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GOP review fails to produce any evidence that Arizona election was stolen from Trump

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors
Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by Republican-hired contractors working for Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
(Matt York / Associated Press )

A Republican-backed review of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona’s largest county ended Friday without producing evidence to support former President Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

After six months of searching for evidence of fraud, the firm hired by GOP lawmakers issued a report that experts described as riddled with errors, bias and flawed methodology. Still, even that partisan review came up with a tally that would not have altered the outcome, finding that Joe Biden won by 360 more votes than in the official results certified last year.

The finding was an embarrassing end to a widely criticized quest to prove allegations that election officials and courts have rejected. It has no bearing on the final, certified results. Previous reviews by nonpartisan professionals that followed state law have found no significant problem with the vote count in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix.

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Still, for many critics, the conclusions reached by the firm Cyber Ninjas and presented at a hearing Friday underscored the dangerous futility of the exercise, which has helped fuel skepticism about the validity of the 2020 election and spawned copycat vote reviews nationwide.

“We haven’t learned anything new,” said Matt Masterson, a top U.S. election security official in the Trump administration. “What we have learned from all this is that the Ninjas were paid millions of dollars, politicians raised millions of dollars, and Americans’ trust in democracy is lower.”

A document purported to be a leaked draft of the report said a hand count of ballots confirmed Biden’s victory and showed a net gain of 360 votes for him.

Others said the recount may have succeeded in its true purpose.

“They are trying to scare people into doubting the system is actually working,” said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who oversaw Maricopa County’s election office last year. “That is their motive. They want to destroy public confidence in our systems.”

The review was authorized by the Republican-controlled state Senate, which subpoenaed the Maricopa County election records and selected the inexperienced, pro-Trump review team.

On Friday, Senate President Karen Fann sent a letter to GOP state Atty. Gen. Mark Brnovich, urging him to investigate issues the report flagged. But she noted that the review found the official count to match the ballots. “This is the most important and encouraging finding of the audit,” she wrote.

Trump issued statements Friday falsely claiming that the results demonstrated “fraud.”

Despite being pilloried, the Arizona review has become a model that Trump supporters are pushing to replicate in other swing states where Biden won. Pennsylvania’s Democratic attorney general sued Thursday to block a GOP-issued subpoena for an array of election materials. In Wisconsin, a retired state Supreme Court justice is leading a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 election and this week threatened to subpoena officials who don’t comply.

Democracy is being poisoned by people who care only about winning.

None of the reviews can change Biden’s victory, which was certified in each of the swing states he won and by Congress on Jan. 6 — after Trump’s supporters, fueled by the same false charges that generated the vote reviews, stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to prevent certification of his loss.

The Arizona report claimed shortcomings in election procedures and suggested that the final tally still could not be relied upon. Several claims were challenged by election experts, and members of the Republican-led county Board of Supervisors disputed some on Twitter. “Unfortunately, the report is also littered with errors & faulty conclusions about how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 General Election,” county officials tweeted.

Election officials say that’s because the review team is biased, ignored the vote-counting procedures in Arizona law and had no experience in the complex field of election audits.

Two of the report’s recommendations stood out because they showed that its authors misunderstood election procedures: that there should be paper ballot backups and that voting machines should not be connected to the internet. All Maricopa ballots are paper, with machines used only to tabulate the votes, and those tabulators are not connected to the internet.

The review also checked the names of voters against a commercial database, finding that 23,344 reported moving before ballots went out in October. While the review suggests something improper, election officials note that voters such as college students, those who own vacation homes or military members can move to temporary locations while still legally voting at the address where they are registered.

“A competent reviewer of an election would not make a claim like that,” said Trey Grayson, a former Republican secretary of state in Kentucky.

The election review was run by Cyber Ninjas chief executive Doug Logan, whose firm had never before conducted an election recount. Logan previously worked with attorneys and Trump supporters trying to overturn the 2020 election and appeared in a film questioning the results of the contest while the ballot review was ongoing.

Logan and others involved with the review presented their findings Friday to two Arizona senators, kicking off with Shiva Ayyadurai, a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic who claims to have invented email, presenting an analysis relying on “pattern recognition” that flagged purported anomalies in the way mail ballots were processed at the end of the election.

Maricopa County tweeted that the pattern was simply the election office following state law.

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“‘Anomaly’ seems to be another way of saying the Senate’s contractors don’t understand election processes,” the county posted during the testimony.

Logan followed up by acknowledging that “the ballots that were provided for us to count ... very accurately correlated with the official canvass.” He then continued to flag statistical discrepancies — including the voters who had moved — that he said merited further investigation.

The review has a history of exploring outlandish conspiracy theories, dedicating time to checking for bamboo fibers on ballots to see if they were secretly shipped in from Asia. It has also served as a content-generation machine for Trump’s effort to sow skepticism about his loss, pumping out misleading and out-of-context information that the former president circulates long after it has been debunked.

In July, for example, Logan laid out a series of claims stemming from his misunderstanding of the election data he was analyzing, including that 74,000 mail ballots were recorded as received but not sent. Trump repeatedly amplified the claims. Logan had compared two databases that track different information.

Arizona’s Senate agreed to spend $150,000 on the review, plus security and facility costs. That pales in comparison to the nearly $5.7 million contributed by Trump allies as of late July.

Maricopa County’s official vote count was conducted in front of bipartisan observers, as were legally required audits meant to ensure that voting machines work properly. A partial hand-count spot-check found a perfect match.

Two extra postelection reviews by federally certified election experts also found no evidence that voting machines switched votes or were connected to the internet. The county Board of Supervisors commissioned the extraordinary reviews in an effort to prove to Trump backers that there were no problems with the election.


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