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Auditor's reply to Maricopa County's debunking of his election findings: You racists!

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 10/8/2021 Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic
Shiva Ayyadurai holding a sign: Independent candidate for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts Shiva Ayyadurai protests being excluded from a debate between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her Republican opponent Geoff Diehl in Boston in 2018. Ayyadurai has been hired by the Arizona Senate to conduct its review of voter signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes in Maricopa County. © Michael Dwyer/AP Independent candidate for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts Shiva Ayyadurai protests being excluded from a debate between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her Republican opponent Geoff Diehl in Boston in 2018. Ayyadurai has been hired by the Arizona Senate to conduct its review of voter signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes in Maricopa County.

One of the Arizona Senate’s election auditors has fired back at Maricopa County over its dispute of his findings, and goodness, is this thing getting bizarre.

Shiva Ayyadurai couldn’t convincingly counter the county’s point-by-point debunking of his insinuations that fraud may have been afoot in last year’s election.

So, instead, he accused county officials of racism.

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Specifically, that the county’s response to his painfully uninformed analysis of early ballot envelope images constituted a “racist smear campaign” — an “attack”  conducted with the help of Arizona Mirror Associate Editor Jeremy Duda.

“The inability of Maricopa County election officials and their loyal scribe to keep in line a dark-skinned East Indian-American who dares to use his hard-earned scientific and engineering training and intelligence, is the source of this real racism,” he wrote, in a rather remarkable report Thursday to Senate President Karen Fann and Attorney General Mark Brnovich.  

“Their racist attack aimed to shame me back into their segregationist box of behavior that they deem acceptable for person of my background.”

Nowhere in his 67-page response — entitled "How Election Officials Use Media Proxies to Disseminate Misinformation & Disinformation to Avert Investigations of Election Malfeasance" — does Ayyadurai factually refute the county’s explanations for “anomalies” he finds potentially suspicious.

Mostly, he just complains that county officials didn’t cooperate and accuses them of using Duda to spread “misinformation and disinformation”.

He's right about the cooperation thing. The county decided early on not to participate in this train wreck, believing that auditors should be independent and actually know something about how elections work. As for Duda, he's no one's "loyal scribe". He's a veteran reporter who has covered the state Capitol for years. 

Is this a report or a temper tantrum?

County officials were astonished at what can best be described as Ayyadurai's 67-page tantrum.

"The absurdity of the claims and the complete lack of proof is consistent with Ayyadurai's work product on this whole affair,” Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer told me.

Ayyadurai was hired by Fann in the waning weeks of the audit, paid $50,000 to review digital images of the county’s 1.9 million early ballot envelopes.

Clearly, he was the obvious choice for an unbiased review, having previously worked with the conspiracy crowd that believes the election was rigged against President Donald Trump.

He did not disappoint.

Scribbled signatures, missing signatures, questionable or missing verification stamps, duplicate ballot envelope images. Far right Republicans were thrilled, tweeting “DECERTIFY” even as he presented his findings.

The many ways in which he's just wrong


Video: Results of Maricopa County election audit expected this week (CBS News)

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Then there was the now-infamous arrow that points to the signature box on early ballot envelopes.

During his presentation, Ayyadurai showed an image of a scanned envelope, pointing out that the “verified and approved” stamp appears to be behind the preprinted arrow rather than on top of it as it would be if it was added by elections workers.

“It’s almost as though it was imaged on there,” he said during his Sept. 24 Senate presentation, to the laughter of his audience. “I don’t want to say Photoshopped, but put on there. But it’s quite fascinating. I’m sure there’s some explanation for this.”

There was.

The county explained that early ballot envelopes are scanned into the system in a high-speed binary format when they are returned, using only black and white and no shades of gray. To save digital space, the images are hollowed out so that only the outline of the envelope's black arrow would have been shown.

Once the signature is verified and the stamp added, it appears in that digital scan to be behind the hollowed out arrow because the inside appears as white space. 

Duda, in his Oct. 1 story on Ayyadurai’s findings, verified the county’s explanation with Runbeck Elections Services, the company that prints Maricopa County’s ballots and envelopes and scans the early ballot envelopes as they are returned.

“That shortcoming would be a consistent theme as he presented his findings as part of the so-called audit of the election in Maricopa County, portraying commonplace occurrences and standard procedures as potentially suspicious,” Duda reported.

Good thing the county wasn't in charge of the space shuttle

Ayyadurai, in his response, explained that he was simply “hypothesizing” what might have happened.  

“The Maricopa County election officials would rather we just say, 'great, nothing to see here, move along,'" he wrote. "This attitude is what resulted in the Challenger Space Shuttle blowing up in January of 1986. ‘Oh those little O-rings? Nothing to see here just move along.’”

Both Duda and the county provided detailed explanations for the various ways in which Ayyadurai got it wrong.

The fact that only 10% of early ballot envelopes were stamped as “verified and approved”?  That’s because the stamp is only applied to envelopes that are marked for additional review.  If the signatures are fothen und to be legitimate, they are stamped as approved and join the rest of the routinely processed envelopes, to be opened and the ballots counted.

Scribbled signatures? The real issue is not whether the signature is legible, the county says, but whether it matches the signature on file in county voter registration records.

Duplicate ballot envelopes? That doesn’t mean that “each of these vogters submitted two ballots," as Ayyadurai claimed during his Senate presentation. It means the ballot envelope was scanned multiple times, documenting the process as it was reviewed.

I could go on. And on.

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In his response to Fann and Brnovich, Ayyaduari never offers a convincing argument that the county is wrong, only that they, and their “scribe” Duda, have it in for him in some leftist, racist plot.

He wants a meeting with Maricopa County officials and an investigation into the Arizona Mirror for what he described as a public lynching of him.

“I was not being a 'Good Indian,'" he wrote. "So, they needed to be publicly ‘lynch’ and shame me back into line, by demeaning what has earned my liberation: my reputation as a highly competent engineer, scientist, technologist, innovator, problem solver, and yes, an auditor, of all sorts of engineering systems and processes throughout my professional life. … The Arizona State Senate wanted the best in the world, and that is

why I was selected and commissioned. What my team and I executed in 20-days for a contract of $50K, surpassed all expectations.”

Wow. It certainly surpassed mine.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Auditor's reply to Maricopa County's debunking of his election findings: You racists!

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