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Audit draft report confirms Biden got more Arizona votes than Trump but questions if all were legal
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Audit draft report confirms Biden got more Arizona votes than Trump but questions if all were legal

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Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election were examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas. A long-anticipated presentation on the audit’s findings is set for 1 p.m. in the state Senate chambers.

PHOENIX — Cyber Ninjas' nearly $6 million review of the 2020 election results did not find significant differences, says an unofficial draft report obtained Thursday evening by Capitol Media Services.

In fact, the report says that, based on a hand count of all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, official winner Joe Biden tallied 99 more votes than the county recorded — and Donald Trump had 261 fewer votes than officially recorded.  

And in the race for U.S. Senate, which also was reviewed, there also was no major change, with a difference of just 1,167 votes between the two tallies. This, too, confirmed that Democrat Mark Kelly handily defeated incumbent Republican Martha McSally.

But the report does not specifically say that Biden or Kelly won. That's because Cyber Ninjas, which has no previous experience with elections and was funded largely by donations from Trump supporters, also claims to have found other problems which, at least theoretically, could have affected the outcome.

These include 23,344 mail-in ballots that were voted from someone's prior address and more than 10,000 voters who potentially voted in multiple counties, according to the draft report.

The draft says that latter statistic is based on what auditors said were voters with the same first, middle and last name and same birth year.

"While it is possible for multiple individuals to share all these details, it is not common, and this list should be fully reviewed,'' it says.

Senate President Karen Fann, who hired Cyber Ninjas, said the draft report obtained by Capitol Media Services might not be the last word.

"We spent four hours on Zoom today,'' she said late Thursday, saying the team is "still working on the final report.''

But Fann did not dispute the key finding about the outcome of the races.

Official finding or not, Jack Sellers, who chairs the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, seized on the report to say that it exonerates the county's handling of the election.

"This means the tabulation equipment counted the ballots as they were designed to do, and the results reflect the will of the voters,'' he said. "That should be the end of the story. Everything else is just noise.''

There is, however, more to come.

Capitol Media Services has learned that the presentation of the final report, set for 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, in the state Senate chambers, will also include at least two findings of problems with the election returns found by others involved in the review.

Republican Ken Bennett, a former secretary of state serving as the Senate’s liaison with Cyber Ninjas, will report there were several instances where the county did not follow requirements either under state law or the separate Election Procedures Manual. Bennett is reserving comment on whether any of those shortcomings were intentional, however.

Also, Shiva Ayyadurai, hired as a handwriting expert, will say there are questions about the signatures on some envelopes in which county voters returned early ballots.

The news comes as Republican politicians, some angling for higher office, were already declaring that the yet-to-be-seen final report found evidence of fraud.

Not yet seeing the final report also hasn’t stopped Democrats and other critics of the audit process from already proclaiming the report can’t be trusted because of who was involved and the fact it was funded almost entirely by people who claim Trump was cheated out of reelection.

The report also comes despite a series of rulings by state and federal judges who refused to overturn the election results, saying they found no credible evidence of improprieties; as well as a state-mandated hand count of a sample number of ballots that Maricopa County conducted, which showed no disparities.

Maricopa County reported that Biden got 45,109 more votes than Trump. That edge was enough to overcome Trump support in rural counties, giving Biden a final victory margin of 10,457 votes and the state's 11 electoral votes.

The long-awaited audit presentation will come from Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas.

The choice of Logan by Fann, R-Prescott, raised questions from the beginning, at least in part because he had made public statements even before the audit started that there was fraud in the election. Also, Cyber Ninjas is fighting a court order that it surrender audit-related documents under the state’s public records law.

It’s not just Logan who will report findings.

One report will come from Ben Cotton, founder of a firm called CyFIR, who examined the election tabulation equipment that the county surrendered to the Senate under subpoena. Cotton already has made claims county election equipment was vulnerable to hacking, a contention disputed by county officials.

Randy Pullen, a former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, will report a third count of the 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots by machine, to compare the number of ballots cast with both the county’s tally and the number counted by Cyber Ninjas.

“Essentially we came up with the same number,” Pullen said Thursday.

It won’t be as smooth for the report by Ayyadurai, whom Fann added to the audit team midway through the process to examine signatures on the envelopes of the approximately 1.9 million early ballots.

“He’s worked for banks before, he’s an expert on signature analysis and things like that,” Fann said.

Ayyadurai, however, did not have access to county files that have voters’ signatures to compare with those on the envelopes. But Pullen said that, even without that, Ayyadurai did find enough to raise questions.

Pullen said the county claims it uses 27 different points of comparison when it checks to see if the signatures on the envelopes match those on file. But in some cases, he said, what appears in the signature box is just a line or a mark. He said Ayyadurai has identified a number of those.

He acknowledged, though, that does not necessarily mean the ballots that were in those envelopes were invalid.

But, “there’s no way it can be a 27-point check,” Pullen said.

“Now, it’s possible that that scribble that’s in that box is exactly the signature that the person put in as well,” Pullen said. “But not very likely.”

But Megan Gilbertson of the Maricopa County Recorder's Office told Capitol Media Services late Thursday that the entire premise of that is flawed.

She said the county has a multi-step procedure for verifying signatures, comparing the signatures on the envelope with what already is on file. And she said that includes everything from letter spacing to the apparent speed of the writing.

Bennett was tasked with determining whether county officials followed all election laws.

“We did identify a few where they fell short,” he told Capitol Media Services on Thursday. But Bennett said that, in some ways, that’s no surprise.

“No election can be conducted perfectly because it’s conducted by fallible human beings,” he said. “It’s not a poke in the eye thing. It’s constructive criticism or constructive improvement.”

And Bennett said there are 1,300 of pages of statutes and regulations that outline what is and isn’t permitted, meaning if he reports some errors, “let’s keep everything in perspective.”

Does he believe that any of the errors were intentional? “I’m not going to say in a verbal interview ... what I’m going to be putting in writing for the report,” Bennett said.

The fact no report has been issued has not kept others from already publicly concluding that something went wrong.

“I am calling it,” state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said in a Twitter post earlier this month. “I call on Arizona to decertify the election of 2020 and recall the electors,” he said, though there appears to be no legal precedent for that. “There is already enough evidence to show clear and convincing fraud.”

Finchem, who is running for secretary of state, said he is basing that in part on “preliminary audit results.”

For example, Logan said in July there were 74,243 mail-in ballots being received “where there is no clear record of them being sent.” Logan also said there were 11,326 individuals who did not show up on the version of the voter rolls prepared the day after the election but did show up on the Dec. 4 list as not only being registered but having voted.

County officials responded with a point-by-point rebuttal. And Logan has made no claims like that since.

That leaves a private canvass conducted by Liz Harris, an unsuccessful legislative candidate. She produced a report claiming that, based on a sample of homes checked, there were more than 173,000 ballots that were lost and more than 96,000 “ghost” voters, ballots that were cast by people who did not exist.

But she cited only two concrete examples, and both were quickly disproved.

Also weighing in was former Congressman Matt Salmon, who is hoping to become the Republican nominee for governor. He issued a press release Thursday saying the report “will outline a number of serious discrepancies and will further demonstrate why people are questioning last year’s election results and the integrity of Arizona’s electoral systems.”

Pressed for details, Salmon cited what he called the county’s “admitted lack of control over its own election equipment,” presumably referring to the fact that Dominion Voting Systems, from whom the county leased the machines, had passwords. Salmon also said the county didn’t cooperate.

Skeptics of the whole process, meanwhile, are already seeking to cast doubt on whatever the report shows.

David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, pointed out not just Logan’s lack of experience, but his Twitter posts and retweets about how there was fraud in the election.

Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said the audit was filled with “security lapses, delays, disorganization and a lack of transparency.” She said the review “failed to meet industry standards for an audit, much less an election audit.”

And the Arizona Democratic Party already has scheduled a press conference to occur four hours before the report is released, calling it a “farcical, conspiracy-driven audit” that is “a disgrace to our democratic processes.”

It isn’t only Democrats, however, who have raised questions. Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, running against Finchem for the Republican nomination for secretary of state, said she supported an audit but that it “has been botched,” blaming that on “total lack of competence by Fann.”

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