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Tag: cyber ninjas

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.

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.

New Report Provides Further Proof That Arizona Audit Is ‘A Hoax’

Joe Biden had more votes than Donald Trump during every day of voting in the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County, Arizona, according to a new report by a team of experienced election auditors who have used public records to show why the Arizona state Senate's "audit" of the election is a "hoax."

"Joe Biden was never behind Donald Trump during the entire election period in Maricopa County," said the August 3 report, "Lessons from Maricopa County: Slow Facts versus Fast Lies in the Battle Against Disinformation," demonstrating this finding with charts and tables based on public election records releasedon November 20.

Moreover, of the "74,822 disaffected Republican supportive voters"—Arizonans who voted for most of the Republicans on the ballots but not for Trump in Maricopa County (greater Phoenix) and Pima County (greater Tucson)—"[t]he most highly disaffected of those, 48,577 (65%) voted for Biden; the remaining 26,245 (35%) voted for candidates who could not win, e.g., the Libertarian candidate (19,873), or by over-voting [voting for more than one presidential candidate] (2,009), or voting for no one (4,363)," the report said.

"To put the 48,577 disaffected Republican voters who voted for Biden in perspective, they represent 4.6 times the statewide margin of Trump's 10,457 vote loss to Biden," it said.

The August 3 report by Benny White, a longtime Arizona Republican Party election observer, Larry Moore, retired CEO of Clear Ballot, a federally certified election auditing and technology firm, and Tim Halvorsen, Clear Ballot's retired chief technology officer, is the trio's most recent research that draws on public records to refute and debunk the "large-scale disinformation campaign" that Trump won in Arizona, one of the 2020 election's closest swing states.

"With over 35 years of combined election experience, we know that there are publicly available tools and data that can debunk election disinformation," the authors said. "If legislators, litigators, and judges were aware of this data, they could be more effective in stopping additional 'forensic audits.' Armed with hard data, the media could shift the narrative away from anecdotal 'evidence' and 'concerns' to facts."

The significance of the report is not limited to Arizona. Its approach could serve as a blueprint to counter the "bad faith" audits underway or eyed by pro-Trump factions in other states, by using public records to prove which party's voters turned out and how they voted. Its evidence-based analysis has not widely been used across the country as Trump has continued to deny that he lost, and as a new pro-Trump industry has emerged that is dedicated to casting doubts on election results by attacking little-known election administration details.

The report also offers a road map to specifically assess and debunk the Arizona state Senate's "audit" led by pro-Trump contractors by showing how they failed to accurately account for the number of ballots cast last fall, and the votes on those ballots.

More Evidence Republicans Rejected Trump

But what's most newsworthy are new details about the Arizona Republicans who rejected Trump by tens of thousands and in many cases voted for Biden. The report comes as a pro-Trump Arizona state senator has used a little-known law to launch a state attorney general investigation into Maricopa County's refusal to turn over more confidential election records. That pressure tactic likely will perpetuate more disinformation about the election's outcome among Trump supporters.

"There have been many discussions about mail ballots and the effect those ballots may have had on the results," the experienced auditors' report said, referring to the way most Arizonans voted last fall. "The Cast Vote Record [or spreadsheet of every vote on every ballot], 'Voted' file [listing voters who cast ballots], and voter histories from the voter registration files provide an enormous amount of information to help the public understand what happened during the election."

Those three public records revealed that nearly 75,000 Arizonans in Maricopa and Pima Counties voted for most Republicans on the ballots but not for Trump, and revealed where those disaffected Republican voters were located—the voter turnout patterns for Republican-leaning voters rejecting Trump.

Arizona, like many Western states, has a decades-long history of using mailed-out ballots and also offers in-person voting at vote centers before Election Day. Many Republicans did not heed Trump's call to vote only in person on Election Day, November 3—which became part of his claim that only in-person Election Day votes should count, as he assumed that the earlier votes or votes by mailed-out ballot were mostly cast by Democrats. Public records reveal that more Republicans than Democrats voted early or voted by mailed-out ballot in greater Phoenix.

"Republican voters retained their mail ballots until the last minute and then returned about 20,000 more ballots than the Democrats," the report said. "There were also more Republicans, about 36,000 more, who went to the polling places on Election Day. Those ballots cast by Republican voters helped reduce the lead Joe Biden had over Donald Trump in the mail and early voting before Election Day but there were not enough of them to win."

The report's analysis goes deeper, by finding "the level of disaffection [among voters who voted for a majority of Republicans on the ballots but not for Trump] reached 3 percent to five percent of the total ballots cast in a large number of precincts [with more registered Republicans than Democrats]." The report also pinpointed the small suburban cities where Republicans rejected Trump. It included a map showing that Phoenix's northeastern and southeastern suburbs—surrounding Paradise Valley, Chandler and Gilbert—widely rejected Trump.

These details go beyond most criticisms of the Senate's audit by citing factual voter turnout patterns to document Trump's loss. The report has other sections that are intended to hold the Senate's partisan contractors to account, and explains why the contractors' analysis is almost certainly flawed or even fabricated.

Before explaining the contractors' missteps, the outside auditors noted in their report that Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann, who repeatedly has said that the inquiry is intended to boost voters' public confidence in Arizona elections, had sent emails privately "touting" her post-election phone call with Trump. That was one indication, among many, that the so-called audit was a partisan ruse.

"When we found out that… [Cyber Ninjas, the lead contractor,] were withholding counts and other information from Ken Bennett, the Senate liaison to the Cyber Ninjas, we decided to challenge the credibility and accuracy of the hand-count," the outside auditors wrote, explaining their motives, prior challenges to Fann's team, and an analysis that details how to judge Cyber Ninjas' work.

"We issued our first challenge on June 7, 2021. We urged Senator Fann to increase her 'audit' transparency by randomly comparing their ballot and vote counts with the Cast Vote Record," the report said. "We intended to increase transparency by publicly confirming the accuracy of their count and, in their confirmation, set them on a path to confirm or dispute the official results credibly. More importantly, we wanted to signal to Senator Fann and the Ninjas that we could hold them accountable."

How To Audit Cyber Ninjas

The outside auditors said in their report that it was Cyber Ninjas' process that now must be audited.

"In short, without an audit, it would be nearly impossible to refute another round of disinformation," they wrote. "Without a comparison to the official results, the Ninjas could say anything. Senator Fann has already said that… [Cyber Ninjas' hand] count [of presidential votes] did not match the official [presidential vote] count. Without verifiable details, statements like hers spawn more disinformation."

The report noted that Cyber Ninjas have covered up their lack of election auditing experience by trying to shift the focus to Maricopa County, where Fann, who hired Cyber Ninjas, has blamed the Maricopa County Elections Department, saying that the county was "uncooperative," "ballots were missing," "files were deleted," "there was no way to be sure which ballots should be counted," "critical pieces of equipment were not delivered (e.g., routers)," and "equipment could not be accessed due to passwords not being provided."

"Many of these allegations have been proven false," the report noted. "Without an independent count—ballots, and votes—to compare… [Cyber Ninjas'] count against, there would be no way to audit the Ninjas' much-criticized recount. Without numerous points of comparison, quickly analyzing and resolving discrepancies would not be possible."

"The threat of more disinformation is real," the authors said.

It cited a July 15 legislative briefing where two of the Arizona Senate's top contractors had questions about tens of thousands of ballots—ballots that they could not explain, but which the outside auditors accounted for in their report. Trump recited the contractors' claims, made without offering any proof, in statements after the briefing and during a Phoenix speech on July 24.

In contrast to those propaganda-filled narratives, the report noted that Fann has said that Cyber Ninjas' hand count totals did not match the election's official results. Her admission came a day after the report's authors challenged the Senate's contractors to compare their count of the number of ballots in 1,634 storage boxes with the totals that the report's authors gleaned from public records. (In July, Fann initiated a second recount of the number of paper ballots from Maricopa County, which sources working inside the Arizona Senate's audit have told Voting Booth was an effort to understand the extent of the hand count's errors.) To date, Fann has not released the results of the hand count of presidential votes nor its follow-up count of the number of paper ballots; each of which should total 2,089,563 ballots.

The outside auditors noted that Cyber Ninjas did not count votes in the same increments as Maricopa County did, which the contractors should have done if they wanted an apples-to-apples comparison against the official vote count. That more authoritative process would have been based on tracking the results by ballot-counting groups (from early voting sites and county facilities processing mailed-out ballots) and from Election Day precincts. But Cyber Ninjas did not do that.

"The Ninjas' count of ballots and votes is inaccurate primarily because of the inherent inaccuracy of their methodology," the report said. "In our experience, without well-developed ballot control procedures, it is difficult to maintain a ballot count. Without an accurate ballot count, accuracy in the vote count is impossible." In other words, there are layers involved in an accurate audit that first relate to ensuring the inventory of ballots to be recounted is correct (as some ballots are duplicated, for various reasons, or are test decks), and then counting the actual votes in question on a well-controlled inventory of ballots.

The report also provides election data and analyses from public records that are intended to hold Cyber Ninjas to account—so the contractors might finally admit that Maricopa County's official 2020 election results were accurate, and that the contractors' so-called "forensic audit"—a technical term hijacked by Trump partisans—was flawed.

In short, the report's authors have used a mix of public records that affirm there were 2,089,563 ballots cast in Maricopa County's presidential election, and they account for all the votes cast (or not cast) for president on those ballots. They have repeatedly shared that information with the press and Fann, and challenged the Senate's contractors to prove them wrong. The contractors have so far not publicly replied, but the outside auditors have kept up the pressure, including trying to pre-empt what they believe would be disinformation by Fann's team.

"The information we have provided will enable an audit with 1,634 ballot points of comparison—one for each [storage] box. There are 8,170 vote points of comparison—[votes for] five candidates multiplied by 1,634 boxes (the Ninjas were counting five candidates—three in the race for President and two for U.S. Senator)," the report said. "It would be intentional disinformation if the Senate published a report that showed five numbers—the grand totals for the three candidates in the Presidential contest and two for the candidates in the U.S. Senate contest."

In other words, the report's authors are saying that the Senate's contractors cannot simply issue purported vote totals in each race and claim that they have conducted a credible audit whose results are accurate.

Whether or not the Cyber Ninjas will publish their analysis is an open question. In a July 15 legislative briefing, Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen suggested that the Senate's contractors may not be able to conclude their inquiry if Maricopa County refuses to share all of its records, including data used by law enforcement. Days later, the Senate then issued new subpoenas to the county, including seeking confidential law enforcement data.

The report's authors flagged the possibility that the Senate may seek to cover up the lapses of their contractors by manufacturing disinformation about the latest subpoenas.

"Imagine how dangerous it would be if, after their six-month-long process, their [the Senate's] report said, 'We have found thousands of extra ballots that call into question the integrity of Maricopa County election administration. Since the County did not provide us with everything we asked for and refused to answer our questions, we ask that this matter be referred to the Arizona Attorney General,'" the report said, noting that scenario was "realistic."

On August 2, a day before the outside auditors' report was issued, Arizona Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a Republican repeatedly praised by Trump at his July 24 rally in Phoenix, "invoked a law to prompt an attorney general investigation into the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, one day after the board rebuffed a subpoena related to the ongoing audit of the November 2020 election," the Arizona Republic reported.

"Without a detailed, independent audit, the Senate's review—we fear—will remain the nation's blueprint for election disinformation," outside auditors and co-authors of the report White and Moore wrote in an August 3 commentary published in the Arizona Republic. "Senator Fann, show the public your data."

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

Maricopa Republicans Defy State Senate’s Latest Audit Demands

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has had enough with the Republican-led audit of Arizona's 2020 election results.

On Monday, he slammed the effort as an "adventure in never-never land" as he refused to comply with a subpoena for more records.

"It is now August of 2021. The election of November 2020 is over. If you haven't figured out that the election in Maricopa County was free, fair, and accurate yet, I'm not sure you ever will," Jack Sellers, a Republican and the chair of the Maricopa County Supervisors, wrote to Republican state senators.

The audit, which kicked off in April, has been panned as disorganized and chaotic, and election experts and public officials alike have expressed concern that it has not adhered to election law or procedures.

Still, last week, Republicans on the Arizona state Senate subpoenaed even more records as part of the audit.

But Sellers has defied the request, writing in a letter that, "The Board has real work to do and little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land."

"Please finish whatever it is that you are doing and release whatever it is you are going to release," he added. "I am confident that our staff and volunteers ran the election as prescribed by federal and state law. There was no fraud, there wasn't an injection of ballots from Asia nor was there a satellite that beamed votes into our election equipment."

Among the subpoenas was a call for testimony from a Dominion Voting Systems representative. The election technology company was also asked by GOP state senators to provide "all user names, passwords, pins and/or security keys or tokens required to access, or otherwise relating to any and all ballot tabulation devices."

Dominion's attorney argued that the request was a violation of the company's constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

The audit has been dragging on for months, far longer than the 60 days it was initially slated to take. And it's been plagued by reports of incompetence and mismanagement — so much so that the U.S. Department of Justice has warned that the entire endeavor may have run afoul of federal election law.

Congress' House Oversight Committee is now investigating whether the audit is legitimate or merely "an effort to promote baseless conspiracy theories."

The audit was launched in the wake of false ex-President Donald Trump's lie that the election was stolen. It's being run by Cyber Ninjas, a firm owned by a Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist, who was part of the effort to try to overturn Trump's loss with lies of voter fraud.

Doug Logan, the president of Cyber Ninjas, has even appeared in a movie promoting the audit, which was filled with baseless lies and conspiracy theories.

Even some GOP lawmakers in the state have condemned the effort — despite some initially supporting it. As far back as May, one Republican state senator who at first backed the audit said the effort made them "look like idiots."

Republican state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has pushed for voter suppression legislation, denounced the audit last week.

"I wanted to review our election processes and see what, if anything, could be improved," she tweeted on July 24. "Sadly, it's now become clear that the audit has been botched."

It's unclear when Cyber Ninjas will release a report from the review. To date, the counting process has been completed and the ballots and equipment — including millions of dollars worth of voting equipment that will now be scrapped due to the audit's lack of security — have been returned to Maricopa County.

Sellers urged the GOP state Senate to hurry up and release the report.

"It's time for all elected officials to tell the truth and stop encouraging conspiracies," Sellers wrote in his letter. "Please release your report and be prepared to defend any accusations of misdeeds in court. It's time to move on."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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.

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?"