The Slatest

Arizona’s Republican-Run Election Audit Is Now Looking for Bamboo-Laced “China Ballots”

Three Cyber Ninjas contractors work to examine ballots in the recount. One man wearing a mask looks down at a camera. Another man wears a clear face shield over a camo baseball cap with the thin blue line flag on it.
Can you detect the bamboo particles? Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

On Wednesday, a member of the Arizona election audit team that has been heavily touted by former President Donald Trump revealed that its examination of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County will include a “forensic” analysis of ballots to determine if the paper is made of bamboo—in order to determine whether or not China delivered tens of thousands of fraudulent ballots to tip the state to Joe Biden.

If that sounds much too crazy for an audit that was initiated by the Republican-led Arizona Legislature and whose communications are being spearheaded by the Republican former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, it very much is not.

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On Wednesday, audit liaison John Brakey told a reporter from the local CBS affiliate in Phoenix that the audit team was checking to see if 40,000 Biden ballots were smuggled into Arizona from Asia by checking the paper’s fiber to try to detect bamboo:

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“There’s accusations that 40,000 ballots were flown in and stuffed into the box and it came from the southeast part of the world, Asia. And what they’re doing is to find out if there’s bamboo in the paper,” Brakey told Dennis Welch of CBS5 News.

Welch asked Brakey a series of follow-ups, such as “Why do you check for bamboo?” and “This is part of what you’re looking for?” and he answered that others were searching for the bamboo ballots because “people in Southeast Asia … use bamboo in their paper processing” and “this is part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about.”

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Again, is the bamboo analysis truly part of the audit effort? Apparently, it has been from the beginning.

During a press conference for the audit last week, Brakey said what auditors were “looking for is folds in pieces of paper, because there’s a guy who came out and said certain things, that the ballots were stuffed, that we’re going to find bamboo in the paper.”

Bennett, the spokesman for the audit, then confirmed, “We’re evaluating the paper. We’re evaluating the paper.”

Where did this theory—apparently of major concern for the Arizona auditors—that someone in Asia had sent 40,000 ballots to Maricopa County in order to sway the election for Joe Biden and against Donald Trump come from? It appears to have come from an election fraud gadfly named Jovan Pulitzer, who Slate’s Aaron Mak reported earlier this week is supporting the work of the Maricopa audit firm, Cyber Ninjas.

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In addition to Pulitzer having claimed to invent a technology that would detect whether a ballot’s ink and folds might indicate forgery, Mak flags that back in December Pulitzer began to espouse a theory that China had imported ballots to tip the election to Biden and that he could detect such malfeasance by uncovering bamboo particles via “a forensic analysis.”

Here’s footage of Pulitzer making that claim, in a video that was circulated on Dec. 23:

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Pulitzer claimed at the time:

The ballots are supposed to be printed here in the United States of America and, in some cases, the ballots have to be printed in that exact state. American paper has a signature in it. And with forensics, you can look at that paper and see if it is the constituents of that paper is what we use to make paper. Now let’s say there was an influx of China ballots. China does not have the tree and lumber population we have because it got deforested primarily a long time ago. They use bamboo—and they do use wood pulps—they use bamboo in their paper and they use about 27 different mixes of grasses that we don’t have here in the United States. And even though you can’t look at it and see it, it’s very detectable. And so I can assure you that outside of a catastrophic failing this will be plugged.

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In another video published on Dec. 29, Pulitzer further explained his theory.

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“Well, did you know from a forensic level that you can tell absolutely the difference between paper here in the United States or paper that was made in China?” he said. “There’s different formulations, different inks, even different fibers, and our systems were able to tell every one of these.”

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Now, Pulitzer—the inventor of one of the worst gadgets of all time and a former professional treasure hunter—is assisting Cyber Ninjas in conducting this audit, complete with checking for bamboo fibers from “China ballots.” Bennett told the Arizona Mirror last month that Pulitzer had consulted with Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan to design the process for testing the ballots.

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As Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said during a press briefing about the audit on Tuesday, the reality is that with Pulitzer and Logan now in total—and secret—control of those ballots, the “chain of custody” for Maricopa’s election documentation has been completely compromised.

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“Arizona and Maricopa County has opened up a lot of questions because, like I said, how do you know those ballots weren’t altered?” Wyman said. “And it doesn’t even matter if they were at this point, because I don’t think you can guarantee that they weren’t and that’s all you have to do is cast doubt on this process.”

“From a legal standpoint, chain of custody, ballot integrity has been so destroyed by a lack of procedures that moved into evolving procedures,” Matthew Masterson, a former senior cybersecurity adviser at the Department of Homeland Security, said in the same briefing. “You can’t reestablish that chain of custody and integrity after the fact. So, from just a legal standpoint, I don’t know how you can establish proper chain of custody, evidence standards, anything for a court, or otherwise, it’s gone.”

Wyman added that the Department of Justice ought to be observing the audit going forward.

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