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Arizona Senate asks state attorney general for 'formal' investigation to bolster Maricopa election audit

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/25/2021 Kaelan Deese
Warren Petersen wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

The GOP-led Arizona Senate referred the findings of its 2020 election audit in Maricopa County to the state's attorney general.

The contractors, led by Cyber Ninjas, confirmed President Joe Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump in a review of the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the county. Still, a letter sent Friday to Arizona's top prosecutor outlines "urgent issues" the auditors found that Senate President Karen Fann said "suggest less-than-perfect adherence to Arizona's standards and best practices."

"We are asking him to open up a formal investigation so that he can pursue and seek additional information, additional facts, perhaps get some of these missing things that we were never able to get, verify all this information, and take the appropriate actions of anything that is necessary to do. I have every confidence that he will be doing that," Fann said of her letter to Attorney General Mark Brnovich at the end of the hearing on Friday.

Two camps voiced different reactions to the audit findings as they were presented at the State Senate Chamber.

Trump and his allies insisted the auditors found evidence of massive fraud — enough to overturn the election, in their view — while the county and Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs pushed back on assertions of maleficence.

The big takeaway in the report from the costly audit — which has prompted warning shots from the U.S. Justice Department over concerns about voting rights and criticisms by those who said it was conducted by a biased and poorly trained group — was the affirmation of Biden's victory in a recount that found "no substantial differences" with the county's certified totals.

In fact, Trump had 261 fewer votes than the county's official canvass gave him, while Biden scored 99 more. According to the final report, Biden gained 360 votes in the Senate's audit hand count. The canvasses after the November election showed Biden winning the county by 45,109 votes and the state by 10,457.

"These are all very small discrepancies. So, we can say that the ballots that were provided to us to count in the coliseum very accurately (reflect) the canvass numbers," said Doug Logan, the chief executive of Cyber Ninjas, the lead contractor over the audit.

The letter Fann sent to Brnovich, who is also a Republican, contended the final hand count of ballots cast in the November general election "matches Maricopa County's official machine count."

TRUMP CLAIMS PRELIMINARY MARICOPA COUNTY AUDIT REPORT 'FAR DIFFERENT' THAN FINAL REPORT

But Fann said the audit showed the Senate "how we can strengthen our democracy" and highlighted five primary "urgent issues."

She said the ballot signature verification process for absentee ballots was imperfect and requires "improvement and additional testing." The Senate president also said voter rolls, which display voter registration information, require "constant, unrelenting maintenance."

Fann also chastised Maricopa County's "cybersecurity precautions for securing election systems" and said the state should hire a specialist to oversee election machinery for future elections, citing a digital analysis from audit contractor Ben Cotton of the firm CyFIR. She also strongly petitioned to disallow private companies to hold election machine keys and passwords.

Finally, Fann hit at county officials over the audit's findings that "Maricopa County overwrote the entire activity log in its Election Management System."

The Twitter account for Maricopa County, which was busy Friday afternoon fact-checking and disputing claims made during the audit findings presentation, rejected Cotton's assertions.

"Maricopa County strongly denies claims that @maricopavote staff intentionally deleted data. As we've stated, staff were conducting the March election & compiling info required to comply w/ Senate subpoena. We have backups for all Nov. data & those archives were never subpoenaed," the account said.

Brnovich wrote in a statement on Friday that he will "take all necessary actions that are supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority."

"Arizonans deserve to have their votes accurately counted and protected," he added.

Trump issued several statements via his Save America leadership PAC insisting the audit found fraud — even though the report does not say fraudulent votes were cast — and demanded criminal investigations.

"Massive fraud was found in the Arizona Forensic Audit, sometimes referred to as 'Fraudit.' The numbers are Election Changing!" he said in one missive.

Alluding to her stated mission of seeking out weaknesses in the election process that may need legislative fices, Fann opened the hearing on Friday by stating, "This has never been about overturning the election. This is about election integrity."

"Truth is truth, numbers are numbers," Fann said, contending the results from the county's canvass were close to the ballots recounted by the audit team. The Senate president hit out at Hobbs, a prominent critic of the audit and gubernatorial candidate, who has derided the partisan review as a "sham" that undermines faith in the election process.

In a statement on Friday, Hobbs said Fann "and the Cyber Ninjas dragged our state and country through months of partisan political theater, culminating in a report that reinforces what election experts have been saying all along – that this exercise was a scam."

The first presenter for the audit presentation was "Dr. Shiva" Ayyadurai, who conducted a signature analysis on the early voting envelopes. Ayyadurai claimed the analysis of early voting envelopes raised concerns regarding whether the signatures could be verified. However, Ayyadurai did not have access to the voter signatures that the envelope was being looked at in comparison, as was pointed out by local journalists.

Ayyadurai, who ran for Senate in Massachusetts during the 2018 election, previously alleged the Bay State destroyed 1 million ballots during the primary election and therefore committed fraud, according to Reuters. Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin's office sternly denied that election officials in the state destroyed ballots.

Jack Sellers, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, released a statement to the Washington Examiner on Thursday after media articles came out over the draft audit report. He said he suspected the Arizona Senate would accuse the county on Friday "of not cooperating, failing to fill holes in the knowledge of the Senate's chosen contractor."

Sellers, a Republican, charged the audit team with having "no idea how to run any election," adding that the county, which includes Phoenix, "will correct their errors and misrepresentations about the processes they don’t understand" during the presentation on Friday.

"I hope those holding on to their anger for the past 10 months will see the truth and put their energy into supporting the democratic process instead of trying to tear it down," Sellers said.

Another front opened in the fight over the audit has been a legal battle over transparency.

American Oversight, a left-leaning watchdog group that successfully sued the Republican-led Arizona Senate for disclosure of election audit records, accused Fann on Thursday, the eve of the presentation, of failing to comply in contempt of court. The group argued Fann and the Senate have an obligation to compel the release of the records but have failed to do so.

Likewise, Maricopa County officials have repeatedly said the state Senate should prepare to defend its findings from the audit in a courtroom.

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The Senate doled out $150,000 on the audit, with the rest coming from private donors.

Cyber Ninjas said $3.25 million came from the America Project, a group led by the former Overstock chief executive Patrick Byrne. The total cost has not been made public, but several outlets have estimated up to $5.7 million.

 

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Tags: News, Arizona, Arizona Senate, Republican, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, 2020 Elections, Voter Fraud

Original Author: Kaelan Deese

Original Location: Arizona Senate asks state attorney general for 'formal' investigation to bolster Maricopa election audit

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