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Tag: arizona fraudit

Insiders Say Arizona ‘Audit’ Team Knows The Data Proves Biden Won

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

The "big lie" that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected is not going away. One reason is Americans who care about their democracy are not learning how votes for president in 2020 were counted and verified — neither from the big lie's promoters nor from most of its fact-driven critics.

Most visibly, the absence of a clear and accurate explanation can be found among former President Donald Trump's ardent supporters. As seen in a July 15 briefing in Arizona's legislature, the contractors hired by the state Senate to assess the 2020 election's results unleashed a new thicket of finger-pointing and innuendo that fans doubts about Maricopa County's election administration and votes for Biden.

Critics of the big lie, who range from state officials (including Republicans) to voting rights advocates — and, of course, Democrats— have mostly emphasized that the Arizona Senate's inquiry and copycat efforts in other states are bad faith exercises led by Trump supporters who lack election auditing experience.

These competing narratives lack clear explanations of what matters when counting and verifying votes, and, by extension, what does not matter and is a sideshow. With few exceptions, easily understood explanations of how 2020's votes are counted and verified have been missing in the election's volatile aftermath.

Most of the arguments used by those trying to dispel 2020 election myths focus on labeling the big lie a propaganda narrative, or sweepingly dismissing Arizona's audit as a partisan-led hoax. But these don't seem to be nearly as effective as a different approach—one that focuses on demystifying the wonky details of the voting and vote-counting processes.

Two examples of the latter, more rigorous and successful approach stand out: the post-Election Day daily briefings by the Georgia Secretary of State office's Gabriel Sterling, which were widely covered by the media and attested to Biden's victory in that state and the victory by Democrats in its U.S. Senate runoffs; and ongoing efforts by a self-funded team of experienced election auditors in Arizona, which have attracted some coverage by using hard evidence from public data sources.

The team of experienced auditors includes a longtime Arizona Republican Party election observer; the retired CEO of Clear Ballot, a federally certified auditing firm; and the retired chief technology officer of Clear Ballot. They have drawn on Maricopa County's official 2020 election records to provide a baseline to assess the accuracy of its presidential election. Their nuts-and-bolts approach has been missing from almost every other report criticizing the state Senate's inquest.

Among their early findings were tens of thousands of ballots where most of the votes were cast for Republicans, but not for Trump — and many were cast for Biden, which provided a factual explanation for Trump's loss. More recently, the auditors' documentation of 2020 ballot inventories and vote count subtotals has pushed the Senate's contractors to start a new recount of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots.

Sources with access to the contractors' operations have told Voting Booth that the contractors now know that their hand count of 2.1 million ballots was initially sloppy, and cannot account for thousands of ballots in the official results. (Hence, a new count.) But what the contractors are doing in private, behind locked doors in a Phoenix warehouse, is the opposite of what they have been saying in public, which is pedaling vote-theft conspiracies.

Because the public's picture of the Senate's inquiry has a notable absence of clear descriptions articulating the building blocks of counting votes, there is a void that keeps being filled with misinformation, as exemplified by the contractors' July 15 briefing for Senate Republicans in Arizona's capitol.

Their statements, not given under oath, exemplified this charade. The contractors repeatedly spoke with indignation and bluster about technicalities in the corners of Maricopa County's election infrastructure, suggesting that the county's handling of the presidential election was deeply amiss. Not only were these technicalities hard for almost everyone, including the senators, to follow, but their presentation and tone supported conspiracy theories (which dominated pro-Trump media). In reality, the issues raised have little to do with validating voters, ballots and votes.

The contractors said, for example, that Maricopa County's central tabulators could have been hacked because key passwords and antivirus software had not been updated. They implied that officials had covered up their Election Day actions because activity logs on the tabulators were erased in March 2021. The lead contractor, Cyber Ninjas' Doug Logan, said there were several categories of suspicious ballots, all involving volumes of votes that exceeded Biden's statewide margin.

It is no surprise that fervent Trump supporters are invested in perpetuating doubts about his loss while their investigators fan diversions that hide their incompetence. Mostly, the Arizona Senate's contractors have discovered Maricopa County could have done better with managing some aspects of conducting the 2020 election. It is not headline news that election administration is complex, that officials do make mistakes, and — crucially — that the process usually catches and corrects them.

But what is going on here is far more cynical and intentionally dishonest.

In April, the Senate's contractors were told what was needed to conduct a credible audit, but they rejected that accounting-style approach. They were urged to compare the starting and finish lines of the vote-counting process to see if the figures matched. That involves three sets of records: the hand-marked votes for president on 2.1 million ballots; the digital images of every ballot immediately created by the scanners to start the electronic counting process; and the official results spreadsheet that lists every vote cast on every ballot. If the starting and finish line votes and totals matched, the election's outcome is legitimate.

Instead, the Arizona Senate's agents raced ahead with a hand count that did not even try to compare its step-by-step results with the building blocks of the official results. Now, inside observers have told Voting Booth that the Senate's contractors are backtracking in private to make more specific comparisons. (They also are trying to figure out if the hand count missed thousands of votes, which is why they are recounting the number of ballots but not the presidential votes.) But, publicly, the Senate contractors are not telling anyone what is going on. Instead, they are suggesting with bluster that they are hot on the election theft evidence trail.

The Senate Republican leaders are either falling for this masquerade or helping to perpetuate it. Not once during the July 15 hearing did senators ask their contractors why the Senate had to spend additional thousands to rent machinery to reconfirm the volume of ballots. The contractors urged the Senate to subpoena more data from the county, including voter signatures, in that briefing.

A new subpoena could lengthen the Senate's inquest, and, if some records are not released, it would provide a pretext for the contractors to claim that they cannot conclude their inquiry because evidence was withheld. Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen telegraphed this scenario in his closing remarks, saying, "it [the inquiry] will be incomplete if we don't have those items."

The session ended with Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann reciting her oft-stated disclaimer that the inquiry was not about overturning her state's 2020 presidential results, but merely addressing the doubts of Republican voters. "At no time have we ever implied or inferred that there is any intentional misdoings here in any way whatsoever, and, in fact, we certainly hope not," she said. "But we do need to have this information and answer these questions."

After the briefing, Trump issued three statements falsely claiming election fraud. And several days later, another Arizona Senate subcontractor, Jovan Pulitzer, who has led its inquiry into forged ballots, said the same thing without evidence—that election fraud had deprived Trump of Arizona's 2020 Electoral College votes.

"Finally, you get to see the truth that there is such a thing as election fraud," he told Arizona pro-Trump activist Liz Harris on her July 19 podcast. Pulitzer was interviewed while on a private jet en route to Arizona to meet other funders and organizers (those featured in the new pro-Trump film, The Deep Rig). Pulitzer praised the patriotism of the donors who have funded the inquiry and the 1,500 volunteers who "made this happen," saying, "The Arizona Senate only paid $150,000 for what ends up being a $9 million audit."

But inside the Phoenix warehouse where the Senate contractors are continuing their work, people know that the documentation and methodology provided by the independent outside auditors have not only unmasked their hand count's flaws; they also keep pointing toward the conclusion that Biden won Arizona's presidential election, and that Maricopa County's administration of that election, while not perfect, was not fraudulent.

There are Arizona Republicans who know what is going on inside the Senate's investigation, but whether they are willing to stand up to Trump's supporters is another question. That task would be easier if the public knew more about the building blocks of counting votes.

Cyber Ninjas Whine As Arizona 'Audit' Is Proved Utterly Pointless

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

It's been three weeks since the Arizona "audit"—a process that involved the most partisan of Trump partisans searching for "bamboo ballots" and the ghostly fingerprints of Hugo Chavez, under the supervision of a firm created expressly to bolster conspiracy theories—apparently came to a close. That is, the audit farce is still officially underway, but three weeks ago Cyber Ninjas tweeted out an announcement that they were done pretending to count ballots, and had moved onto the most critical part of the process: terminal whining.

As CBS News reports, Cyber Ninjas is now complaining that they "don't have enough information" to complete the audit. Because getting to finger every single ballot, take control of the voting machines (which will now be discarded after the auditors did who knows what to them), and initiating a plan to go door-to-door asking people how they voted just isn't enough. As has happened several times in the process, the Ninjas, along with supporters in the Arizona Senate, are directing fingers at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors—the Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors—for failing to "cooperate" enough in an audit where they've turned over every ballot, every machine, and every scrap of paper related to the election. That's not enough, say the Ninjas. They want … well, it might be easier to say what they don't want.

Until they get everything on their unreasonable list, and whatever unreasonable list comes after this, the "auditors" insist that they are not going to issue a report. Since July 2, all the ballots, machines, and accoutrements of Ninjaing have been parked at an unairconditioned building on the Arizona state fairgrounds. It's unclear whether anyone is actually working there.

And on Friday afternoon, the Associated Press made it clear why this is so: Arizona's county election officials have also been going through the ballots, not just for Maricopa, but for every county. And what they've found knocks the sword right out of the Ninja's hands.

After looking through more than three million ballots from the 2020 election, 182 cases turned up that were confusing enough that they were referred for further review. Four of these cases have led to actual charges of voter fraud. None of them involve someone voting more than once—though several of the cases involve people who tried to vote more than once and were stopped. These numbers are exactly in line with would be expected in any election, and show absolutely nothing special about what happened in Arizona, no matter what the county.

If all 182 cases involved an incidence in which a Trump vote was switched to Biden—and there's no evidence that's the result of any of these cases—Joe Biden would still have won the state by 10,218 votes. Of the four cases charged, two involved Democrats and two involved Republicans.

As for Maricopa County, the actual election supervisors identified one case of potential voter fraud. That case involves a voter who might have also been registered to vote in another state, The case has been sent to the state attorney general for investigation.

Not only do the 182 cases show that large scale vote fraud is non-existent, they show just how good the system is at stopping even small-scale cheaters. People who tried to vote in multiple districts were stopped. People who tried to vote remotely as well as in-person got just one vote. People who tried to cast mail-in ballots for dead relatives were caught. Even cases that were unclear—like the voter who could have potentially voted in another state—were flagged and investigated.

The detail and exactness with which all these cases were handled shows just how impossible it is that voter fraud on the scale claimed by Trump and his supporters could have occurred. The system immediately flagged one woman who tried to cast a ballot for her recently deceased mother, so how possible is it that the 74,000 ballots that Cyber Ninnies are insisting demand a door-to-door reckoning might have a genuine issue?

The actual review by actual officials showed that the two things most cited by Trump supporters—false mail in ballots and votes "from dead people"—are rare, easily detected, and mostly stopped before they could have even a tiny effect on Election Day results.

None of this gives Trump what he wants, of course. So, just as in Georgia, where Trump readily attacked Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger when they failed to produce the numbers he wanted, the Arizona Ninnies have fallen back on the claim that "The main reason the forensic audit is taking 2.5 months is because Maricopa County Supervisors and Recorder have obstructed the audit and refused to cooperate." That was half a month ago. Now they're simply at the point where they claim they can't go forward with vote counting because they've examined every ballot. They need more.

In the end, it's clear the Maricopa "audit" won't have an end. It is designed never to end. Which is fine. Because it was never about finding any evidence of real fraud. It was only ever about giving Trump justification for his claims, and eternal victimhood suits that purpose perfectly.

So the Arizona audit will just remain open eternally, acting as a north star that will unfailing attract Trump's orange finger when he's pointing out "campaign fraud."

House Democrats Demand Answers From Cyber Ninjas On Arizona ‘Fraudit’

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The conspiracy theory-driven "audit" of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona, has raised a lot of questions. After all, it was only partially paid for by the Arizona state Senate, with the rest of the money coming from unknown donors. It was conducted by a company with no known experience in election audits and headed by someone who has tweeted pro-Trump conspiracy theories. And it involved questionable moves like inspecting ballots for bamboo fibers in an effort to prove a conspiracy theory about ballots being flown in from South Korea.

House Democrats are demanding answers to those questions, in a 13-page letter to Cyber Ninjas, the shady company hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to carry out the fraudit. Starting with this: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee "is seeking to determine whether the privately funded audit conducted by your company in Arizona protects the right to vote or is instead an effort to promote baseless conspiracy theories, undermine confidence in America's elections, and reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain."

As the letter makes clear, detailing Cyber Ninjas' lack of experience with elections, its "sloppy and insecure audit practices" (which were widely reported and commented on by actual election audit experts), and CEO Douglas Logan's "embrace of election conspiracy theories," Democrats expect the answer to that opening question to be that the fraudit was intended to undermine confidence in elections and perhaps reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain, not to protect the right to vote.

The letter, from Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jamie Raskin—the former being the committee chair—asks Cyber Ninjas to turn over nine categories of documents. Those include documentation of any previous election audit clients Cyber Ninjas has had (again, as far as anyone knows there are no such clients), information on who paid for the Arizona effort, documents and communications that might possibly explain why Cyber Ninjas was looking for bamboo fibers and looking at ballots under UV lights, and, just to be sure they got everything, "All documents and communications related to conducting the Maricopa County audit, including but not limited to policies, procedures, audit plans, strategy, staff and personnel, and security or integrity problems that arose during the audit, and any interim or final audit findings."

Oh, and also this: "all communications involving you or any Cyber Ninjas employees, consultants, agents, volunteers, or representatives with" Donald Trump, any Trump administration official or formal or informal campaign or legal representative of Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and others.

The Justice Department has previously expressed concern about ballots and voting machines at risk of "being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed" thanks to Cyber Ninjas' poor security practices. And as House Democrats begin their investigation—which could lead to referrals to the Justice Department—Maricopa County announced it would spend nearly $3 million to replace voting equipment compromised by the fraudit, which took the equipment out of the control of the government.

"The frustrating thing is, those were perfectly good machines which passed all of our accuracy tests from the time we first got them in 2019. The taxpayer paid good money for them, but now this equipment will have to be decommissioned because the Senate didn't take our warnings about chain-of-custody seriously," Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Jack Sellers said in a statement.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, by the way, is majority Republican, but has been outspokenly opposed to the fraudit, calling it a "sham," a "con," and "a spectacle that is harming all of us." Their opposition to a partisan effort to undermine faith in their county's elections led the Maricopa supervisors to be threatened with arrest by other Republicans in the state, as support for Donald Trump's lies about the election having been stolen from him has become a key loyalty test for Republicans.

The House Democrats are giving Cyber Ninjas until July 28 to turn over its documents.

Carlson Pushes Election 'Audits' — And Threatens Another Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News prime time host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night elevated a melange of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that have circulated online among the right-wing fringe, seeking to discredit President Joe Biden's victory in Georgia and promote more efforts to recount ballots again.

In so doing, Carlson has placed his show — and with his leading position at Fox News, the entire network — back at the forefront of efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election and push the lies that led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Carlson Goes After Ballot-Scanners — Even After Georgia's Hand Recount

Since last week, Carlson had been teasing a segment on election "misconduct" in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta. On Wednesday night, much of his monologue focused on alleged "fraud" involving the double-scanning of a few batches of ballots in the initial count from election night.

Just as with prior conspiracy theories about the election in Georgia, this scrutiny on ballot scans in the initial count is conveniently ignoring a simple fact: There was already a manual hand recount of the 5 million paper ballots in the state, which corrected a few mistakes in local areas but did not significantly alter Biden's victory in the state. As a result, the double-scanning of some small number of ballots in the initial count would no longer have an impact even in a very close race.

In this sense, this claim is similar to other lurid allegations about the election based on a small mistake genuinely did occur but was then blown up beyond any plausibility — even long after the error was already fixed.

Indeed, Trump gained more votes in Fulton County during the recount than Biden did, thus demonstrating that these small mistakes were found and corrected without bias in the process. Furthermore, other significant errors were found in a pair of pro-Trump counties, which when corrected in the recount served to eat into (but not reverse) Biden's overall statewide lead — and yet those errors in pro-Trump Georgia counties have not received the same attention or level of accusations as the election administration in a heavily Black, pro-Biden county.

The main claim at hand has been hyped online by discredited right-wing columnist John Solomon, former New York City police commissioner and Trump-pardoned felon Bernard Kerik, the QAnon-linked former U.S. Senate candidate Lauren Witzke, and former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon. Other claims in Carlson's monologue were also pushed by The Gateway Pundit, which also promoted Carlson's upcoming segment. Following Carlson's monologue, far-right outlets and figures including The Gateway Pundit, The Post Millennial, and Newsmax chief White House correspondent Emerald Robinson lauded his report.

The Goal: Another Ballot "Audit"

Carlson promoted claims by VoterGA, a group that has been part of a right-wing effort to hold another ballot audit targeting Fulton County — similar to the one in Maricopa County, Arizona, which has been promoted and fundraised for by One America News, in an effort to spread the "forensic audits" nationwide — even though in Georgia the entire state already recounted all its ballots by hand. The group, headed up by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, enjoyed some legal victories that made scanned absentee ballot images publicly available, but ultimately most of its claims have been thrown out of court.

"We already know what happened. We've counted those same ballots four times. The election has been certified. Stop already," Carlson said mockingly. "And that's the argument that Fulton County has used in court to keep those ballots locked away in a warehouse. Except it's not true. It now appears there actually was meaningful voter fraud in Fulton County, Georgia, last November. That is not a conspiracy theory; it's true."

Carlson's Claims Are Wrong — And Easy To Debunk

While Carlson seemed confident and authoritative in his assertions of serious election malfeasance, it is worth cataloging in brief terms the ways in which so many of his statements were not only false, but easily disprovable.

  • At the 4 minute mark, Carlson asserted that "the strongly left-of-center Atlanta Journal-Constitution appears to agree with this, at least in outline," having reviewed the digital ballot images and found doubles. However, Carlon omitted that the paper also made clear these mistakes would have occurred before the recount, and that as a result of such corrective processes, there was "no indication any vote for president was counted more than once in official results." (Carlson also claimed that the error affected more than 4,000 ballots — the Journal-Constitution put the number at 200.)
  • At the 6:10 mark, Carlson claimed mockingly that "the county claims that any errors were caught in previous recounts," then saying this was not true — though he did not provide any evidence that the error would have been repeated in a hand recount.
  • At the 6:33 mark, Carlson urged his viewers to "pay attention" to a video clip of an election worker inserting the same ballots into a scanner multiple times. However, the reinsertion of ballots into optical scanners can occur for normal reasons, such as when there was some problem in the initial scan and a stack had to be run through again.. An expert who debunked other examples of conspiracy theories in Michigan compared the rerunning of a ballot to "a vending machine returning a dollar bill that was inserted incorrectly." (From here, a person can also imagine how mistakes of double-counting could pop up from time to time.)
  • At the 7:20 mark Carlson read the VoterGA claim that tally sheets in the recount had been falsified, with reports of batches of ballots giving unanimous totals of 100 or 850 votes for Biden. "How is that not flat-out criminal fraud?" Carlson asked. "We'd love to know, because it certainly sounds like flat-out criminal fraud." This claim has also circulated for months, and it's already been explained: In a recount situation for just one race on the ballot — that is, the presidency — election workers often sort ballots by candidate as they count, so there end up being counted piles entirely for one candidate or the other.
  • At the 9:05 mark, Carlson promoted another set of claims, recently spread by The Federalist, that nearly 35,000 Georgia voters had moved to another county within the state but still voted in their old county. Carlson said that "violating election law is something we should care about and by law their vote should have been excluded from the total, but they were not excluded." However, despite the site's sensationalist headline "New Evidence Indicates Enough Illegal Votes In Georgia To Tip 2020 Results," even the article's own text acknowledged that such moves "could have been temporary, involving students or members of the military" and noted that "under Georgia law temporary relocations do not alter citizens' residency status or render their votes illegal."

Carlson Says There Was No Insurrection — But Threatens Another One

"Without answers to legitimate questions like the one we just posed — and those are legitimate questions — democracy dies," Carlson concluded. "People begin to understand that the system they've been told is on the level is in fact rigged, and when they believe that, God knows what they do next."

And with that warning of "God knows what they do next," Carlson essentially justified a repeat of the January 6 insurrection — just as when he had initially justified it on January 6: "If people begin to believe that their democracy is fraudulent, if they conclude that voting is a charade, the system is rigged and it is run in secret by a small group of powerful, dishonest people who are acting in their own interests, then God knows what could happen."

Since then, Carlson has painted an alternate reality in which there was no insurrection at all — or conversely pushed a 9/11 Truther-style narrative in which the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters was instead a setup by federal authorities.

But with his parting comment Wednesday night, Carlson showed how this entire sleight of hand really works: He will at once insist that Trump supporters did not attempt the violent overthrow of democracy in America — while also threatening liberals that it may just happen again.

Research contributions from Laura Chavez-Varela

Most Americans See Sham Behind GOP Election ‘Audits’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

As Republican lawmakers continue their efforts to conduct audits of the 2020 presidential election, the majority of Americans are raising questions about the integrity of their efforts.

The results of a new Monmouth University poll offer insight into how Americans view the so-called election audits, like the one underway in Maricopa County, Ariz. According to Truthout, poll respondents were asked if they believed election audits were "legitimate efforts to identify potential voting irregularities" or "partisan efforts to undermine valid election results."

Based on the poll results, many Americans see the audits as nothing more than a partisan effort to undermine the outcome of the presidential election.

Per the publication, respondents' results are as follows:

"A majority of Americans, the poll found, felt the audits were partisan-based attempts to question the validity of the outcome of the presidential election, with 57 percent in the poll saying as much. Just one-third of respondents (33 percent) felt that the audits were legitimate actions intended to flesh out supposed voter or election fraud."

"A plurality of respondents (40 percent) also said that these types of audits weaken democracy in the United States, while half that number (20 percent) said that they strengthen it. Thirty-five percent felt the audits had no impact one way or another."

Respondents were also asked whether or not they believe voter fraud is a widespread problem. Only 37 percent of respondents admitted that they believe it is. However, 50 percent of respondents admitted that they believe voter disenfranchisement is a bigger issue. Across several states, Republican lawmakers are working to pass restrictive legislation that could disenfranchise millions of voters.

Tensions Flare Among Arizona Republicans Over Discredited ‘Fraudit’

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

The same split that is dividing Republicans nationally, whether to embrace or reject the fiction that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate, is now reverberating backstage at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Arizona, where pro-Trump contractors are leading a state-sponsored inquiry into the vote in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and 60 percent of Arizona voters.

The state Senate's lead contractor, Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, whose CEO Doug Logan had said that Joe Biden's victory was illegitimate, has been opposing an effort to widen the Arizona Senate's inquiry—via another assessment that vets the 2020 vote more thoroughly. Logan also has sought to muzzle and even oust the lead proponent of that more detailed inquiry, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican. Senate President Karen Fann asked Bennett to take the role of Senate audit liaison after she hired Cyber Ninjas. He is not taking any compensation for his role, unlike Cyber Ninjas and the subcontractors.

Beyond the personality clashes involved, which Voting Booth heard about while reporting from Phoenix as a hand count of 2.1 million paper ballots was nearing completion, is an emerging bottom line: Cyber Ninjas has spent several million dollars and two months conducting inquiries that are not poised to present sufficient analyses that can legitimately assess the presidential results.

Cyber Ninjas' inquiries, which include a hand count of all paper ballots and looking for forged ballots based on high-resolution and microscopic examination of the ballot paper and ink marks, are generating reams of information that could be cited in partisan propaganda—which is how pro-Trump media outlets have covered the audit from its inception.

Crucially, the data Cyber Ninjas is accumulating has not been compared to the building blocks of the state-certified vote count. At best, it is conducting a loosely constructed recount, which is not an audit—which is based on comparisons.

"There must be comparable results in sufficient detail, or else it is not an audit," said Larry Moore, the retired founder and CEO of Clear Ballot, a federally certified audit firm. "It is unacceptable to put out anything less."

Moore is not an unbiased observer in Phoenix. He has criticized the inquiries and is part of a team of seasoned election auditors that has parsed the same official records given to Cyber Ninjas after a Senate subpoena. The team's early analysis confirmed that Joe Biden won in Arizona and offered an explanation why. The official records revealed voting patterns showing that tens of thousands of voters supported most Republicans on their ballots—but did not vote for Trump.

Moore's team, which is locally led by Tucson's Benny White, who is a longtime Republican Party observer in state and local elections, has shared its findings with news organizations in Phoenix, whose coverage is beginning to reframe how the Senate's exercise should be evaluated.

The team has gone further in recent days. They challenged Cyber Ninjas to take their subtotals (gleaned from the official election data) and compare it to the subtotals in a sealed box of ballots. By June 11, there were several dozen boxes of ballots that had not yet been opened and hand-counted. Cyber Ninjas did not take up the challenge.

The auditors then gave their data to the press, including reporters who have observed Cyber Ninjas revising their procedures repeatedly in recent weeks. The evaluation pushed by Moore and White would directly compare the paper ballots marked by voters, the starting line, to the official election results, the finish line, to attest to the election's accuracy. Cyber Ninjas' process isn't making this comparison.

Growing Pressure Inside And Out

That fundamental procedural flaw, meanwhile, has bothered Bennett, the former Arizona secretary of state who says he volunteered to be Senate liaison because he felt that doubts about the election's legitimacy had to be put to rest. Since April, he has expressed interest in expanding the Senate's audit's inquiries to parse the electronic records that detect votes on the paper ballots and then compile the overall results.

Bennett has been pushing for a so-called ballot image audit to do this assessment, which would compare the digital images of every ballot created by vote-counting scanners to the electronically compiled vote totals. Bennett has attempted to hire a California nonprofit, Citizens Oversight, that happens to be run by a Democrat for that specialized assessment. But that prospect has been attacked in right-wing media and on social media, including by the audit's contractors led by Logan.

Inside the Phoenix arena, there are reports that Logan has told Bennett—who also is a former Arizona Senate president—not to talk to the press. Logan has reportedly bad-mouthed Bennett in closed meetings with pro-Trump activists and legislators visiting from out of state—who are seeking to bring similar privatized partisan assessments to their states (after Trump also lost there). It is clear, according to interviews by Voting Booth with witnesses to these incidents, that Logan's allies fear that more investigations would expose their shortcomings and undermine whatever report they issue.

Thus, among other things, pushing Bennett out of the inquiry would seem advantageous to pro-Trump Republicans' efforts to discredit the integrity of the 2020 election. In response, Bennett said that he is committed to examining Maricopa County's 2020 ballots and vote counts as thoroughly as possible, because he said that he is still a trusted messenger to enough Arizona Republicans who are awaiting his verdict.

"It's not what evidence is presented to most people, it's who it is presented to them by," Bennett said. He added that he wants to look at what Cyber Ninjas' analysis, the analysis by Moore and White, and what Citizens Oversight may do, and then present his judgment, and, if necessary, the details leading to his evaluation, to dispel any doubts.

"I believe that we can convince 90 percent of the people that are questioning the election [of its legitimacy], because it was the opposite party that was questioning the results in 2016. Ninety percent can understand that if Trump lost the election, it was Trump that lost the election," Bennett said. He mentioned several debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election in Arizona, saying, "It wasn't ballots flown in at midnight from China. It wasn't any fractional counting of votes on voting machines. It wasn't because Dominion [Voting Systems] was owned by China or Russia, or I don't know who… And similarly, when the Democrats lose, maybe it's because Hillary Clinton just wasn't what the American people wanted in 2016."

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.

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

Arizona ‘Fraudit’ Challenged By Experienced Election Auditors


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

A team of seasoned election auditors has challenged the Republicans leading the Arizona Senate's inquiries into the accuracy of 2020's presidential election results to a demonstration where the auditors say that they will conclusively show that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in Arizona's most populous county.

The challenge, led by a longtime Republican Party election observer and two technologists familiar with voting systems and vote-counting data, would present the results of every race in any randomly chosen batch of ballots, as generated by Maricopa County's 2020 election data. Those paper ballots would be hand-counted and compared to the electronic totals to attest to the election's results. These paper and digital records are the building blocks of the county's voting system.

"We now have the capability to determine the ballot count and vote results for all of the elections on any batch and any box of ballots that were delivered to the [Senate's contractor, Florida-based Cyber] Ninjas under the [Senate's] subpoena, without ever looking at a single ballot," Tucson's Benny White, a longtime election observer for the Arizona and Pima County Republican Parties, wrote on June 8 in a letter to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and the audit liaison and former Secretary of State Ken Bennett. Fann and Bennett are Republicans.

"Our proposal will be for the Ninjas to select any unopened box of ballots, provide us with the box number from the label on the outside of the [storage] box and we will produce the results from the public record," White said. "The Ninjas could then count all of the votes on all of the races on all of the ballots in that box, then we could compare the results."

The auditors are seeking to confront and upstage the Senate's pro-Trump contractors whose hand count and related examinations of 2.1 million paper ballots in Phoenix's Veterans Memorial Coliseum may wrap up by mid-June. The contractors have not yet issued any report or preliminary findings as of June 9, although there is an expectation in pro-Trump circles that their findings will cast doubt on the election's outcome. Pro-Trump lawmakers, candidates and activists have been visiting the arena.

The Senate's investigations, nonetheless, have been widely criticized as partisan and amateurish by experts in election administration and policy circles. But its defenders, including Bennett, have said that most Arizona Republicans wanted to see more evidence than the state's official post-election audits have provided.

Bennett did not immediately respond to a request seeking a comment on the auditing team's challenge.

In late May, the same team of independent auditors—comprised of White, who has been a Republican Party election observer for years and served on Arizona's Elections Procedures Manual Revision Committee; Larry Moore, the retired founder and CEO of Clear Ballot, a federally certified audit firm; and Tim Halvorsen, the retired chief technology officer of Clear Ballot—reported that their initial analysis of Maricopa's 2020 election data found about 60,000 ballots with votes for a majority of the Republican candidates but not for Trump. They also found about 40,000 ballots with most votes for Democrats and for Trump.

Their findings suggested that suburban Republicans rejected Trump, which helped to elect Biden. In Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and 60 percent of Arizona's 2020 electorate, Biden beat Donald Trump by 45,109votes. Statewide in Arizona, Biden won by 10,457 votes.

The auditors' efforts stand out because apart from state and local election officials defending the accuracy of Arizona's 2020 election results—and Senate contractors investigating the same election—it appears that nobody else with election auditing experience has obtained the official vote count records from Maricopa County and investigated and sought to publicly verify Biden's state-certified victory.

White said that he has been deeply troubled by Trump's and his allies' attacks on election officials, voting technology, and the rules of voting, all of which have undermined public confidence in elections.

At first glance, their challenge may appear to be an attempt at election theatrics that seeks to blunt another spectacle—the nearly two-month-long inquiries inside Phoenix's old pro-basketball arena. But the challenge is brought by critics who say that they have accomplished what the Senate's inexperienced contractors have so far failed to do, which is use official election records to confirm that the county's electronic tally matched its paper ballots. The contractors have been struggling with the official vote count data, well-placed insiders have told Voting Booth.

Thus, despite millions spent on high-definition cameras and microscopes for scanning ballots and other equipment in the Phoenix arena, which has created made-for-TV optics that have been praised by right-wing media and Trump supporters visiting from other states, the contractors have been struggling to parse the building blocks of the official results—which are key baselines for any legitimate assessment of the outcome's accuracy.

For example, every paper ballot is scanned to start the counting process. A digital image is created that gets analyzed by software that detects votes and compiles a table of those results. Those tables are built into an overall spreadsheet of results, called the cast vote record. The Senate's contractors have not looked at any ballot images, insiders have told Voting Booth. They also have been struggling with the cast vote record, according to others who have been talking with the contractors.

By contrast, the seasoned auditors want to use the cast vote record to make their case by saying what the results are in any randomly selected batch of ballots—and then counting those ballots by hand to affirm the voting system's accuracy.

"There were 10,341 total batches of ballots counted in the Maricopa County 2020 General Election; most batches contain about 200 ballots. What if I could show the count of votes for every candidate in every race on any number of selected batches — without ever opening a box or touching a ballot?" their June 8 letter to Fann and Bennett began. "At a minimum, this would conclusively dispel the growing allegations that the critical file, the Cast Vote Record, may be corrupted. The official results are derived from this file."

"We have analyzed official public records from Maricopa County's 2020 General Election," the challengers' letter continued. "We have debunked the allegation that 40,000 ballots were dumped into the count by reconciling the voted file and certified canvass against the voter registration file. We have carefully analyzed the official Cast Vote Record to find: (1) the Record is complete and accurate and (2) President Trump lost Maricopa County due to the fact that disaffected Republican supportive voters did not vote for him and (3) the disaffection was widespread across all precincts in Maricopa County."

White said that he had not received a reply from Fann or Bennett. Meanwhile, other critics of the Senate's inquiries said that it was time for the Arizona Senate to conclude the exercise and the election's losing side to accept the result.

"[B]y overstating its capabilities, the vendor Cyber Ninjas has let down Arizona Senate Republicans," wrote longtime Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg in an Arizona Republic commentary. "Their haphazard procedures have turned the Audit into the 'audit' and their findings won't be credible, whether they deem the election flawed or not… [T]hey are at the helm of a fatally tainted audit."

"When is this going to end?" asked David Becker, the executive director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research. "There is no amount of facts that will convince people who are living in another reality… The outcome of the election has already been confirmed. What are we doing here?"