The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Report on Arizona ballot review is delayed after Cyber Ninjas chief and colleagues test positive for coronavirus

Cyber Ninjas chief Doug Logan, left, discusses how his company is conducting a ballot review on April 22 in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The report detailing the conclusions of a GOP-backed review of ballots cast last year in Arizona has been delayed after the chief executive of the private company conducting the widely pilloried audit and two other members of his team tested positive for the coronavirus.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R) announced the delay Monday, saying that Doug Logan, chief executive of the Florida firm Cyber Ninjas, and two other members of the audit team had been infected and were “quite sick.”

She did not indicate whether Logan and the others had been vaccinated. An audit spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fann said that she still expected to receive “a portion” of the draft report of the ballot review, which has sharply divided Republicans in Arizona and been condemned by election experts around the country as biased and unprofessional.

When she announced the hiring of Cyber Ninjas to lead the ballot review in late March, Fann said she expected a report on their findings within 60 days. Since then, the audit’s conclusion has been delayed repeatedly. She said Monday that the full report would be made public after it was submitted and then is checked for “accuracy, clarity and proof of documentation of findings.”

The review — which included a hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County, the state’s largest jurisdiction — was commissioned by the Republican-led state Senate and conducted over the objections of GOP leaders in the county.

County leaders have castigated the procedures used by the contractors, which had no previous experience in administering or auditing elections, as sloppy and unsecure. To lead the project, the Senate chose Cyber Ninjas even though Logan had echoed baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. It was funded with $150,000 in taxpayer dollars — and nearly $5.7 million in private donations from allies of former president Donald Trump, who has expressed hope that the process will vindicate his wild allegations of fraud.

A cybersecurity expert who promoted claims of fraud in the 2020 election is leading the GOP-backed recount of millions of ballots in Arizona

Fann has said repeatedly that her goal is not to overturn President Biden’s narrow win in Arizona, the first by a Democrat since 1996. Instead, she has said she hopes the audit will pinpoint weaknesses in the state’s administration of elections that could be improved with new legislation.

But those assertions have not stopped other Republican lawmakers in Arizona and Trump himself from suggesting that the Arizona audit could somehow be used to decertify Biden’s win and revisit the election. People close to Trump have said he has been fixated on the Arizona process, and he has publicly and repeatedly promised his supporters that it will vindicate his election claims.

Critics of the process have tried to get ahead of the public release of the Cyber Ninjas report, emphasizing that the project has been opaque and that its results will not be reliable. They fear that the report could include falsehoods based on unproven methods — such as microscopically examining the paper on which ballots are printed — or allegations that rely on incomplete understanding of how county elections work that could take time to debunk.

Trump has been pressuring other states to follow Arizona’s lead and embark on partisan audits of the 2020 balloting, splitting the GOP in multiple states. No other state has so far moved ahead with an audit similar to the one that has been underway in Arizona since April, but legislative leaders in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan have faced pressure, including from fellow state lawmakers, to follow Arizona’s lead.