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Tag: arizona audit

Is Virginia Prepared To Debunk 'Voter Fraud' Lies In Governor's Race?

As the Virginia governor's race heads toward a nail-biting conclusion – with polls from Fox News saying that Republican Glenn Youngkin is ahead and the Washington Post saying that Democrat Terry McAuliffe is ahead – how prepared are election experts to quickly counter disinformation should McAuliffe, a former governor, pull ahead in the first unofficial results?

The answer is not very, according to interviews with election officials, Democratic Party lawyers, election protection attorneys, and experts in academia and policy circles.

At best, it appears that government officials and experts with election administration experience will say again what Americans heard after the 2020 presidential election: that the voting process is trustworthy, includes checks and balances, and therefore the results are legitimate. What is not likely to be seen is quick and easily understood proof of the winner based in public election records that attest to legitimacy of the voters and the accuracy of the vote counts.

"I just don't think there's a factual way to combat this, or debunk this, nor do I think that's an effective strategy," said David Becker, executive director and founder of the non-partisan Center for Election Innovation and Research. "The simple fact is that if McAuliffe wins, the election deniers will claim fraud, regardless of facts, and then will make things up to support their false claims. We need a broader narrative about the security of elections, and force them to answer to that."

Becker continued, "The fact is that since 2017, Virginia has paper ballots statewide, and in the last couple of years, has instituted risk-limiting audits throughout the state. Ballots cannot be made up or dumped. I am firmly against getting into a meaningless cycle where we have to prove that an election had integrity when we've already done so. We've seen how that won't change minds."

Becker is referring to post-election claims, most notably in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In those states, pro-Trump legislators have launched "bad-faith audits" where they have hired Trump partisans with little election auditing experience, and given them great leeway look for problems that could be used to cast doubt on results where Trump lost.

During a press briefing on Monday by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which hosts a hotline to assist anyone having trouble accessing a ballot, Alexandria Bratton, senior program manager with the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, also pointed to the post-election audits—which would come after the results are certified just before Thanksgiving.

"Our elections, time and time again, have shown that we don't have any large-scale anything [wrong] that's really going on," Bratton said. "I think it's just a matter of using our facts, instead of some of the narratives that folks are trying to push to place fear into our voters."

Bratton's comments were similar to those from other election experts, including recently issued reports that said voting system-testing protocols and audits sufficed to counter disinformation. When Voting Booth noted that disinformation started on Election Day or sooner, while audits occurred weeks later — leaving a void that can be filled with conspiracy chatter — Bratton noted that false claims about Virginia's governor's race have already appeared, but reiterated that the job of election protection advocates is to help voters cast ballots and then arm them with facts.

"We've actually already started seeing some of that disinformation floating on social media… [and at] some of their rallies," Bratton said. "It's not even waiting for results to come in. Folks are already pushing those types of narratives to get those thoughts into folks' minds ahead of time. So what we have tried to do, as the nonpartisan election protection coalition, is just remind folks what the facts are, and when to actually see the results."

The partisan organizations most heavily invested in the governor's race are the political parties. Frank Leone, an election lawyer working with the Democratic Party of Virginia said the party has been "monitoring all that stuff pretty closely, which include Republican and MAGA [Trump's Make America Great Again] group efforts… basically watching everything they do with their theory that somehow in the middle of the night they are switching votes."

Leone said that MAGA factions have begun to copy Arizona activists by knocking on some voters' doors to ask them if they really requested a mailed-out ballot — a tactic that, as the Department of Justice warned Arizona's Trumpers, may violate federal voter intimidation laws. The state's Democratic Party is also monitoring GOP efforts to reportedly deploy several thousand poll watchers as a "line of defense against election fraud," as the Washington Post reported. Top Virginia GOP officials also have been saying that the state's use of drop boxes to receive the mailed-out ballots was an invitation for voting more than once — which is not true, as every return envelope goes through several checks to verify the voter before being opened.

Leone said the state party "was trying to be in the position to respond to these things," and was also concerned about what's been called the "Blue Shift." That's shorthand for the tendency of lower population, rural, GOP-heavy counties to report first on Election Night — presumably putting Youngkin ahead — followed by the state's urban centers, led by suburbs of Washington, D.C., which report their results later in the evening — presumably tilting the count toward McAuliffe. But for the most part, the party has "stayed out of the papers and haven't put our side in."

The Virginia Department of Elections has put up web pages seeking to debunk false claims about elections. Most of its messaging has been consistent with efforts by election officials in other states, emphasizing that there are many safeguards along the path of verifying voters and counting ballots—but not getting into much detail about those protocols and underlying data.

Cyber Ninjas Got Audit All Wrong -- Including 300,000 Miscounted Ballots

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Late last month, pro-Trump contractors working for the Arizona Senate Republicans reported that Joe Biden had not only won the 2020 election but also gained votes, while Trump lost votes in their count. But an independent analysis released Tuesday of the Cyber Ninjas-led hand count, the basis of its results, has found inaccuracies involving more than 311,000 ballots — a 15 percent error rate.

The same analysis also found that the contractors had double-counted 22,821 ballots, which is more than twice the size of Biden's victory margin in Arizona's 2020 presidential election.

"This is proof that the Cyber Ninjas' [presidential] vote count wasn't real," Larry Moore, a co-author of the analysis, told the Arizona Republic. The Phoenix-based paper first reported the analysis after filing public records requests and suing to obtain the Senate's audit records, which were released late on Friday.

Moore is part of a three-person team of retired election auditors and data experts who have used public records to confirm and explain Trump's loss in Arizona. He founded Clear Ballot, a federally certified election audit firm, and was assisted by Benny White, a Republican data analyst from Tucson, and Tim Halvorsen, Clear Ballot's retired chief technology officer.

Doug Logan, Cyber Ninjas CEO, did not respond to the Arizona Republic's request for a comment on Tuesday. Previously, Logan has rejected analyses by the trio of election auditors, saying they were criticizing ballot inventory and vote-counting work that was unfinished.

Incompetence Revealed, Innuendo Debunked

The 300,000-plus incorrectly counted ballots are from a 695-page report prepared by Randy Pullen, the former Arizona Republican Party chair and a professional corporate accountant, that listed — side by side — figures from five different ways that the Senate's investigators attempted to inventory paper ballots and count presidential votes from 1,634 storage boxes.

The outside auditors found that figures from 706 storage boxes were off by 25 or more ballots, when compared to Maricopa County's official election records. They found the Cyber Ninjas had no record of more than 167,000 ballots in the storage boxes. They found an additional 144,000 ballots where the number of hand-counted ballots in storage boxes did not match subsequent machine counts of the ballot inventory. They found Pullen's hand count totals apparently double counted nearly 23,000 ballots. Their report, posted on their blog, has pages containing highlighted errors in all of these categories of auding mistakes.

"Our initial analysis… completely discredited any comments made by Pullen or Doug Logan about the accuracy of the Senate 'forensic audit,'" the analysts October 12 blog said. "Pullen now says the report he submitted, and [Arizona] Sen. [President Karen] Fann subsequently submitted to the [Arizona] Attorney General when she asked for a criminal investigation of everything the Ninjas have been saying, was only preliminary. Since it is the only report of the extended audit that has been released to the public, we are now going through that report in detail to see how it stacks up against the official results. The answer is not very well."

The disclosure that the Cyber Ninjas most-detailed report cannot account for 15 percent of the votes on 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County is the latest in a series of analyses that have debunked the claims put forth by the state Senate's privatized 2020 election investigation.

On October 6, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican elected in 2020, issued an analysis that debunked 12 of the most inflammatory allegations by the Cyber Ninjas team — after they reported that Joe Biden defeated Trump. Those conspiratorial claims drew wide coverage on pro-Trump media and lent momentum for copy-cat "audits" in other states.

The county's explanations revealed that the Cyber Ninjas did not know basics about election administration, which involves a series of interlocking systems and records that range from authenticating a voter's identity and eligibility, to how mailed-out ballots are tracked and inventoried, to how vote counts are tabulated, to how vote-count records and databases are archived. In these and other categories, the contractors have attacked the accuracy of the election and incorrectly portrayed the voting and vote-counting process as flawed.

"Based on our preliminary review of voters found in the Senate's data, we cannot substantiate Cyber Ninjas' conclusions based on the use of a third-party data set," Richer's analysis said, in response to a claim that 23,344 voters—more than twice Biden's victory margin—did not live at the address in their voter file. (The Cyber Ninjas used a commercial address directory, which their report to the Senate said could not find more than 80,000 voters in the county).

"No voter should be denied their right to vote because they are not in a commercial database," Richer continued. "In Maricopa County, we rely on the voter's affirmation of their residential address until we are informed otherwise by the voter or by another trusted resource like the United States Postal Service or the National Change of Address report. A real-time database that tracks the day-by-day movement of every person in the state or in the nation does not exist."

There have been other recent reports that also attest to the Cyber Ninjas' incompetence as election auditors and highlight that this exercise was a made-for-media spectacle designed to perpetuate Trump's false narrative that the election was stolen. For example, Voting Booth reported that the March 2021 contract between the Senate and the Cyber Ninjas did not require the firm to produce a precise report of vote counts, but only an "attempt" to do so.

Emerging from the critiques of the Cyber Ninjas' work are telltale markers, as other bad-faith partisan investigations get underway in other national battleground states, such as in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Audits by election professionals take a few days to a few weeks, not five months like the Cyber Ninjas, who covered up mistake after mistake—all the while delaying their final report as pro-Trump media kept claiming the election was stolen.

"The official results announced last November were correct then and they are still correct today," the independent auditors Tuesday blog entry concluded.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

How Arizona Audit Became Fox’s Biggest Gaslighting Charade Ever

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Apparently Howard Kurtz never got the memo.

On his weekly Fox News show, Media Buzz, Kurtz invited a panel of guests to discuss the results of the so-called Arizona audit, which had dragged on all year in an effort by MAGA's to prove somehow that Trump had won the Copper State last November.

Instead of finding a treasure trove of uncounted Trump ballots, as conspirators had predicted, the pointless review of two million ballots in Maricopa County found that President Joe Biden defeated Trump by slightly more votes than the official count.

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Big Liars Cling To Conspiracy Theories After Arizona 'Audit' Debacle

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

"Truth is truth and numbers are numbers," said Arizona Senate President Karen Fann on September 24, as she summarized the most important finding in the long-awaited report from the pro-Trump contractors hired to assess the accuracy of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County, where two-thirds of Arizonans reside.

That bottom line -- yes, Joe Biden won, and his vote totals had increased while Donald Trump's totals had fallen -- was noted by almost everyone following American politics except for the people who arguably needed to hear it the most: Trump and his base of true believers.

"Yesterday we also got the results of the Arizona audit, which were so disgracefully reported by those people right back there," Trump said at a Georgia rally, pointing to the press as attendees cheered. "We won on the Arizona forensic audit yesterday at a level that you wouldn't believe!"

"We call on each state to decertify… Decertify… DECERTIFY… [their 2020 presidential results]," yelled Republican Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, at a pro-Trump rally outside legislative chambers after the Senate's contractors reported that Biden won Maricopa County by 45,469 votes. (The official results showed Biden beating Trump by 45,109 votes countywide and 10,457 votes statewide.)

Despite the unexpected affirmation of the accuracy of Maricopa County's voting system, other parts of the reports revived and expanded previous conspiratorial claims. There were claims that more than 20,000 ballots might have come from wrong addresses—making the ballots uncountable. Or additional thousands might have come from voters who might have moved away, or people might have voted twice. Another Senate contractor, CyFIR, a cybersecurity firm, said that county election employees were seen on video in what might be images of them erasing key computer records from the 2020 presidential election.

Fann concluded the hours-long hearing by releasing a letter calling for Arizona's attorney general to investigate the alleged data erasure (which county officials deny) and other alleged problems. Fann said that further hearings would be held on the 2020 election.

Schism Between Reality and Fantasy Grows

The reaction by Trump and his base to the Senate's 2020 review, which has sparked copycat efforts in other swing states, underscores that these exercises have always been more about cultivating doubts about unpopular election results for partisan gain than about settling the lingering questions held by the most loyal supporters of a losing candidate.

One need look no further than coverage of the base's reactions by anti-Trump Republicans such as Charlie Sykes, editor of the Bulwark, whose newsletter on September 27 said, "If you have been living in a bubble of naivete or denial, you might have imagined that the results of the Cyber Ninja[s] audit in Arizona would usher in a New Era of Sobriety in our politics. Fat chance."

Still, there are some corners in the world of politics and elections where facts matter and conducting transparent audits where the methodologies and findings are fully released is the standard for credibility. The Cyber Ninjas still have not released their full data sets (they still are fighting public records requests in court), which has led many experienced election officials to comment that the public cannot trust anything they claim—including saying that their results from their controversial hand count was as close to the official results as they reported.

"Cyber Ninjas has no expertise in election audits, so it's no surprise that the methodology of their report makes it impossible to validate their findings," said Matthew Weil, Bipartisan Policy Center elections project director. "Real auditors show their work. Despite finding almost no change in the overall vote totals from 2020, they have succeeded in degrading faith in the results of a free and fair election and delaying discussions of real reforms to improve the voting experience."

Voting Booth, along with a team of experienced election auditors, obtained a draft copy of the Cyber Ninjas' report three days before its presentation in the Arizona Senate and worked on a section-by-section analysis that debunked its false claims and evidence. That analysis was shared with numerous reporters in Arizona and nationwide and election policy analysts as a baseline for their ensuing coverage.

The Cyber Ninjas' draft report insinuated that tens of thousands of voter registrations and paper ballots might have been illegitimate, forged, or even illegal. (In some cases, their final report rolled back or increased the number of voters and ballots that they alleged were questionable by several thousand, but they didn't change the evidence cited.)

The attacks on voter registrations, for example, were based on imprecise commercial data, not on government records used in elections. The forged ballots accusation indicated that Cyber Ninjas didn't know that ballots are printed for voters after they arrive at vote centers on Election Day. Under a microscope, the lines on those ballots appear less crisp than the lines that appear on mailed-out ballots, which are printed by an industrial press weeks ahead of an election.

Nonetheless, the Cyber Ninjas included recommendations for legislative action that are consistent with decades of GOP efforts to put partisan constrictions on voting and intimidate Democratic Party voters, based on clichéd false claims of fraudulent voting. Their legislative recommendations also included authorizing a new private election review industry, which would perpetuate their business model.

"The real reason the GOP is abetting Trumpist conspiracy theories is to justify restrictive voting rights laws, keep the base fired up for the [2022] midterms and lay the groundwork for letting partisan actors step in to influence the outcome of close elections," said Marc Elias, one of the Democratic Party's top lawyers, in an email touting his analysis of Arizona's 2020 review.

Whose Cover-Up?

While most Americans will not delve into the election administration details of Maricopa County's 2020 presidential election or the claims and evidence cited by the Cyber Ninjas, one of the foremost takeaways by pro-Trump contractors was the accusation that Maricopa County was caught destroying key evidence in February 2021. Election officials replied that their staff was archiving data, one of many responses and explanations offered via live tweets.

However, it appears to be the Cyber Ninjas who have been covering up their work and data—even after they issued their report. There were filings and hearings in two Arizona courtrooms on September 24 and 27 over the Cyber Ninjas' refusal to provide public reports, including the complete ballot and vote counts, to the Arizona Republic and public-interest groups. Their refusal is important, because that data will likely reveal the extent of the Cyber Ninjas' incompetence and underscore that Arizona-style "audits" should not occur elsewhere.

"They should never be hired again to do this by anybody," said Benny White, a longtime election observer for the Arizona Republican Party, lawyer, and part of the team of experienced auditors who have been using 2020 public election records to debunk the Senate's review. "They're incompetent, and they lie about what they've done."

White's comments come after reviewing a handful of the tally sheets included in the Cyber Ninjas' report. His team has spent months to identify how many ballots and votes are in each batch and storage box from the election.

"It's very difficult to discern where they got their numbers from," he said, pointing to several columns where spreadsheet fields are blank. "My question is: Why is there not better data there for everything?"

What unfolded between late April and mid-August was a pattern in which the Cyber Ninjas changed the review's focus—moving the goal posts—from retallying the presidential and U.S. Senate election totals to attacking voter rolls and mailed-out ballots and flagging possible cybersecurity issues.

Their early blunders are briefly noted in Volume II of the Cyber Ninjas' report, in a discussion of "quality controls." The report said that "all [handwritten] Tally sheets originally aggregated in the first three weeks of counting were re-entered in the new forms," meaning they had to be redone. Those sheets, which grew to more than 10,000 pages, then had to be entered into an Excel spreadsheet at computer terminals. The report said overhead video cameras were used to catch data entry typos. "The primary function of these cameras was to… demonstrate irrefutable evidence that the data entered was accurate."

By late June, the Cyber Ninjas knew that the hand count's results had differed from the official results by thousands of votes, Voting Booth was told at the time by insiders. The contractors never released the hand-count results and, throughout the summer, went to court to oppose releasing their records to the press. In early July, the state Senate purchased machines to count the number of paper ballots—not their votes—as a way to try to understand what was wrong with the hand count. Until they presented their report on September 24, the contractors never discussed the machine count results.

Meanwhile, White and his colleagues, who had been working for months to hold the Cyber Ninjas accountable, believe that the Cyber Ninjas panicked in late June. That was why they began a machine count of the number of ballots (not votes) in hope of finding new pro-Trump evidence, he said. Instead, that tactic backfired as it confirmed the number of ballots and votes and left no room for speculation about Biden's victory.

At that point, the Cyber Ninjas announced that they had to expand their investigation, which the Senate president allowed—and they revived the longstanding GOP strategy of attacking voter rolls, by alleging that there were tens of thousands of illegitimate voters and thousands of forged ballots. These claims and their specious evidence, all debunked on the eve of the final report's release, involved volumes of votes larger than Biden's margin of victory.

Above all, perhaps one statistic from the Cyber Ninjas' report stands out as an indicator of their lack of expertise as auditors. In the presidential election, they reported counting 2,088,569 ballots. In the U.S. Senate race they reported counting 2,088,396 ballots in the U.S. Senate race—a difference of 173 ballots.

This is a basic auditing mistake; there should be no difference in the number of ballots counted in the same election.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Right-Wing Cable Host Asks Trump If He Accepts Arizona ‘Audit’ Result

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Real America's Voice host David Brody asked former President Donald Trump the one question many Americans would probably like to know the answer to: Will Trump accept the results now that the Arizona election audit is complete? For months, the embattled former president and his allies have questioned the election results in battleground states President Joe Biden won.

Although Republican lawmakers led the Arizona audit, the results actually determined Trump lost by a larger margin than initially reported. So, when Brody interviewed Trump on Friday, September 24, he immediately addressed the elephant in the room by asking the big question. In fact, according to Mediaite, Brody even went a step further and used some of Trump's own words against him.

"Mr. President, I want to give you a chance also to respond to the news out today about this audit. Maricopa County, Arizona, the draft of the report done by, in your words, highly respected auditors is out, apparently confirming Biden's win in the state. Are you prepared to accept those results? What's your sense of it?" Brody asked.

Although numbers don't lie, Trump appears to be deadset on continuing to push the big lie. The former president offered a delusional argument in a futile attempt to minimize the embarrassing "audit" result.

"Well, no, because they they just took a small part and they didn't look at the real numbers. Now the numbers are going to be announced. The real numbers are going to be announced at four o'clock today.

As I understand it, Arizona is having a conference and they found many votes that were terrible, terrible votes. In other words, they found that they were false votes, phantom votes, whatever you want to call them.

So I have to see, because I'm not involved in it, I'm just watching like everybody else. And we'll have to see what it is. The from what I heard, the report is a very strong report. But, you know, they wanted to get out ahead of it like they always like to do, whether it's on Russia or Russia or Ukraine, Ukraine, they want to get out ahead of it. So we're going to have to wait.

It said it's going to be, I guess, Eastern Time. It's going to be released at four o'clock. I've actually heard the results of the report is very damning, but they don't want to say that. They want to get way out ahead where long before the report. I've heard the report is very damning."

Trump Abruptly Deletes Message Praising Arizona ‘Audit’ — Which Shows Biden Won

Reprinted with permission from Aternet

After spending months auditing the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County, Arizona, the far-right Florida-based firm Cyber Ninjas is poised to report — as many predicted — that their recount of the ballots did not significantly change the result of President Joe Biden's win over former President Donald Trump. In fact, according to early reports, the recount actually increased Biden's margin by several hundred points.

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Arizona 'Audit' Finds Biden Won, But Report Stokes Stale Conspiracies

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Ten months after the 2020 presidential election, the pro-Trump contractors hired by the Arizona state Senate's Republican not only failed to prove that the election was stolen but said that Joe Biden won by a wider margin than had been previously reported, according to their review of election records in Maricopa County, home to most Arizona voters.

While the county totals show Biden winning by 45,109 votes, the Cyber Ninjas' hand recount found that Biden won by 45,469 votes. (Biden beat Trump by 10,457 votes in the official 2020 statewide results.) Despite the unexpected affirmation of the accuracy of Maricopa County's voting system, however, other parts of the Cyber Ninjas' report reiterated previous conspiratorial claims.

The report insinuates that tens of thousands of voter registrations and paper ballots might have been illegitimate, forged, or even illegal. The evidence cited for those claims, however, was quickly debunked by a team of experienced election auditors who obtained a draft copy of the report from Voting Booth, which also contributed to their critique of the Cyber Ninjas assertions.

Cyber Ninjas' attacks on voter registrations, for example, were based on imprecise commercial data, not on the government records used in elections. The forged ballots accusation indicated that Cyber Ninjas didn't know that ballots are printed for voters after they arrive at vote centers on Election Day. Under a microscope, the lines on those ballots appear less crisp than the lines that appear on mailed-out ballots, which are printed by an industrial press weeks ahead of an election.

"The Ninja's long-awaited report on their 'forensic audit' is dead on arrival," wrote Larry Moore, the former CEO of a federally certified election audit firm who worked on the analysis that rebutted the report. "They have made claims on ballot and vote counts which cannot be verified and claims on voter participation based on a commercial database wholly unsuited for elections."

Nonetheless, the Cyber Ninjas included recommendations for legislative action that are consistent with decades of GOP efforts to put partisan constrictions on voting and intimidate Democratic Party voters, based on clichéd false claims of fraudulent voting .

In addition to recommending that Arizona pass legislation to authorize private contractors like the report's authors to investigate elections, the report said those partisan contractors should use commercial data as the basis for purging registered voters 30 days before an election. If enacted, that policy would leave unsuspecting voters unable to cast a ballot that would be counted (as Arizona's voter registration deadline is 29 days before an election). That recommendation also clashes with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, a federal law that bars delisting voters within 90 days ahead of an election.

The totality of the report's contents, following the Cyber Ninjas' error-filled review conducted over the past five months, suggest that nothing they will report to the Arizona Senate on Friday afternoon should be used as a basis for legislation, or to launch a new industry targeting unpopular election results.

But leaving aside the arcane details of election administration, the report's topline takeaway—that Trump lost Arizona— is a serious blow to pro-Trump Republicans who have worked for months to delegitimize Biden and had been hoping to export Arizona-style audits to other states.

"Their count validates the official results, even if the particulars [of their analysis] are dubious," said Chris Sautter, an election recount lawyer who has represented Democrats for decades. "They could not come up with [vote count] numbers that demonstrated a substantial swing one way or the other."

"It is important to see that every time Trump and his supporters have been given a forum to prove this case, they have failed," said Ben Ginsburg, an election lawyer who has represented Republicans for decades. "If they can't prove it in Arizona with the way these proceedings have been conducted, then they're really not going to be able to prove it anywhere."

Covering Up Their Mistakes

The contractors' unfamiliarity with the nuances of running elections emerged repeatedly as an issue, ever since the Cyber Ninjas' team started hand-counting 2.1 million paper ballots last April. Despite their insistence that they know more about running elections than career government election officials, they are not the experts they have repeatedly claimed to be.

For the past 10 months, the leaders of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" movement, their allies in state legislatures in battleground states, and the team assembled by Cyber Ninjas have tried to find proof that Biden did not legitimately win Arizona. Before these contractors were hired by Arizona's Senate Republicans, many stated on social media that they believed the presidential election was stolen. Arizona Senate President Karen Fann gave the contractors everything that they wanted, from subpoenas of county records to repeated extensions of their deadline.

What unfolded between late April and mid-August was a pattern in which the Cyber Ninjas changed the review's focus—moved the goal posts— in a vain attempt to conceal their inexperience as well as their awareness, based on hand-counting ballots, that Biden had legitimately won Maricopa County by a wide margin.

The early blunders are briefly noted in the draft report's discussion of "quality controls." The report said that "all [hand-written] Tally sheets originally aggregated in the first three weeks of counting were re-entered in the new forms." Those sheets, which grew to more than 10,000 pages, had to be entered into an Excel spreadsheet at computer terminals. The report said overhead video cameras were used to catch data-entry typos. "The primary function of these cameras… would demonstrate irrefutable evidence that the data entered was accurate."

Virtually every experienced election observer noted that that Cyber Ninjas' process was imprecise in many respects, from counting ballot to data entry. Most important, the hand count was not designed to compare subtotals along the way with the building blocks of the officially certified results.

By late June, the Cyber Ninjas knew that the hand count's results had differed from the official results by thousands of votes, Voting Booth was told at the time by insiders. The contractors never released the hand-count results, and throughout the summer, went to court to oppose releasing their records to the press.

In early July, the state Senate purchased machines to count the number of paper ballots—not their votes—as a way to try to understand what was wrong with the hand count. Until the presentation of their report on Friday, the contractors never discussed the machine count results either. Their draft report and attached data files contained no records of the hand count's subtotals nor the machine count of the number of ballots.

Meanwhile, experienced outside auditors have been working for months to hold the Cyber Ninjas accountable—by releasing analyses of Maricopa County's election based on the same election records that flummoxed the Cyber Ninjas. The outside auditors believe that the Cyber Ninjas panicked in late June, which was when they began a machine count of the number of ballots (not votes) in hope of finding new pro-Trump evidence. Instead, that tactic backfired as it confirmed the number of ballots and votes and left no room for speculation about Biden's victory.

Above all, perhaps one statistic from the Cyber Ninjas' draft report stands out as an indicator of their lack of expertise as election auditors. In the presidential election, they reported counting 2,088,569 ballots. In the U.S. Senate race they reported counting 2,088,396 ballots —a difference of 173 ballots. Both races were on the same paper ballot, meaning their figures don't reconcile: There should not be any difference in the number of ballots in those two elections..

Maricopa County Says Arizona 'Audit' Shows Biden Victory

Washington (AFP) - Arizona's most populous county has confirmed that a draft report of a partisan audit of its vote count in the 2020 presidential election declares Joe Biden as the winner.

The report by Cyber Ninjas, a litte known Florida-based cybersecurity company, shows Maricopa County's result in November was correct, the county tweeted late Thursday.

"The #azaudit draft report from Cyber Ninjas confirms the county's canvass of the 2020 General Election was accurate and the candidates certified as the winners did, in fact, win," it wrote.

The conclusion, which is expected to be released publicly on Friday, effectively ends the discredited Republican-led bid to throw out Biden's victory there in favor of former president Donald Trump.

Maricopa County did not publish the draft report and Cyber Ninjas did not immediately respond to an AFP request.

Biden's victory in the key Arizona county was the first by a Democratic presidential nominee in decades.

Trump supporters and organizations who claim he was cheated out of an election win, including some who have also peddled wild conspiracy theories, funded the review to the tune of millions of dollars.

Since his crushing election defeat, Trump has resurfaced to criticize his successor.

In July, at his first campaign-style rally since leaving the White House, he repeated the lie that he won November's election and that Biden prevailed only through fraud.

The firebrand right-winger, who has been booted from social media and was impeached for inciting the deadly January 6 riot at the US Capitol, may yet seek re-election in 2024 but has not announced his plans.