Report of scandal-plagued Republican recount effort in Arizona may be released this week

Election officials from both parties release separate rebuttal reports detailing extensive problems with Trump supporters’ attempts to cast doubt on ex-president’s loss
Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, Governor Doug Ducey, U.S. Senator Martha McSally, and U.S. Congressmen Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko and David Schweikert at an "An Address to Young Americans" event, featuring President Donald Trump, hosted by Students for Trump and Turning Point Action at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona. June 23, 2020. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

First published at Daily Kos

The Arizona fake audit saga is nearing a denouement, with the 2020 election review of Maricopa County contracted by the Republican-controlled state Senate expected as soon as today. In preparation, legitimate officials in the state are “bracing for the impact” of what is highly unlikely to be anything but a litany of conspiracy theories and Trump-centered fantasy. Both Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Stephen Richer, the Republican county recorder in Maricopa County, have issued prebuttals, or reports detailing the irregularities in the process.

“This isn’t a real audit,” Hobbs told Politico. “We’re sort of just bracing for impact” for the conclusions the Cyber Ninjas, the whack-job insurrectionist audit team selected by Republican Senate President Karen Fann to examine the election in Maricopa. In a press conference Thursday, Richer said “The only thing that has been consistent about this endeavor has been missed deadlines and having to walk back statements … Please look into it before taking whatever the Cyber Ninjas produce as gospel.”

Their concern is valid, as is their admonishment to the press. Because reality doesn’t matter anymore where most Republicans are concerned, whether that’s in relation to Trump and the Big Lie or the the dangers of COVID-19. The Cyber Ninja report is almost certainly going to declare “fraud,” because that’s what it was intended to do from the outset, and Republican senators behind the farce are likely to treat the report as gospel, and Trump is going to seize on it. Things could get very ugly in the state, and in the country. Those reporting on the results need to keep all that in mind.

Nevertheless, Richer plead with fellow Republicans in his report, addressing it to “Arizona Republicans,” reminding them that he’s been one of them for years, having voted for Trump and volunteered for Republican political campaigns. “I am human. If you prick me, I bleed,” he wrote. “And if you consistently defame me and the people in my office, I eventually fight back.”

The attacks on him and his employees led Richer to oppose the election review and to continue to speak out against it. His prebuttal cites the Cyber Ninjas’ inexperience in conducting audits—it had nothing to do with elections until the Big Lie surfaced—and the fact that Trump allies have almost entirely funded the fraudit to the tune of $5.6 million. The Senate, meanwhile, used $150,000 of Arizona taxpayers’ funding to hire Cyber Ninjas.

Richer also noted the flaws in the procedures the frauditors used, and their mishandling of ballots. He also said that the Cyber Ninjas’ goal was clearly not to demonstrate how elections could be improved, pointing to the fact that the group has already put out false statements, like the claim that the county counted 74,000 fraudulent ballots that had not been sent to voters. “Airing a new, inaccurate, claim of fraud is not building confidence,” he said. “That’s doing the opposite.”

Hobbs’ prebuttal is similar, warning the general public that “any ‘outcomes’ or ‘conclusions’ that are reported” from this report should be disregarded because of the clearly fraudulent origins and procedures in this investigation. She also called on the state’s political leaders to “proclaim that the 2020 General Election was fair and accurate.”

Observers from Hobbs’s office were allowed on the floor of the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum during the audit, and the 122-page rebuttal includes detailed discussion of the problems those observers reported. For examples, the workers conducting the review were instructed by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and his lawyer to remain silent any time observers were nearby. “Observers were also informed … that code words were used by participants to warn others that the secretary of state observers were in the area,” the report said.

Hobbs’ report also notes that security protocols weren’t followed, with multiple workers routinely using the same workstations and passwords. “The Senate contractors set up stations for different parts of the counting process,” Hobbs’s report said. “This is problematic for two reasons: 1) any bad actors with access to the computers, or to the passwords for those computers, could change and manipulate data in the spreadsheets without anyone else being able to track it; and 2) the data could be lost without consistent backups.”

This is a “significant security concern. Each day, multiple people had access to each computer,” the report said. “With two shifts, at least two people were typically entering data on each computer. Additionally, with a single Windows login on each computer and a shared password that dozens of people have, any worker could log into a computer.” The fact that employees of one of the audit subcontractors, Wake TSI, kept usernames and passwords on paper that they carried around with them. Yes, the contractors do call themselves Cyber Ninjas, and yes, they hire people who have the same apparent understanding of cybersecurity as your grandparents.

Observers said as well that the auditors—some of whom were paid and some who weren’t, and the paid people were instructed to not let the volunteers know they had been cheated—weren’t even all counting the same and didn’t even need to agree on how individual ballots were counted. “This means that each hand tally participant is using their own ‘standard’ for how votes are to be counted, with no clear, consistent, and repeatable instructions in place,” the report said. “This process failure is fatal to the entire endeavor and no count resulting from this process should be relied upon for any purpose, other than as an example of procedures that should not be used.”

Then there’s all the damaged voting equipment, which the county is trying to get the state Senate to pay for, since the president of the Senate signed an agreement indemnifying the county “for losses it might incur as a result of transferring its materials to the Senate.”

The Republican-led state Senate, by the way, has been ordered to turn over all the records it has related to the hiring of the Ninjas by the Arizona Court of Appeals. The Republican senate has been fighting to keep the press and the public in the dark on the process, and is still fighting. Fann said she is going to appeal this decision. The fact that Fann and team are working so hard to cover up the communications they’ve had with Cyber Ninjas is all the justification needed for Hobbs and Richer to be concerned about what they’ll do with the fraudit report.