Arizona Prepares for Trump-Driven Audit Findings
Procedure review shows a flawed vote review method, inconsistent processes, an unacceptable degree of error built into the process, and inadequate security hamper the Cyber Ninjas audit.
Top officials in Maricopa County, Arizona's largest county, and the state's secretary of state's office aren't waiting for the controversial 2020 election review results to be released. Instead, they've launched a pair of preemptive strikes against the report, which could be released as soon as next week, according to the Arizona Republic.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, has issued a rebuttal in which she outlines all of her office's objections to the so-called election "audit," which was conducted by the Federal Election Commission.
In a statement, Hobbs' office said that "All credible audits are characterized by controls, access, and transparency that allow for the processes and procedures to be replicated, if necessary," Hobbs' office wrote. "As this report has described, the review conducted by the Senate's contractors has consistently lacked all three of these factors."
As she described voting equipment testing in Maricopa County before and after elections, she criticized the state Senate-led operation as "secretive and chaotic," noting that it regularly disregarded best practices from an actual audit.
According to the findings of this study, the Senate's contractors have repeatedly failed to meet all three of these criteria.
As well as the reviewers' credentials, Stephen Richer, the Republican county recorder in Maricopa County, released a long report on Thursday in the form of an open letter to state Republicans, calling into question their qualifications as well as his own political credentials.
His letter to the editor stated, "I will keep fighting for conservatism, and there are many things I would do for the Republican candidate for President, but I won't lie about the election, and I will not unjustifiably turn my back on the employees of the Board of Supervisors, Recorder's Office, and Elections Department — my colleagues and friends," he wrote.
Since late April, the Maricopa County voters have been reviewed and scrutinized by contractors hired by the Republican-controlled state Senate. The county, which President Joe Biden won on his way to flipping the state, has also had its election equipment scrutinized since that time.
The procedure was originally expected to take 60 days, but it has already gone on for far longer than that.
An official with the effort, identified as a "deputy Senate liaison," told POLITICO that the contractors' report — which will be submitted to the state Senate on Monday by the company leading the effort, Cyber Ninjas — is expected to be submitted and that a hearing will be scheduled shortly after that.
Republicans in the state, notably Richer and Hobbs, and the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, have been vocal in their opposition to it almost from the beginning.
At a press briefing organized by the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with election administrators, Richer said that the only thing that has remained consistent throughout this endeavor has been missed deadlines and having to walk back statements.
"The only thing that has been consistent about this endeavor has been missed deadlines and having to walk back statements," Richer said at a Thursday press briefing organized by the Center for Election Innovation and Research. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization works with election administrators. "Please look into it before taking whatever the Cyber Ninjas produce as gospel."
Due to a lack of clearly defined processes and an embrace of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, Arizona's state Senate refers to the Cyber Ninjas' work as an "audit." This label is almost universally rejected by election officials and experts because the Arizona effort has poorly defined processes and embraces conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
It has been clear from the beginning that the review in Arizona would be marred by disarray and infighting.
A fan of former President Donald Trump, the proprietor of Cyber Ninjas, has spread conspiracy theories regarding the 2016 election.
As part of their investigation, officials have said that they are looking for the presence of bamboo fibers in ballots, a reference to the fringe notion that votes were smuggled into the country from Asia.
A charity founded and managed by a reporter for the far-right One America News Network and a former tech CEO, who has spent millions of dollars spreading Trump's falsehoods about the election, has provided the funding.
When asked about the Cyber Ninjas-led campaign in an interview earlier this week, Hobbs, who is also running for governor next year, expressed his dissatisfaction with it.
According to Hobbs, the audit in Arizona is not a true audit since the timetable has changed regularly.
"We're kind of just preparing ourselves for the impact" of the Cyber Ninjas' findings, says the team. "This isn't a real audit," Hobbs said
Her office said in its rebuttal that "any 'outcomes' or 'conclusions' that are published" from the state Senate's process must be ignored, and it called on the state's political leaders to "proclaim that the 2020 General Election was fair and accurate.
Other election experts, like former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, and Barry Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, have already criticized the Arizona study as being conducted in an unprofessional manner.
"The Cyber Ninjas review suffers from a variety of maladies: uncompetitive contracting, a lack of impartiality and partisan balance, a faulty ballot review process, inconsistency in procedures, an unacceptably high level of error built into the process, and insufficient security," Grayson and Burden wrote in their June report. "Because it lacks the essential elements of a bona fide post-election analysis, the review currently underway in Maricopa County will not produce findings that should be trusted."
According to Grayson and Burden in their June report, "the Cyber Ninjas review is plagued by a variety of maladies, including uncompetitive contracting, an absence of impartiality and partisan balance, a faulty ballot review process, inconsistency in procedures, an unacceptably high level of error built into the process, and insufficient security."
According to the report, "Because it lacks the key components of a legitimate post-election study, the review now underway in Maricopa County will not yield results that can be trusted."
The county board, which Republicans dominate, has also been embroiled in a long fight with the state Senate.
As a result, the board — as well as Dominion Voting Systems, the county's election vendor — has refused to comply with recent legislative subpoenas, effectively challenging the state Senate to find the board in contempt, even though some Republicans in the closely divided chamber oppose the Cyber Ninjas-led investigation.
The county board said this week that it is requesting that the state Senate pay $2.8 million to replace voting equipment that the Senate subpoenaed.
After Hobbs said that the old computers would be decertified due to chain of custody problems, the county leased new machines to replace them.
It also comes when there has been an intense public backlash against the post-election audit movement.
Officials from the election administration received unanimous approval from the nation's secretaries of state last weekend, setting out rules for post-election auditing.
Many of the rules read as implied rebukes of the Arizona process, such as the need for definite deadlines and the requirement that only "a federally or a state-certified test lab conduct any audit of voting machine hardware or software."
The Justice Department also released advice late last month, stating that specific post-election audits may violate federal law in some circumstances.
Trump and his followers have been anxiously anticipating the completion of the investigation in Arizona. Whatever the results are, they will almost certainly be used to promote his ridiculous allegations that the election was stolen from him.
According to Trump, at a speech delivered in the state in July, the process in the state will eventually show that "we won by a long shot" and that "this is just the beginning of the anomalies that the Arizona audit is finding." (There is no legal mechanism in place to add the state's 11 electoral votes to his total of electoral votes.)
Trump has urged his supporters to expand the scope of the Maricopa review to include other states.
The Republican-controlled states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have attempted to establish their own, but none has gained Arizona's momentum.
Ben Ginsberg, a prominent Republican elections lawyer who has spoken out about efforts to undermine faith in American democracy following the 2020 election, expressed his hope that the Cyber Ninjas report would land without making a lot of noise and would be able to put a stop to the movement after it was released.
As he said during the briefing, once they cannot provide evidence to support their claims, they will warn other countries to avoid going down the potentially dangerous road of losing their credibility.
To which the county elections office replied, "The Cyber Ninjas have been out there in common parlance for about four months now, and we haven't seen this in other places," he said, complementing the efforts of Arizona media and election officials in other jurisdictions.
"Perhaps we should give ourselves a little pat on the back here."
There seems to be a warning of at least one of those initiatives taking place outside of Arizona.
Mastriano, a Trump supporter who is contemplating running for governor of Pennsylvania next year, attempted to start his inquiry into the president's administration.
However, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, Mastriano seemed to be disillusioned with the attempt during a Facebook broadcast on Thursday that has since been removed.
His assessment: "We are not in a very good position right now."
Even though I put my name out there to get it done, I have been temporarily barred from doing so.
Despite this, some election security specialists believe that this is not the end of the shady assessments of the 2020 election, which will most certainly continue.
Because of the continuing attempts to improve election integrity throughout the nation, David Becker of the Center for Election Innovation and Research is less optimistic than he was before.
"I'm a little less sanguine about that, as I see ongoing efforts" across the country, said the Center for Election Innovation and Research's David Becker. "I think we're going to need to be continually vigilant."