The report will cap a tumultuous five-month recount that was widely criticized by election experts as biased and sloppy. Former president Donald Trump championed the process and urged other states to follow Arizona’s example, part of his ongoing attempt to undermine confidence in the results of the White House race.
The 2020 election took place 10 months ago. Why are the results still being investigated in Arizona?
Because Trump and many of his supporters continue to circulate false and baseless allegations that the election was marred by fraud.
Republican leaders of the Arizona state Senate have said their constituents still have questions about the election and that a thorough investigation of the results in Maricopa County, home to the city of Phoenix, is necessary to restore faith in the system. Senate President Karen Fann (R), who has led the effort, has said publicly that the goal is not to revisit Biden’s win but instead to look for ways to improve the state’s election laws.
But Trump has repeatedly said he believes the investigation will vindicate his allegations about the election and show he was in fact the victor.
In January, Fann issued a subpoena for the county’s nearly 2.1 million ballots and hundreds of vote tabulating machines. The validity of the subpoena was upheld by a state court in February and in April, the Senate took possession of the ballots and machines from the county and turned them over to a group of private contractors for review.
Maricopa County officials — nearly all of whom are Republican — have vehemently objected to the recount. They have noted that there has been no evidence of problems with the vote, pointing to the results of a partial recount after the election and two audits of tabulating machines conducted by the county in February. The county leadership called the investigation a “con” and a “sham” that is undermining faith in democracy, and determined that Maricopa County would have to replace voting equipment turned over for the review because of security concerns.
The Justice Department also warned in the spring that the recount risked violating federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election.
Who won in Arizona?
Officially certified results show that Biden won Arizona by about 10,500 votes. His victory, the first by a Democrat in the state since 1996, came on the strength of his margin in Maricopa County, a growing and diversifying region, where he won by a margin of about 45,000 votes, or about 2 percent. The result was upheld by multiple state and federal judges, confirmed by a partial hand recount of results and endorsed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who certified the results last fall.
What is being released Friday?
Fann has announced that Cyber Ninjas — the Florida contractor leading the investigation — will submit a report on its findings at 1 p.m. local time in Arizona. The results will be disclosed to her and Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen (R) at a public presentation. No Democrats have been invited, and Fann has indicated there will be no public comment or questions following the presentations by Cyber Ninjas’s chief executive Doug Logan and other audit officials.
What does the draft report show?
The draft report says that a hand recount concluded that 45,469 more ballots were cast for Biden in Maricopa County than for Trump, widening Biden’s margin by 360 more votes than certified results. The report found the count to have “no substantial differences” from the county’s certified tallies. The draft also claims that ballots could have been improperly accepted by the county and included in the report, a claim dismissed by experts, who say the contractors showed little knowledge of election procedures. Randy Pullen, a spokesman for the ballot review, told an NPR affiliate in Phoenix that the draft version was “close” to the final report, adding “Was there massive fraud or anything? It doesn’t look like it.” In a text message to The Post, he cautioned there will be “updates in the final report.”
What is Cyber Ninjas?
Cyber Ninjas is a small Florida-based firm selected by the Arizona Senate to lead the ballot review. The company had no previous experience in election administration or auditing. Logan had previously echoed false claims that the election was stolen. He also wrote a document designed to help U.S. senators challenge the electoral college count in Congress on Jan. 6. It was posted to the website of Sidney Powell, a Trump ally and attorney who filed multiple failed lawsuits trying to overturn the election. In addition, he appeared in a movie filmed while the ballot review was underway that argued the election had been stolen.
After his company was selected to lead the process, Logan did not deny his potential bias but said that it is “the most skeptical person” who makes the best auditor, “not the person who thinks it is impossible to find anything.”
How much did the investigation cost and who paid for it?
Fann appropriated $150,000 of taxpayer money to help fund the process, but most of the project has been funded by private donations. In July, Cyber Ninjas announced that as of that date, it had collected nearly $5.7 million in contributions. The donations came from five organizations led by people who have promoted the false claim that the election was stolen, which in turn collected money from thousands of other undisclosed individuals.
Cyber Ninjas said that $3.25 million came from the America Project, a group led by former Overstock chief executive Patrick Byrne. Byrne became a key player in challenging the legitimacy of the election after the November vote and met with Trump in the Oval Office in December. Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has also served as a paid adviser to the group.
Another $605,000 came from Voices and Votes, a group led by One America News host Christina Bobb, who used on-air appearances for the pro-Trump network to solicit donations for the group.
What did the contractors do?
The most visible part of the review involved a hand recount of all of the ballots cast in Maricopa County for president and U.S. Senate, which took place inside a former basketball arena in Phoenix. Workers hired for the project examined the paper and ink on which ballots were printed using microscopes and, at times, U.V. light.
In addition, they said they conducted analysis of voter registration rolls and performed forensic analysis of county tabulating machines and election management software.
What did veteran election experts think of the process?
Both Democratic and Republican election administrators have said Cyber Ninjas’s process was unprofessional, inconsistent and prone to error. Observers from the office of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) found laptops left open and ballots left unattended. Prohibited items including cellphones and, as the review was first beginning, pens with black or blue ink were allowed onto the counting floor, they found.
While cameras provided a live-streaming video of the hand recount, most of the contractors’ other analysis — including forensic analysis of voting software — was performed out of public view.
A report released in June and co-written by former Kentucky secretary of state Trey Grayson, a Republican, and University of Wisconsin professor Barry C. Burden concluded that the Arizona procedures “deviate significantly from standard practices for election reviews and audits” and that any findings are “suspect and should not be trusted.”