When I hurt my knee, I went to an orthopedic surgeon. When I built my house, I hired an architect. I give my taxes to an accountant, my teeth to a dentist, my car to the Nissan dealership and my hair to Great Clips (there’s not much left of it anyway).
These people have experience, education, certificates and recommendations.
And yet, in the arena of government and public policy, many no longer seem to care about expertise.
Over the past year, much of the country has ignored the consensus health advice of epidemiologists and virologists, instead putting stock in random YouTube videos and internet conspiracy theorists.
In schools, the opinion of teachers about how kids best learn no longer matters to some.
Average Joes somehow know better, despite the fact that “Joe” hasn’t set foot in a high school classroom since he graduated at age 18.
Regarding whatever the most recent Supreme Court opinion may be, many Twitter users happily subscribe to the catchy analysis of somebody who hasn’t gone to law school, has never practiced appellate law, has never written about appellate law and has seemingly not even read the Court’s opinion.
Perhaps some of this is understandable. Bureaucratic experts have failed the country and even lied on several occasions.
President Joe Biden promised to listen to experts for White House decision-making, and yet commentators of all political stripes agree that the Afghanistan withdrawal was a deadly demonstration of incompetence.
And the past year and a half has produced a confusing, ever-changing and sometimes contradicting series of edicts on Covid from the local, state and federal officials.
We must demand better from our public policy and government experts. We must make sure people in government leadership positions are installed due to their abilities, not because of the political favors they offer or because of the donations they’ve made. We need to make sure decisions come from groups of experts and aren’t derailed by the ego or intellectual prejudices of one person. We also need better ways of assessing government bureaucratic experts. And we need to be able to immediately and easily fire government employees should they fail.
But regarding expertise, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
You wouldn’t do this in your personal life. If an auto repair shop failed you once, you wouldn’t react by taking your car repair to somebody who had never before worked on a car.
Unfortunately, that’s essentially what has happened to elections in Arizona.
Following the November 2020 presidential election, Arizona worked to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the vote. The number of checks and tests run are too numerous to exhaust in this article, but they include:
- Political party designees working in bipartisan groups of three to perform a hand count audit of over 47,000 votes. Those votes matched the machine count 100%
- A post-election tabulation accuracy test, overseen by both the Arizona Secretary of State and the political parties, to make sure the tabulation machines weren’t manipulated during the election
- The hiring of two, experienced, reputable, certified companies to test that the tabulators hadn’t connected to the internet, hadn’t been hacked or manipulated, hadn’t somehow misread ballots and didn’t have any malware installed
- The assessment of a sample of affidavit signatures as proof of identity by multiple handwriting experts
- Eight court cases alleging different widespread flaws or fraud, all of which ultimately failed
Despite all of this, Arizona state senators launched a “forensic audit.” To conduct the review, the senators skipped over experienced, credentialed companies and chose Cyber Ninjas, a relatively unknown cybersecurity company from Sarasota, Florida.
Prior to Arizona, Cyber Ninjas had no elections experience and had done zero election audits. Zero.
And the company’s actions have raised questions about it being partisan.
Cyber Ninjas reportedly recruited a GOP candidate on the November ballot and an attendee of the January 6 riot.
Stop The Steal advocates and prominent supporters of Donald Trump’s election lies have raised more than $5.7 million for Cyber Ninjas. The state senate only gave Cyber Ninjas $150,000 to conduct the ballot review.
Cyber Ninjas hasn’t been transparent. They refuse to disclose information regarding their auditing practices, and they only allowed limited media access.
The company has not followed standard auditing procedures and has been widely denounced for its bizarre ballot examination methods.
But this is also a group led by conspiracy theorists. Cyber Ninjas’ CEO Doug Logan gave voice to the theory that dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez had something to do with the 2020 election. And the Ninjas implemented ludicrous auditing methodologies, some promoted by QAnon theorists.
Even worse, Logan appeared in a conspiracy theory film called “Deep Rig” while doing the audit. That film is directed by a guy who previously directed a movie alleging extraterrestrial involvement in 9/11 and that the Nazis had a moon base. Seriously. A Nazi moon base.
Finally, and worst of all, Cyber Ninjas’ CEO claimed on Twitter — before even beginning his Arizona audit — that the entire 2020 election, including Arizona, was stolen. (He deleted his account earlier in the year.)
In an April statement, he said that “The big question should not be ‘am I biased,’ but ‘Will this audit be transparent, truthful and accurate?’ The answer to the latter question is a resounding ‘Yes.'”
But in an August letter to the CEO, members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee wrote “Cyber Ninjas failed to produce key documents responsive to the Committee’s requests, including the company’s communications with former President Trump, his allies and advisors, and the partisan dark money groups that financed this audit.”
After repeated delays, the audit report is due to be released on September 24.
Experts fail us on occasion. Some may even lie to us. But that doesn’t mean we should dispense with all ordinary qualifications and hand the keys of the car over to somebody without a driver’s license. You wouldn’t do this with your personal life, and we shouldn’t do it with our government.