Arizona Senate election audit meeting still on without defiant county officials

May 18, 2021, 11:56 AM | Updated: May 19, 2021, 8:47 am

PHOENIX – The Arizona Senate meeting about its controversial Maricopa County election audit will go on as scheduled Tuesday afternoon with the head Cyber Ninja, but no county officials, in attendance.

Senate President Karen Fann will be joined by fellow Republican Sen. Warren Petersen, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as Senate audit liaison Ken Bennett and Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan at the 1 p.m. livestreamed gathering at the Arizona Capitol.

“While disappointed that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors declined to sit down and work with the Senate on questions about the election audit, the Senate will proceed with the scheduled hearing to update Arizona on the process and address Maricopa County’s response yesterday,” the Senate said in a press release.

A day earlier, Maricopa County officials issued a scathing rebuke of the Cyber Ninjas-led audit, which is on hiatus until next week because of previously scheduled graduation ceremonies at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Republican-led Board of Supervisors expressed their disdain for the audit and auditors during a meeting at which they voted to respond to allegations of impropriety with a searing letter rather than appear at Tuesday’s meeting.

The letter was signed by all five supervisors, four Republicans and one Democrat, as well as the county’s Republican recorder and Democratic sheriff.

The county is satisfied that its 14-page letter and supporting documentation answer the questions raised by Fann and the auditors.

The letter skewers the auditors for claiming on Twitter they’d found evidence of data deletion while using “demonstrably false” information.

“Your tweet, which relies on the ‘modified date’ shown in the screenshot as evidence of wrongdoing, is demonstrably false; the only thing it does demonstrate is your auditors’ incompetence,” the letter says.

“Their stunning lack of a basic understanding for how their software works is egregious and only made worse by the false tweet sent defaming the hardworking employees of Maricopa County.”

The letter also addressed Fann’s inquiry into why certain passwords for Dominion voting machines weren’t supplied.

The letter acknowledged that the firms it hired for previous audits did get access to those passwords from Dominion because those firms, unlike Cyber Ninjas, were accredited by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

“Because of that accredited status, signifying that these firms are specialists who have expertise with voting systems and understand how to audit them, Dominion Voting Systems provides Pro V & V and SLI Compliance with the necessary passwords to audit their machines,” the letter says.

“Your chosen ‘auditors,’ the Cyber Ninjas, are certainly many things. But ‘accredited by the EAC’ is not one of them.”

The county said it wasn’t even up to them because only Dominion knows those passwords to its machines.

“Regardless, we cannot give you a password that we do not possess any more than we can give you the formula for Coca Cola,” the letter says.

“We do not have it; we have no legal right to acquire it; and so, we cannot give it to you.”

The Senate authorized the audit and hired Cyber Ninjas to lead it after winning a legal battle over the enforcement of its subpoenas for election materials from the state’s largest county.

Cyber Ninjas had no experience conducting election audits. Fann’s selection of the Florida-based firm’s $150,000 bid quickly drew scrutiny over founder Doug Logan’s deleted Twitter account, which had activity supporting unfounded election conspiracy theories.

The low bid doesn’t cover the cost of the operation, and fundraising has been taking place in the name of the audit.

The county letter mocked the auditors’ methods and said the audit has become a money-making scheme at the expense of the Senate’s reputation.

“You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’ while shining purple lights for effect,” the letter says.

“None of these things are done in a serious audit. The result is that the Arizona Senate is held up to ridicule in every corner of the globe and our democracy is imperiled.”

The audit started on April 23 after the county delivered nearly 2.1 million ballots, voting machines and other materials from the November 2020 election to the Coliseum at the state fairgrounds in Phoenix.

When the break began Friday, only about 500,000 of the ballots had been hand counted.

Fann and the auditors complained that the way the county sorted the ballots contributed to the lack of progress. The letter noted that the sorting system used follows the state laws.

“It is obvious your ‘audit’ of the ballots is moving at a slower pace than you planned. Our organization of the ballots in the boxes — an organization that complies with the laws that the Senate helped write — is no excuse for why you are some 1.5 million ballots behind schedule in your ‘recount,’ as your letter comically insinuates,” the letter says.

The letter closed by asking Fann to call off the audit for the good of the state and country.

“We express our united view that your ‘audit,’ no matter what your intentions were in the beginning, has become a spectacle that is harming all of us. Our state has become a laughingstock,” it says.

“Worse, this ‘audit’ is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic.”

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Arizona Senate election audit meeting still on without defiant county officials