on the cameras:
How the audit is physically arranged
There are four sections of tables on the floor of the coliseum, as is viewable through various camera angles. Each of those sections is represented by a different color, and have round tables in the interior and rectangular tables on the exterior.
The ballots themselves are stacked in boxes in a fenced in area along one side of the floor, and are viewable via camera three.
Two shifts of workers are doing the audit. The first group is starting around 8 a.m. and working until about 2 p.m. There’s a second shift, too. They are planning to work every day except Sundays.
Why people are in different color shirts
The four sections each have a color: yellow, green, blue and red. Some of those sections appear to have more tables than others. The different colors tell the counters where they’re supposed to be on the floor. Those counters are wearing colored T-shirts that correspond to those areas.
Additionally, there are people on the floor in orange T-shirts. Those are the observers.
There are other people in the arena and it’s not clear who all of them are. Some are doing security work, others are with the companies conducting the effort itself. Several would not identify themselves when asked Friday by the Republic’s reporter.
What’s happening at the interior tables
The round tables are where the counting actually happens, as done by those sitting around them. Each ballot is supposed to get scanned and then appear on tall screens that are in the middle of those tables. Additionally, the ballot is placed on a turntable type device so the counters can spin it around and look to compare it to what they see on the screen.
The counters each mark down what they see on the ballot on a printed spreadsheet. They are making three tally marks for each ballot: One to indicate that they checked a ballot, one to indicate which presidential candidate the voter chose and the last to indicate which U.S. Senate candidate the voter chose.
After 100 ballots, the table monitor reviews the check marks on each spreadsheet to see whether they match. If two of them match exactly and the last is within a margin of three votes, they record the count for the two that match. If all three are different or if the margin is larger, they count those ballots again.
During the first box of ballots on Friday, counters were talking to one another about which candidate they were marking for each ballot. They were told not to continue doing that at some point later in the day. It’s unclear whether those rules were initially and fully communicated to all counters.
Observers spoke to those at the counting tables about questionable practices they spotted. At about 1:30 p.m. Friday, the observers were told not to talk to the counters.
What’s happening at exterior tables
After the boxes of ballots are counted, they are sent to the exterior tables.
At those tables, the paper used for the ballot is examined. It’s unclear how it is examined or what the auditors are looking for.
Some people have made unsubstantiated claims about fraudulent ballots getting submitted in Arizona and across the country.
How many ballots were looked at so far
This is also not clear. On Friday, they had gone through about 150 of the nearly 2.1 million ballots by 1 p.m. The liaison for the Arizona Senate, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, had planned to do daily news conferences between the two shifts to provide updates. However, the state Democratic party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo filed a last-minute lawsuit over the effort.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday, and Bennett said Friday that they would not provide any updates to reporters until the legal challenges conclude.
When will we know the results
Cyber Ninjas, the company commissioned by the Arizona Senate to conduct the audit, estimated in a report that they would complete a full audit of ballots, voting machines and voter information and issue a report within 60 days.
Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan estimated that the hand count would take 16 days. Outside observers have cast doubt on whether they can finish that quickly.
The Senate has rented the coliseum through May 14. That would give them 18 more days, including Saturday.
There is a hard deadline, too. Beginning May 17, high school graduations for 17 schools in the Phoenix Union High School District start taking place at the coliseum, lasting several days.
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