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Tag: arizona audit

Running For Senate, Brnovich Embraces Trump Lies He Had Rejected

A Republican attorney general who in November 2020 publicly pushed back at former President Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud changed his tune after announcing his run for Senate -- an about-face that has won him high-profile GOP support.

Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s Attorney General, told Steve Bannon, a former Trump advisor indicted for contempt of Congress, that he had “serious concerns” about the findings his investigation into the state’s vote was turning up.

“It’s frustrating for all of us, because I think we all know what happened in 2020,” Brnovich said on Bannon’s podcast in a segment the conspiracy-pushing host titled “AZ AG On Interim Report On Stealing The 2020 Election.”

A GOP-led partisan “audit” of Arizona’s 2020 ballots turned up more votes for Joe Biden than previously reported. The sham review, orchestrated by the Republican state Senate to legitimize Trump’s claims of “massive fraud,” was shamed even by right-leaning publications.

In November 2020, Brnovich himself rejected claims of widespread voter fraud in Arizona, saying, “There is no evidence, there are no facts that would lead anyone to believe that the election results will change.”

“It does appear that Joe Biden will win Arizona,” Brnovich told Fox Business host Neil Cavuto after the AP, Decision Desk HQ, and even Fox News called Arizona for Biden.

However, times have changed for Brnovich, who in January sent out a fundraising letter that contained a photo of himself and Trump and a cringey message: “DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO BE ON TRUMP’S TEAM!”

According to the Washington Post, Brnovich, in a campaign email this week, said his office had learned that almost a fifth of Maricopa County’s early ballots were “transported outside the chain of custody,” a claim he offered no evidence to support.

Brnovich also claimed — without evidence, of course — paperwork was “missing” information and that Maricopa County verified its ballot signatures with artificial intelligence. However, every signature was verified by election staff, according to the Post.

Arizona’s attorney general is not the only GOP candidate embracing Trump’s false fraud claims in the hopes of winning the former president’s endorsement.

For his charade, Brnovich did earn himself an endorsement from a staunch Trump ally: Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO).

But critics have slammed Brnovich for caving to “promoters of disinformation for political gain in the Republican primary,” according to the Post.

“If no one is held responsible for lying … or undermining confidence based on their own greed and, you know, desire for power to either be elected or be reelected — if no one is held accountable for those actions, then we are in real trouble right now,” said Tammy Patrick, an ex-elections officer in Maricopa County, per the Post.

Another critic has recently ripped into Brnovich for his bogus elections investigation — former President Trump.

The former president assailed Brnovich in a Monday statement for doing nothing about the 2020 election in his state. "Rather than go after the people that committed these election crimes, it looks like he is just going to 'kick the can down the road' and stay in that middle path of non-controversy," Trump said.

The former president also said he will be making his endorsement in the Arizona Senate race in the “not so distant future.” The announcement will be a significant blow to Brnovich’s chances, as he’s one of several Republican candidates in the race.

Honest GOP Officials In Arizona And Florida Show How To Debunk Election Lies

As ongoing threats by Trump loyalists to subvert elections have dominated the political news, other Republicans in two key states—Florida and Arizona—are taking what could be important steps to provide voters with unprecedented evidence of who won their most close and controversial elections.

In both battleground states, in differing contexts, Republicans are lifting the curtain on the data sets and procedures that accompany key stages of vetting voters, certifying their ballots, and counting votes. Whether 2020’s election-denying partisans will pay attention to the factual baselines is another matter. But the election records and explanations of their use offer a forward-looking road map for confronting the falsehoods that undermine election results, administrators, and technologies.

In Republican-run Florida, the state is finalizing rules to recount votes by incorporating digital images of every paper ballot. The images, together with the paper ballots, create a searchable library to quickly tally votes and identify sloppily marked ballots. Questionable ballots could then be retrieved and examined in public by counting boards to resolve the voter’s intent.

“The technology is so promising that it would provide the hard evidence to individuals who want to find the truth,” said Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, who was among those on a January 4 conference call workshop led by the Division of Elections seeking comments on the draft rule and procedures manual revisions.

Under the new recount process, a voter’s paper ballot would be immediately rescanned by an independent second counting system—separate from what each county uses to tally votes. The first digital file produced in that tabulation process, an image of every side of every ballot card, would then be analyzed by software that identifies sloppy ink marks as it counts votes. Several Florida counties pioneered this image-based analysis, a version of which is used by the state of Maryland to double-check its results before certifying its election winners.

“The fact that it has overcome opposition from the supervisors of elections is telling because the number one problem with the [elected county] supervisors is [acquiring and learning to use] new technology; it’s more work to do,” Sancho said. “The new technology doesn’t cost much in this case. Everyone has scanners in their offices already because every voter registration form by law must be scanned and sent to the Division of Elections.”

The appeal of using ballot images, apart from the administrative efficiencies of a searchable library of ballots and votes, is that the images allow non-technical people to “see” voters’ intent, which builds trust in the process and results, said Larry Moore, the founder and former CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, whose federally certified technology would be used in Florida recounts.

But Florida’s likely incorporation of ballot images into its recount procedures, while a step forward for transparency, is unfolding in a fraught context. In 2021, its GOP-majority state legislature passed election laws that are seen as winnowing voters and rolling back voting options. In other words, it may be offering more transparency at the finish line but is also limiting participation upstream.

The new recount rule is expected to be in place by this spring, months before Florida’s 2022 primaries and midterm elections. Among the issues to be worked out are when campaign and political party officials and the public would observe the new process, because the election administrators do not want partisans to intentionally disrupt the rescanning process. These concerns were raised by participants and observers on the teleconference.

The Arizona Template


In Arizona, Maricopa County issued a report on January 5, “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senate Inquiry.” The report is its most substantive refutation of virtually all of the stolen election accusations put forth by Trump loyalists who spent months investigating the state's presidential election.

Beyond the references to the dozens of stolen election accusations put forth by pro-Trump contractors hired by the Arizona Senate’s Republicans, the report offered an unprecedented road map to understanding how elections are run by explaining the procedures and data sets involved at key stages.

The report explained how Maricopa County, the nation’s second biggest election jurisdiction (after Los Angeles County) with 2.6 million registered voters, verified that its voters and ballots were legal. It also explained key cybersecurity features, such as the correct—and incorrect—way to read computer logs that prove that its central vote-counting system was never compromised online, as Trump supporters had claimed in Arizona (and Michigan).

“I’ve never seen a single report putting all of this in one place,” said John Brakey, an Arizona-based election transparency activist, who has sued Maricopa County in the past and routinely files public records requests of election data. “Usually, it takes years to understand all this.”

Taken together, Florida’s expansion of recounts to include using digital ballot images, and Maricopa County’s compilation of the data and procedures to vet voters, ballots, and vote counts, reveal that there is more evidence than ever available to confirm and legitimize election participants and results.

For example, Maricopa County’s investigation found that of the 2,089,563 ballots cast in its 2020 general election, one batch of 50 ballots was counted twice, and that there were “37 instances where a voter may have unlawfully cast multiple ballots”—most likely a spouse’s ballot after the voter had died. Neither lapse affected any election result.

“We found fewer than 100 potentially questionable ballots cast out of 2.1 million,” the report said. “This is the very definition of exceptionally rare.”

When Maricopa County explained how it had accounted for all but 37 out of 2.1 million voters, it noted that the same data sets used to account for virtually every voter were also used by the political parties to get out the vote. Thus, the report’s discussion of these data sets—voter rolls and the list of people who voted—offered a template to debunk voter fraud allegations. This accusation has been a pillar of Trump’s false claims and is a longtime cliché among the far right.

It is significant that this methodology, indeed the full report, was produced under Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a conservative Republican who has repeatedly said that he had voted for Trump, and was fully endorsed by Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, which has a GOP majority and held a special hearing on January 5 to review the findings.

In other words, the report is not just a rebuttal for the Arizona Senate Republican conspiracy-laced post-2020 review. It is a road map for anyone who wants to know how modern elections are run and how to debunk disinformation, including conspiracy theories involving alleged hacking in cyberspace.

“There is not a single accurate claim contained in [Arizona Senate cybersecurity subcontractor] CyFIR’s analysis of Maricopa County’s tabulation equipment and EMS [election management system],” the reportsaid, referring to accusations that counts were altered. “This includes the allegation that county staff intentionally deleted election files and logs, which is not true.”

When you add to Maricopa County’s template the introduction of a second independent scan of every paper ballot in future Florida recounts, what emerges are concrete steps for verifying results coming from Republicans who understand how elections work and can be held accountable.

Of course, these evidence trails only matter if voters or political parties want to know the truth, as opposed to following an ex-president whose political revival is based on lying about elections. However, more moderate Republicans seem to be recognizing that Trump’s stolen election rhetoric is likely to erode their base’s turnout in 2022, as Trump keeps saying that their votes don’t matter.

“You’ve got Republican buy-in,” said Florida’s Sancho, speaking of his GOP-ruled state’s embrace of more transparent and detailed recounts. “And Republicans, more than anyone else, should be concerned about whether their votes were counted as cast and as the voter intended.”

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.

Maricopa Officials Shoot Down  Arizona 'Audit' Falsehoods

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) - Election officials in Arizona's most populous county found nearly every conclusion in a partisan "audit" of Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election to be misleading or false, according to an official rebuttal released on Wednesday.

The Maricopa County Elections Department's 93-page report is an attempt to address dozens of claims made by Trump's allies in the Republican Party in their so-called "full forensic audit" aimed at casting doubt on his defeat in the battleground state.

While last year's Republican-led review had already been widely discredited by election experts as biased and procedurally flawed, the report, titled "Correcting The Record," marked the first detailed response by county officials.

"We determined that nearly every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws," the report says of the audit, which Arizona Republican senators contracted out to a private company called Cyber Ninjas.

According to the report, the county analysis identified 22 claims that were misleading, 41 that included flawed or misstated analysis, and 13 that were demonstrably false.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, carried Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, by about 45,000 votes, making it critical to his narrow win over Trump in November 2020. Biden's victory was confirmed by a hand recount and multiple post-election tests for accuracy. No evidence has emerged of the widespread fraud that Trump and his allies falsely alleged.

Led by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, Republicans nevertheless pushed for a comprehensive review of the election, including a hand recount and examination of tabulation equipment. They released a final report in September that found a vote tally largely matching the official results, although they made several claims of alleged anomalies.

For example, the Cyber Ninjas used information from a third-party commercial database to claim that some 33,000 people may have voted illegally because they moved prior to the election and no longer lived at the address on file with the county.

According to the county's report, Cyber Ninjas flagged problems by using "soft match" methods that relied on basic data points such as first name, last name, and birth year, leading to the misidentification of people as illegally casting votes.

"Our review did not find any voter ineligible to vote from their residential address during the November 2020 General Election and found no evidence of double voting," the report said.

The partisan audit in Arizona was part of a larger effort by Republicans to undermine faith in the 2020 election and gain more control over the voting process. Since the election, several Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed laws curbing ballot access or placing great power over election administration in the hands of partisan officials.

Maricopa County election officials are scheduled to detail the findings of their report at a public meeting on Wednesday of the county Board of Supervisors.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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."