Arizona State Senate Republicans will seek additional material and data from Maricopa County as part of a now three-month audit of the 2020 election results, Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) said Thursday.
During a hearing at the state Capitol, witnesses from Cyber Ninjas, the uncertified Florida-based cybersecurity firm contracted by Fann to conduct the outside audit, told her and Sen. Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) they have finished auditing the 2.1 million ballots cast in the November election but need wireless routers and voting machine tokens from the county, or else their review will be "incomplete." Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan also recommended that canvassers go door to door to question some registered voters on whether they actually voted by mail, the Arizona Republic reported.
"Based on the data we're seeing, I highly recommend we do the canvassing because it's the one way to know for sure whether the data we're seeing are real problems," Logan said.
Previously, the state Senate has held off on dispatching canvassers after the U.S. Department of Justice warned that such an effort might be directed primarily at minority communities and that it could be a form of voter intimidation and violate federal civil rights laws.
If Maricopa County officials refuse to comply with the requests for additional materials, it is likely the Senate will take them to court, which could delay the publication of a final report on the audit for weeks or months. Senate Republicans already sued once for access to ballots and tabulation machines from the county and were only able to begin the audit after a judge ruled in their favor in February. Republicans argued the delay brought on by more litigation might be necessary to deliver an accurate report.
"We need to get the additional information because how do you do a final report if you don't have all the information?" Fann said.
County officials contend that they have already turned over everything a qualified auditor would need to complete an election audit and refuse to deliver further materials to auditors who are not certified by the Elections Assistance Commission.
Allegations of voting irregularities
Witness testimony on the findings from the audit raised several concerns about the integrity of the 2020 election. Logan testified alongside Ben Cotton, the founder of CyFir, a cybersecurity company that is subcontracting for the audit.
"Based on the registration information that we found in the voting rolls, we have 3,981 individuals who show having voted in this election [who] were registered after Oct. 15," he said.
According to Logan, there were 11,326 individuals who did not appear on the version of the voter rolls made the day after the Nov. 6 election but did appear on voter rolls prepared on Dec. 7.
He also testified that 18,000 voters who cast ballots in November were removed from voter rolls after the election.
The auditor further alleged that 74,243 early votes were received, but "there is no clear record of them being sent." Logan emphasized that the discrepancy could be a "clerical issue" but added there is no real way to know without contacting voters directly.
"I think when we've got 74,000 it merits knocking on a door and validating some of this information," said Logan.
Officials from Maricopa County responded to several of these claims in real time on social media. The county pointed out that the 74,000 early ballots are explained by the fact that you can vote early by mail or in person at voting centers. Anyone who votes in person receives a ballot at the center, so "it's not unusual that we would have more early votes than mail-in ballots sent."
Logan also raised concerns over the way ballots were printed, explaining that because voters were provided with felt-tipped markers on Election Day, there was a possibility that the ink bled through to the opposite side of the ballot, which could alter how the vote was counted. County officials have insisted that this "bleed-through" effect is of no concern because the ballots are printed in such a way that the "bubbles" were aligned. If it did happen, poll workers would easily recognize it and correct the ballot, they said.
But Logan provided images that he says show that the ballots on Election Day were misaligned and that stray marks could have resulted in a ballot cast for the wrong candidate or an invalidated ballot because it appeared someone cast their vote twice. According to the Arizona Daily Star, as many as 168,000 ballots were printed and cast at voting centers on Election Day.
Concerns over security
Cotton testified that the voting machines used in Maricopa County had not received a security patch since 2019, when they were certified. He said it was "critically important" that the county turn over its routers for examination to determine what security risks were present on Election Day.
He noted that days before the election, the FBI raided a home in Fountain Hills as part of its investigation into a cyber attack on the county's voter registration system. The county had identified the attack and reported it to the authorities, but Cotton said the incident shows that at least one part of the county's election system had been "hacked."
Responding, county officials said Thursday that the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission prohibits uncertified individuals such as Cyber Ninjas and CyFir from handling certified election equipment, which is why they have refused to turn over the requested materials. The county added in a tweet that "we cannot update our systems through security patches. That is why we maintained an air gapped system. Installing security patches would be changing the system that was certified."
County officials have also previously said that turning over the information on its routers could compromise law enforcement data. If Fann presses for those materials, Maricopa County is almost sure to fight the request in court.
The controversy over Maricopa County's election results has pitted state Republican lawmakers against locally elected GOP officials in what was once a GOP stronghold.
President Joe Biden shocked Republicans by winning Maricopa County by more than 45,000 votes, narrowly defeating Donald Trump in the state of Arizona by about 10,000 votes total. Trump's insistence that the election was stolen despite multiple machine audits that verified the results has frustrated Maricopa County officials, who have defended the integrity of their election.
In a statement, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers blasted the Senate audit hearing and criticized Senate Republicans for contracting auditors who were not certified by the EAC.
"It's clear the people hired by Arizona Senate leadership to supposedly bring integrity to our elections are instead just bringing incompetence," Sellers said.
He accused Logan and Cotton of asking "open-ended questions, portraying as suspicious what is actually normal and well known to people who work in elections."
"In some cases, they dropped bombshell numbers that are simply not accurate," he added.
"What we heard today represents an alternate reality that has veered out of control since the November General Election. Senate leadership should be ashamed they broadcast the half-baked theories of the 'Deep Rig' crowd to the world today," he continued.
"To Senate leaders I say, stop accusing us of not cooperating when we have given you everything qualified auditors would need to do this job. Finish your audit, release the report, and be prepared to defend it in Court."
Speaking at the hearing, Fann defended the actions of Senate Republicans from critics who say their efforts are a waste of time and are feeding conspiracy theories that the election was stolen.
"This is not about Trump. This is not about overturning the election. This has never been about anything other than election integrity," Fann insisted.
She cited a poll that found 45% of the people in Arizona thought there were serious problems with the election and reminded critics that as elected officials, lawmakers have a duty to respond to those concerns.
"Whether that is true or not, whether they are rumors and unfounded accusations or legitimate problems, for whatever reason, as a Senate body, we felt that it was our obligation and our duty to answer," said Fann.
"Our voters are constituents. Answer those questions and either confirm what they were afraid of or thought or heard, or that we prove that those things were not true so that they could go back to the polls and they could vote with confidence knowing that their ballot is sacred."