PHOENIX — Republican state senators have finally hired the companies they want to audit the 2020 presidential election returns.
The Senate president is denying that the CEO of one of the firms has links to election conspiracy theories, despite his deleted tweets.
And the senators have yet to figure out where the $150,000 review of Maricopa County’s election returns will be conducted.
In an announcement Wednesday, the chamber’s Republican leaders said they have hired a team to be led by a firm called Cyber Ninjas to review both the equipment used by Maricopa County as well as do a hand count of the 2.1 million ballots that were cast.
No cost figures for that contract were immediately provided.
The focus is on Maricopa County where Democrat Joe Biden outpolled incumbent Republican Donald Trump by 45,109 votes.
That was enough to counteract Trump votes elsewhere in Arizona, giving Biden a 10,457-vote edge statewide and Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.
Cyber Ninjas’ website says the firm is involved in things like testing the vulnerability of computer systems.
Other firms being hired include Wake Technology Services Inc., CyFIR LLC and Digital Discovery.
Wake will be in charge of the hand count amid allegations that the Dominion Voting Systems software used in Maricopa County was either hacked or deliberately programmed to attribute Trump votes to Biden.
The Senate press release announcing the hiring said that firm has done similar counts in New Mexico and Pennsylvania in the most recent election.
But issues remain.
Some of those involve the choice of Cyber Ninjas, a Florida firm founded by Doug Logan, who remains chief executive officer, and who signed the contract with the Senate.
Deleted tweets by Logan unearthed by Arizona Mirror found messages linking him to some of the conspiracy theories that the election was stolen.
“The parallels between the statistical analysis of Venezuela and this year’s election are astonishing,” he wrote in one, a reference to claims there was a link between Dominion and the family of now-deceased dictator Hugo Chavez. “I’m ashamed how few republicans are talking about it.”
Logan also has retweeted the comments of others saying there was election fraud.
And prior to the election, Logan, using the Twitter handle “@securityvoid”, wrote of why he supported Trump.
Senate President Karen Fann denied that anyone involved in the audit has a link to claims that the election was stolen.
“I know that’s what the media’s going to try and spin,” the Prescott Republican said. “But you can’t tell me they’ve been involved in conspiracy theories.”
There was no response from Logan to a message left at his office.
More immediate is the question of where all this work will be done.
Fann said she would like that work done at county election offices. But so far county officials have balked at the idea of having private contractors in the area.
In the meantime, the ballots have been sitting in a locked county warehouse waiting for the Senate to decide what it wants to do next.
Fann said a copy of the contract was sent Wednesday to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, specifically for the purpose of explaining how much space would be needed and for how long.
If that doesn’t work out, “we have a few other possible locations,” she said. “But I would prefer to start with them.”
All that leads into the related issue of ballot security.
In a letter to lawmakers in March, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s chief elections officer, suggested that their plans would “waste taxpayer resources chasing false claims of fraud that will only further erode public confidence in our election processes and elected officials.”
But Hobbs said if they insist on going ahead, they should follow certain procedures to ensure the ballots remain secure and there is no chance that marks on them could be changed. Those include having bipartisan oversight with a live video feed.
“We are going to do this full independent forensic audit with multiple layers of security checks, double checks, hand counts, you name it,” Fann said. “There’s no way anybody can screw with us.”
There already have been reviews of the county’s election returns.
Those included “logic and accuracy” tests done on all equipment, both before and after the vote, to ensure that the machines were properly tallying any ballots. There also was a legally required hand count of a random sample of ballots, selected by officials from both parties, that showed a 100% match with the machine count.
And when that didn’t satisfy Republican senators, the GOP-controlled Board of Supervisors hired two other firms to check the equipment and verify not just programming but that they had not been hacked and had not been hooked up to the internet in a way that could change votes.
The GOP senators then went to court and got a judge to rule they were entitled to subpoena pretty much anything they wanted.
“We have a large amount of our voters, both R’s and D’s and independents in Arizona, that have a lot of questions about the 2020 election, and they have lost a lot of confidence in our voter integrity system,” Fann said. “That’s our job as the Senate: to answer the questions and reinstill the confidence in them.”
House Democrats chided the Senate decision and its choice of auditors.
“The (county’s) two auditing firms with credentials and experience already performed audits on Arizona’s 2020 election and pronounced it free and fair,” the Democratic caucus said. “Scraping the bottom of the barrel should not fill anyone with confidence.”