Controversial audit of Arizona ballots continues amid new allegations of incompetence

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A partisan audit of the 2020 election in Arizona continued this week, with further accusations of ineptitude against the firm running it and a gubernatorial campaign launch from a top Democrat opposing it.

The audit of votes in Maricopa County, which has drawn criticism from a number of local Republican officials, will not affect the actual results of November’s election but has been used in right-wing media to justify the widespread belief among Republicans that the 2020 results were fraudulent. It’s being spearheaded by Cyber Ninjas, an obscure Florida-based cybersecurity firm whose CEO has promoted election conspiracies, and which was hired by the GOP-controlled state Senate to handle the process.

On Tuesday, the office of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs released a report detailing what it described as serious problems with the audit that had arisen over the last week. Among the issues listed were a Monday software update “that created so many errors and problems during the first shift that they stated they were going to roll back to the old software during the afternoon shift” and the fact that “copies of voting system data [were] sent to a lab in Montana.”

Per Hobbs’s office, there were no specifications on “what security measures were in place, or what the lab in Montana will do with the data or how long it will be in possession of the copies.”

Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas
Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas recount ballots from the 2020 election in Phoenix after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud. (Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

“Observers saw that at least three people who are not residents of Maricopa County rifling through thousands of military and overseas ballots,” read the report. “Observers had been previously told that only Maricopa County residents would be allowed to handle any ballots, yet all three people were not residents.”

The report accused workers of carrying black pens on the floor, which is not allowed because the pens can be used to alter ballots. Observers quoted in the report also stated that “audit co-chair Randy Pullen told an observer that the shirt he was required to wear on the floor made him ‘look like a transgender’ because of the color of his shirt.”

Maricopa County — the state’s largest — is where the most Arizonans reside. Biden narrowly won Arizona in November, becoming the first Democrat to do so since Bill Clinton took the state in 1996.

With the highly suspect audit stretching past the initial deadline set by Cyber Ninjas, the stadium where it is taking place has been visited by Republicans who are promoting former President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the election was stolen from him.

This week, three Republican state legislators from Pennsylvania, including one who had been a leading advocate for Trump’s false allegations, visited the stadium. Last month, embattled Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., held a rally in Maricopa County, where the audit was a key topic of discussion. The actual process was on pause at the time because the building was being used that weekend for high school graduations.

“So, let me just check and make sure with all of you: Who do you think won in Arizona on Nov. 3?” Greene asked, with Gaetz adding, “We are here in solidarity with the Arizona election audit.”

Katie Hobbs, left, with Doug Ducey
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs watches as Gov. Doug Ducey signs documents to certify election results, Nov. 30, 2020. (Ross D. Franklin/Pool/AP)

Hobbs has been expected to announce her candidacy for next year’s gubernatorial race and did so on Wednesday, centering election integrity in her announcement video.

“There’s real harm going on for many, and the other side isn’t offering policies to make our lives better — they’re offering conspiracies that only make our lives worse,” Hobbs said.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who cannot run for reelection due to term limits, has largely refrained from discussing the audit and certified the election results in November. Ducey dispatched police protection for Hobbs and her family this year after they received death threats tied to the audit.

On Wednesday, Trump criticized Ducey for vetoing a number of bills as he awaits a budget proposal from the Legislature, including one that would have required voters to request an absentee ballot before they receive one.

“For those of you who think Doug Ducey is good for Arizona, you are wrong,” the former president said in a statement.


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