Arizona Senate leaders issue new subpoenas for Maricopa County routers amid ongoing audit

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Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • Arizona Senate Republicans are demanding Maricopa County turn over routers used during the 2020 election for the ongoing audit.
  • The GOP-controlled county board of supervisors has rebuked the audit and pledged to stop producing materials for the review.
  • Audit leaders also subpoenaed Dominion Voting Systems Inc., demanding access to the company’s tabulators.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two top Arizona Senate Republicans issued new subpoenas Monday night for more election materials in the monthslong “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results, just days after former President Donald Trump gave a speech in Phoenix full of debunked conspiracy theories about his loss.

On Monday, more than three months into the review that began in April, state Senate President Karen Fann, who has spearheaded the controversial effort since its inception, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen demanded the Republican-controlled county hand over its routers as well as envelopes from all mail-in ballots and detailed voter registration records.

The GOP-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which opposes the audit, has pledged to stop producing materials for the Senate’s review, arguing the county has already handed over all relevant resources for the recount, including 2.1 million ballots, hundreds of counting machines, and massive amounts of data.

Those materials were reviewed by Cyber Ninjas, a private firm run by a Trump supporter that was chosen by state Senate Republicans to carry out another count of Maricopa County’s ballots, after county Republicans certified Biden’s win.

President Joe Biden won by Maricopa County by 45,000 votes.

In addition to subpoenaing the county routers, Fann and Petersen also targeted Dominion Voting Systems Inc., the manufacturer of the county’s voting machines which has been the target of false conspiracy theories about the security of its machines since November. The new subpoena demands that Dominion give audit contractors access to all tabulators used in Maricopa County.

In a May statement, Dominion said releasing company property to an “unaccredited, biased, and plainly unreliable actor such as Cyber Ninjas would be reckless” and cause “irreparable damage” to both Dominion and the election security interests of the country.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is also resisting the new demands. A spokesman for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors told Insider the board will review the materials requested with legal counsel and respond in the coming days.

Another spokesperson for the board told the Associated Press the county “has already provided everything competent auditors would need to confirm the accuracy and security of the 2020 election.”

The state has to replace the county’s voting machines for roughly $3 million, amid concerns that Cyber Ninjas cannot ensure the machines weren’t tampered with during the audit. Turning over the routers, as well, poses an additional financial and operational risk for Maricopa County. According to the Arizona Mirror, replacing the routers, if necessary, would cost another $6 million.

Read more: Republican Rep. Blake Moore violated federal transparency law by failing to properly disclose stock transactions worth up to $1.1 million

But Fann may not be able to enforce the subpoenas, according to the AP. The Senate president doesn’t have the Republican support required to hold county officials in contempt if they refuse to produce the materials.

As the process enters its fourth month, the effort is losing support.

Neither Cyber Ninjas nor Fann immediately responded to Insider’s request for comment.

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Arizona audit: Republican liaison tells Insider the audit process has been ‘very odd’ and that he may resign

In this Thursday, April 22, 2021, file photo, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett arrives at a news conference to talk about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
In this Thursday, April 22, 2021, file photo, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett arrives at a news conference to talk about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

  • Ken Bennett, a Republican, served as Arizona’s Secretary of State from 2009 to 2015.
  • Arizona’s GOP-led Senate appointed him to be the chamber’s “liaison” to the Cyber Ninjas audit.
  • Bennett has said Cyber Ninjas has refused to share key information with him about the process.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Arizona state Senate’s official “liaison” to the controversial election audit in Maricopa County said in an interview that he could soon resign.

Speaking to Insider on Tuesday, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said he remains frustrated with the audit process. He also said Cyber Ninjas, the private firm that is running the vote count, has refused to share with him any information about its own tally. “It’s very odd,” he said of the situation.

The company, whose leadership has promoted claims that the 2020 election was “rigged,” has been counting ballots since April.

“I expect that, eventually, the hand count done by Cyber Ninjas will be shared with me,” Bennett said. “But it hasn’t yet.”

That, he argued, has left him in a position where, months into the process, he is still in no position to say whether Maricopa County’s 2020 election results were accurate or not.

President Joe Biden won the county by more than 45,000 votes, a victory certified by local Republican elections officials who have blasted the Cyber Ninjas audit as unprofessional and conspiratorial. Outside experts recently issued a report saying that the auditor’s deviations from typical practices mean that its findings “should not be trusted.”

Arizona’s Republican-led state Senate commissioned the new audit earlier this year, forcing the county to hand over some 2.1 million ballots.

Earlier this week, Bennett told a conservative talk show host that he was on the “precipice” of resigning after having been denied entry to the building where Cyber Ninjas is conducting its latest round of ballot counting, as The Arizona Republic reported last week.

This is now the company’s second count, coming after state Senate President Karen Fann revealed that the first Cyber Ninjas audit had produced a different number of total ballots than had been cast in the 2020 election, as certified by local and state officials.

Bennett told “The Conservative Circus” there have been “serious issues” with the Cyber Ninjas process, with vote counts from worker tally sheets differing from the numbers that have been entered into the central database – and that he has not been able to verify whether that was ever addressed.

According to the Maricopa County Elections Department, however, there have also been problems with Bennett’s own assertions. For example, Bennett claimed in that same interview that duplicate ballots, which are printed for votes cast by members of the military overseas and citizens who used braille ballots, among others, were missing the required serial numbers that would link them to the originals. (“We discovered to our shock that they had essentially broken state law and not put a serial number on the duplicate ballots,” he said.)

Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson for the elections department, said that is not true. “The accuracy and completeness of Maricopa County’s duplication process was confirmed in court,” she said, pointing to a lawsuit filed by the state GOP that led to the review of a random sample of 1,626 of the 27,000 duplicates.

As for his own future, Bennett told Insider that he is trying to meet with Sen. Fann to discuss “whether or not I can continue, or if I will continue.”

“I was hoping yesterday,” he said. “Here it is today.”

It is unlikely Bennett’s future will be decided before the end of the month.

“I am at a conference out of state all week,” Sen. Fann said in an email to Insider. “I will make arrangements with him after I return.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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A Republican official stood by the original vote count in Arizona’s Maricopa County. Now he’s being barred from the Cyber Ninjas’ audit site.

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The Republican fronting the controversial vote recount in Maricopa County, Arizona, has been locked out of the audit.

  • Ken Bennett, director of Arizona’s Maricopa County audit, has been locked out of the vote recount.
  • This is after he shared sample data with external analysts that matched the official vote tally.
  • A local news outlet said Bennett was barred from the state fairgrounds, where a new vote count is underway.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ken Bennett, a Republican official and spokesperson for the Maricopa County election audit, was barred last week from entering the audit building.

Per the Arizona Republic, Bennett is now persona-non-grata at the ongoing recount because he shared sample data from the count with election technology analysts Larry Moore and Benny White.

According to a report from local news outlet The Arizona Republic, former Arizona Secretary of State Bennett was banned on July 23 from entering the state fairgrounds where the Maricopa County audit is still going on.

A new vote recount was ordered by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann last week. During this separate count, the 2.1 million ballots will be tallied up again via high-speed paper counters to check the Cyber Ninjas’ work.

Speaking to the news outlet, Cyber Ninjas spokesperson Rod Thomson denied barring Bennett from the premises, saying the order came from Fann’s office.

Fann suggested on July 13 that the official vote count and the Cyber Ninjas’ hand-counted tallies did not match up, which necessitated a further recount. However, the data that Bennett provided to Moore and White corroborated the county’s officially certified vote numbers. This could, potentially, call into question any results or conclusions drawn from the Cyber Ninjas’ audit.

Biden won the election in Maricopa County last November by more than 45,000 votes. Meanwhile, Trump has continued to allege that there were voter irregularities in Arizona, both in statements and at rallies.

The Maricopa County audit is being run by the Cyber Ninjas, a private Florida-based consultancy that has no prior experience handling election ballots. Doug Logan, its founder, is a “Stop the Steal” supporter who promoted several election conspiracy theories in favor of former President Donald Trump. Most recently, Logan even appeared in an election conspiracy theory film alleging the CIA was behind election misinformation.

Cyber Ninjas wants the methods it uses to recount the votes to be kept secret, citing trade secrets and proprietary equipment. But the effectiveness of the audit was called into question after workers from Cyber Ninjas were seen leaving ballots unattended and laptop computers unlocked. The Cyber Ninjas have also been criticized for investigating far-fetched theories that 40,000 Biden ballots were smuggled in from Asia, by looking for traces of bamboo and “Chinese paper” in the voting ballots.

Fann, Bennett, and the Cyber Ninjas did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

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Arizona’s largest newspaper sues Cyber Ninjas, state senate over controversial 2020 election ‘audit’

maricopa county cyber ninjas
Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud.

  • The partisan review ended in June, but results could still be months away.
  • Critics have complained that the process has lacked transparency.
  • President Joe Biden won Maricopa County by more than 45,000 votes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The largest newspaper in Arizona announced Thursday that it has filed lawsuit to obtain financial records and communications from the Republican-led state Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the private firm that has overseen a highly irregular recount of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

“Arizona law entitles the public to know how this audit is being conducted and funded,” David Bodney, an attorney for The Arizona Republic, said in a statement.

In a June 30 complaint, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, the newspaper argues that it is entitled to the records under the state’s public records law. The lawsuit comes after the parties denied a request to hand the documents over voluntarily.

Neither Cyber Ninjas nor state Senate President Karen Fann, who led the push for the controversial review of the Maricopa County results, responded to requests for comment.

Last month, Ken Bennett, a former elected Republican who is serving as spokesperson for the “audit,” said workers had finished counting the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the county, which President Joe Biden won by more than 45,000 votes. But he said a final report could be months away.

The partisan review, which began in late April, has been mired in controversy from the start. For one, it comes after Maricopa County’s Republican-led Recorder’s office already conducted a professional review of the 2020 vote that disproved allegations of widespread fraud.

Cyber Ninjas, by contrast, has no experience auditing election results. It also does not appear to be impartial: Before being awarded the $150,000 contract to review the vote, founder Doug Logan promoted pro-Trump conspiracy theories on social media – and recorded the narration for a web documentary claiming the election was stolen. The effort has also been backed by the far-right One America News Network, and a OANN reporter raised money for the campaign and enjoyed the status of being its official media partner.

The actual process has also raised eyebrows. In a departure from norms, the Cyber Ninjas audit process allows for vote tallies to be certified even when there is disagreement among workers on the final count.

Conspiracy theories have also been a prominent feature: volunteers were observed scanning ballots with ultraviolet lights in part, organizers said, to look for signs of bamboo, believing that would show they were fraudulent votes manufactured in China. And leaders of the effort falsely accused Maricopa County’s Republican-led Board of Supervisors of deleting election data they were supposed to hand over, a claim amplified by the former president walked back after workers discovered it on another hard drive.

Earlier this week, officials in Maricopa County announced that they would be discarding any voting equipment that been handled by Cyber Ninjas. The state’s top elections official, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, had previously said that any equipment handled by a third party could potentially be tampered with and should no longer be used in elections.

A recent expert review of Cyber Ninjas’ work, meanwhile, determined that – because of its departure from professional standards and the partisan leanings of those taking part – the final product “should not be trusted.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Observers of the Arizona audit say they were mocked over shirt color and witnessed software malfunctions, security violations, and personnel issues with the controversial GOP-led ballot count

maricopa county recount arizona
Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The audit, ordered by the Arizona Senate, has the U.S. Department of Justice saying it is concerned about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results.

  • Observers of the ongoing Arizona election audit have alleged several security and equipment concerns.
  • Secretary of State Katie Hobbs shared a summary of incidents witnesses have noted in the past week.
  • Witnesses said they saw three non-residents rifling through thousands of ballots last week.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Observers of the ongoing audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona have alleged several problematic incidents last week during the controversial recount.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs published a summary of “new and ongoing” incidents that were noted by observers during the audit beginning on May 24. Among the observations are security concerns, equipment concerns, communication concerns, and policy or press changes.

On Tuesday, she tweeted a link to the summary, saying: “Since the start of the Senate’s so-called audit, my office has had concerns over the lack of transparency and even took legal action to ensure we had election experts on the ground.”

Earlier this year, the state’s GOP-controlled Senate chose Cyber Ninjas, a private firm, to carry out another count of the 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County, where President Joe Biden beat Trump by more than 45,000 votes.

Since the start of the audit, Hobbes, who is a Democrat, has positioned herself as an outspoken critic of the recount, citing concerns over a lack of transparency and even taking legal action to ensure elections experts are on the ground during the process.

In the past week, those experts said they have reportedly witnessed security gates left open and unattended, confidential materials being left in the open, prohibited pens near the ballots multiple times, unauthorized cell phones on the counting floor, and confirmation that concealed firearms are allowed on the counting floor.

Observers noted Cyber Ninjas software malfunctions that forced the company to roll back an update in the middle of the day. Witnesses also allege Senate Liaison Ken Bennett confirmed that copies of the voting system data were sent to an unspecified lab in Montana, with no mention of what they intend to do with copies of the data or for how long they will keep the data.

Bennett did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

One observer alleges that Audit Co-chair Randy Pullen told one observer that the shirt he was required to wear on the floor “made him look like a transgender,” due to the pink color. Witnesses said audit organizers refer to them as “pinkies” or “pinkos,” implying that they are communists.

Pullen did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Throughout the week, witnesses said they noted “general confusion” among organizers and a lack of quality control practices in place meant to ensure data is entered correctly.

On May 29, witnesses said they saw at least three people who are not Maricopa County residents “rifling through” thousands of military and overseas ballots.

Cyber Ninjas has no previous election experience and is spearheaded by a Trump supporter who promoted false conspiracy claims last fall. The recount decision was made in spite of the county’s Republican-controlled board of supervisors objecting to it, saying the election had already been audited more than once by credible firms.

Cyber Ninjas did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Maricopa County Board demands Arizona Senate leaders and audit vendors hold all documents related to GOP’s Cyber Ninjas audit

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In this May 6, 2021 file photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

  • Maricopa County leaders signaled that a lawsuit may be possible following the 2020 election audit.
  • The county attorney requested that Senate leaders and audit vendors retain all documents and communications.
  • The move comes after the audit’s Twitter falsely claimed election databases had been deleted.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s office sent Arizona Senate leaders and vendors of the GOP’s controversial “audit” of the 2020 election a “hold” letter Friday evening, instructing them to retain all documents and audit communications.

The request is the first official sign that Maricopa County leaders are considering post-audit legal action.

The letter comes days after the audit’s Twitter account claimed election databases had been deleted and evidence spoiled. Though election officials later refuted the accusation, showing that the data had been found, former President Donald Trump jumped on the claim.

Maricopa County officials fired back against the baseless accusations in a Tuesday tweet and first raised the possibility of legal action in a Monday statement.

“It is clear the Arizona Senate and its contractors do not intend to retract false allegations defaming the County and its employees,” Maricopa County Chairman Jack Sellers told KTAR News.

“For that reason, Maricopa County is formally requesting Senate President Fann, Senator Petersen, Senate liaison Ken Bennett and contractors involved in the ‘audit’ preserve documents and evidence as they may be subject to future legal claims,” he said.

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel’s four-page Friday letter to Fann officially followed through on the county’s previous threat.

“Because of the wrongful accusations that the County destroyed evidence, the County or its elected officers may now be subject to, or have, legal claims,” Adel’s letter said. “Likewise, we have reason to believe this audit is not being done in accordance with Arizona law.”

According to KPNX reporter Brahm Resnik, senate audit liason Ken Bennett responsed to the letter, saying: “They’re not asking me to do anything that I wouldn’t have done anyway. Nothing to hide so nothing to hold.”

Neither Fann, nor Cyber Ninjas immediately responded to Insider’s request for comment.

The demand also comes just one day after Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said any voting machines that have come into the hands of people carrying out the Republican-led “audit” are no longer safe to be used in future elections.

In a Thursday letter to Maricopa County officials, Hobbs said she has “grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines,” suggesting that the chain of custody had been “compromised.”

Earlier this year, the state’s GOP-controlled Senate chose Cyber Ninjas, a private firm, to carry out another count of ballots in Maricopa County, where President Joe Biden beat Trump by more than 45,000 votes.

Cyber Ninjas has no previous election experience and is spearheaded by a Trump supporter who promoted false conspiracy claims last fall. The recount decision was made in spite of the county’s Republican-controlled board of supervisors objecting to it, saying the election had already been audited more than once by credible firms.

The audit kicked off on April 23 and went on hiatus this week due to previously scheduled graduation ceremonies at the stadium where the counting is being held. According to KTAR News, only about 500,000 of the 2.1 million ballots had been hand-counted as of Friday.

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US Justice Department expresses ‘concerns’ over the GOP’s Arizona election audit being conducted by Cyber Ninjas

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Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a Cyber Ninjas IT technician demonstrates a ballot scan during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden’s victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results.

  • The US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division says it has “concerns” over Arizona’s 2020 election audit.
  • The concerns were raised in a letter to state Sen. Karen Fann, a Republican.
  • Voting rights groups last month asked the Justice Department to intervene.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of Justice has reviewed details that “raise concerns” about the integrity of the Republican-led audit in Maricopa County, telling the president of Arizona’s state senate that the effort may violate federal law.

The audit, taking place at a sports arena in Phoenix, is being conducted by a private firm, Cyber Ninjas, that has no experience in elections and is led by a man who promoted conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. The firm was chosen to lead the effort by state Sen. Karen Fann, over the objections of Maricopa County’s local Republican officials – and after two audits were already conducted last year.

President Joe Biden won the county by more than 45,000 votes.

In a May 5 letter to Sen. Fann, obtained by local news station KNXV’s Garrett Archer, the Department of Justice’s Pamela S. Karlan, principal deputy assistant attorney general with the Civil Rights Division, said Cyber Ninjas’ involvement may be illegal.

“Federal law creates a duty to safeguard and preserve federal election records,” Karlan wrote. The department is concerned that this is not happening in Maricopa County, where the records “are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss.”

The department’s second area of concern is Cyber Ninjas’ stated intent to “identify voter registrations that did not make sense, and then knock on doors to confirm if valid voters actually lived at the stated address.” This, Karlan wrote, “raises concerns regarding potential intimidation of voters,” which is prohibited by federal statutes.

The letter closes by asking for a response on what steps the Arizona Senate will take to ensure the audit does not break federal law. It comes the same day that one audit official told reporters he was attempting to find traces of “bamboo” on voters’ ballots to prove a conspiracy theory that they came from southeast Asia.

Sen. Fann did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The Department of Justice’s letter comes about a week after a coalition of voting rights groups had requested such an intervention, as Insider reported.

In an interview last month, the head of the Arizona Democratic Party, state Rep. Raquel Terán, said that Cyber Ninjas was engaged in a “sham audit” intended to justify new restrictions on voting.

Local Democrats welcomed Wednesday’s intervention.

“We are glad that the DOJ is engaged and monitoring this sham,” Alex Alvarez, a party spokesperson, told Insider.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Dominion bashes the election firm running the Trump-supported recount in Arizona, saying it’s already ‘committed serious errors’

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A contractor working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, works to recount ballots from the 2020 general election on May 1.

  • Dominion criticized the firm recounting votes in Arizona as having “committed serious errors.”
  • The CEO of the company, called Cyber Ninjas, previously tweeted conspiracy theories about the election.
  • The recount has been promoted by Donald Trump, who falsely believes he won the 2020 election.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dominion Voting Systems sharply criticized the election firm conducting a recount of ballots in Arizona, saying that auditors have “already committed serious errors” and “demonstrated incompetence” during the audit.

The recount, which is expected to take weeks, is being overseen by an obscure firm called Cyber Ninjas hired by Republicans in the Arizona state legislature.

The company’s CEO, Doug Logan, promoted conspiracy theories about the integrity of the 2020 election on Twitter in January, as the Arizona Republic first reported.

Dominion, an election technology company, supplied technology to a number of polling locations in Arizona and has been a target of false and convoluted right-wing conspiracy theories alleging it helped “flip” votes from then-President Donald Trump to now-President Joe Biden.

In a statement Tuesday, the company said Cyber Ninjas wasn’t qualified to conduct a recount and that its leader was operating with “a false, pre-determined conclusion” that votes were altered in the first place.

“The firms conducting this so-called audit are not federally-accredited Voting Systems Test Labs,” Dominion said in the statement. “The lead firm, Cyber Ninjas, has no election experience, and publicly available information shows its leader has helped spread debunked lies about election fraud.”

A representative for Cyber Ninjas didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Trump has supported the audit and asks for updates about it multiples times a day, according to the Washington Post. He has demanded that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey – a Republican he criticized for not supporting attempts to overturn Biden’s victory – deploy the National Guard to protect the recount process, even though there have been no publicly reported threats on it. Trump advisers told the Post he’s also asked about using UV light to analyze the ballots, which experts say may destroy information on them.

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Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona.

Trump has falsely claimed he was the true winner of the 2020 presidential election, including winning the state of Arizona, which he lost to Biden. His lies about the election led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, when a mob of his supporters sought to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

Trump’s campaign brought two lawsuits in Arizona seeking to overturn the state’s election results, as did Arizona state GOP chair Kelli Ward, a driving force behind the Cyber Ninjas audit. The cases were among the 40 Trump-linked election lawsuits that failed.

Maricopa County, the largest county in the state and where the Republican recount is taking place, has already conducted two separate audits of its 2020 election results. Both found that the results were correct and Dominion machines had produced accurate results.

In its statement, Dominion said it had numerous security measures in place for its election machines, including creating a voter-verified paper trail for each vote, using two-factor authentication that requires a physical key, and putting measures in place to ensure the machines don’t connect to the internet.

arizona recount cyber ninjas
A Cyber Ninjas contractor.

“Local election officials securely store and monitor the machines at all times,” the company said. “Thousands of poll workers, party officials, and election officials across Arizona watch over precincts on election day and guard tabulation sites in the days following.”

Cyber Ninjas’ insistence on secrecy during the recount process has alarmed independent election experts. On Wednesday afternoon, the company reportedly reached a settlement with the state’s Democratic party to offer more transparency.

Dominion has launched a raft of defamation lawsuits against individuals and companies that promoted election conspiracy theories. Its lead defamation attorney, Tom Clare, previously told Insider the company is weighing filing a lawsuit against One America News, a far-right media organization that pushed false claims about Dominion.

The media organization had quietly deleted stories about Dominion from its website even as it publicly pushed false theories, as Insider previously reported. OAN is also a force behind the recount, helping finance the venture even as Arizona Republicans named the network an independent observer of the effort.

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Trump is ‘fixated’ and talks ‘constantly’ about Arizona election recount, allies say

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Former President Donald Trump asks aides multiple times about the vote recount that is currently underway in Maricopa County, according to The Washington Post.

  • A GOP-led audit of Arizona’s 2020 election results is underway.
  • Trump obsessively asks aides for updates about it, The Washington Post reported.
  • One person told The Post that they listened to Trump discuss the audit for around 45 minutes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Donald Trump has become “fixated” on a GOP-led audit of Arizona’s 2020 election results, according to The Washington Post.

He asks aides multiple times a day about the vote recount currently underway in Maricopa County, advisers told The Post.

One person, who spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity, said that they listened to Trump discuss the election ballot audit for about 45 minutes. “He talks about it constantly,” they added.

The former president has also spoken to advisers about using UV lights to examine ballots, according to The Post. Experts say this method could damage votes, the paper said.

Read more: Trump plots temporary move from Mar-a-Lago north to New Jersey

The vote count in Maricopa County, where President Joe Biden won last year by over 45,000 votes, was initiated by Republicans and is embraced by Trump.

Some of the 2.1 million ballots cast during the 2020 election are being recounted after an order by the Republican-led Arizona Senate, the Associated Press reported.

Having begun on Thursday, it is the latest effort by the former president and his allies to suggest unevidenced foul play in the county.

“So many people would like to thank the brave and patriotic Republican State Senators from Arizona for the incredible job they are doing in exposing the large-scale Voter Fraud which took place in the 2020 Presidential Election,” Trump said in a statement on April 23.

The audit is being conducted by a Florida-based consultancy firm, Cyber Ninjas, that has no prior experience handling ballots. It does, Insider’s Charles Davis reported, have credibility with Trump supporters. The firm’s founder Doug Logan has shared tweets alleging that the 2020 election was stolen and promoted the #StopThe Steal effort, the Arizona Mirror reported.

Arizona Democrats unsuccessfully filed a lawsuit to halt the audit Thursday, dismissing it as a partisan drive to perpetuate disproven myths about election fraud. It is a “sham audit” that is “fomenting the big lie that the election was stolen,” Raquel Terán, a state lawmaker and chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, told Insider on Tuesday.

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Democrats fight ‘sham audit’ in Arizona, saying Republicans aim to justify voter suppression

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Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a Cyber Ninjas IT technician demonstrates a ballot scan during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden’s victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results.

  • A GOP-led audit of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County is “fomenting the big lie that the election was stolen,” the head of the Arizona Democratic Party told Insider.
  • Republicans selected a firm to conduct the audit, Cyber Ninjas, that has no experiencing counting votes.
  • The company is led by a man who promoted false claims of election fraud in 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It’s a “sham audit,” Raquel Terán, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, says of the vote count underway this week in Maricopa County. Initiated by Republicans and led by a firm that has no prior experience handling ballots, the $150,000 in taxpayer is being used to perpetrate a fraud, she told Insider – “fomenting the big lie that the election was stolen.”

Last week, an Arizona judge agreed that there was something to Democrats’ arguments, ruling that Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based company selected to lead a reexamination of the vote in Maricopa County, should hand over any documents describing its internal processes. Democrats also had a chance to suspend the process altogether, albeit at a cost: $1 million bond.

The problem, Terán said, is they did not have the money.

“It was beyond absurd for us that the bond was set so high,” Terán said. And Democrats had no confidence that Cyber Ninjas would come back with a fair and accurate reporting of the financial damages incurred by the order; ultimately, she said, the party decided it did not have a million dollars to lose.

Cyber Ninjas, meanwhile, decided it also did not want to lose its purported trade secrets: documents detailing how it plans to ensure the credibility of its audit process. It filed those documents with the court on Sunday, requesting that they be kept under seal and away from the prying eyes of the media.

The company also asked the judge who had ordered them to hand over documents to recuse himself, appearing to manufacture a conflict of interest over the weekend by hiring one of his former interns to join their legal team. A new judge, on Tuesday, will consider Democrats’ push to unseal those internal communications detailing security procedures and how it purports to know the difference between a valid and invalid ballot.

Cyber Ninjas did not respond to a voicemail requesting comment. But, Terán said, “it doesn’t seem like a coincidence to us.”

The Arizona GOP, for its part, has crowed over Democrats’ inability to come up the money to stop the audit. “We are restoring faith in our country and our elections,” the party states in a fundraising appeal.

A dubious process

From the start, Democrats and impartial observers alike have cried foul over Arizona’s selective audit of Maricopa County, which President Joe Biden last year won by more than 45,000 votes.

Last fall, the former president and his allies spread a host of quickly debunked claims of fraud in the county, which Donald Trump won in 2016. Perhaps the one that went most viral was “SharpieGate,” which alleged that Republicans in Maricopa County were being handed permanent markers at their polling stations, invalidating their ballots. In fact, permanent markers were the preferred writing utensil, as local Republicans confirmed at the time.

Another claim is that Democrats simply flooded the county with “fake” ballots. No evidence was ever presented – it was the same argument that Trump put forward after 2016 to justify his loss in the popular vote – and Maricopa County’s Republican elections officials unanimously voted to certify Biden’s win. (“In a free democracy, elections result in some people’s candidates losing,” one of them said at the time.)

But the claims of a stolen election persist, and Arizona Republicans are intent on placating the sentiment. Weeks after the January 6 insurrection, the state GOP won a legal battle over Maricopa County’s ballots, earning the right to check them again. State Sen. Karen Fann, the Republican president of Arizona’s state senate, then elected to outsource the process.

Enter Cyber Ninjas. It was not selected because of its experience auditing elections; it has none. What it does have is credibility – with Trump supporters. Doug Logan, the head of the company, is not impartial. As evidenced by a since-deleted Twitter account, he was convinced that the 2020 election was stolen long before he or his company ever examined a ballot, using his social media presence to promote the former president’s “#StopTheSteal” effort, the Arizona Mirror reported. (A former Arizona Secretary of State, Republican Ken Bennett, has been named the state Senate’s “liaison.”)

At the convention center in Phoenix, Logan has had temp workers and volunteers pour over some 2.1 million ballots using “ultra-violet lights to search for ballot watermarks and weed-out phony ballots,” according to One America News, the far-right media organization that was granted the exclusive right to stream the process.

Legitimate reporters, meanwhile, have complained of impeded access – and the potential for fraud in a process ostensibly intended to thwart it. Last Friday, a reporter at the Arizona Republic, Jen Fifield, noted the presence of blue pens inside the convention center that could be used to mark ballots and alter their reading in vote-processing machines; red pens – not any with dark ink – are the standard for auditors. She has not been allowed inside since.

Voting rights groups, including The Carter Center and the Brennan Center for Justice, have also decried what they see as a faux-audit in Arizona. In a letter to Sen. Fann, they accused Republicans of being “driven by politics rather than a search for the truth.” The Maricopa County results have already been audited, they noted: last year, by credible firms that have audited elections before. Another round, by a dubious firm, “will have little value other than to stoke conspiracy theories and partisan gamesmanship – or worse.”

Fann did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

For Arizona Democrats, the worst fear is not Republicans believing falsehoods about the 2020 election. “There are no amount of audits that are going to appease any of these individuals who believe in conspiracy theories,” Terán told Insider.

Rather, she said, it’s what those falsehoods could do to Democratic voters, in the form of new laws passed in the wake of whatever the Cyber Ninjas find when they are through searching next month. New ID requirements, for example, and efforts to remove people from mail-in ballot rolls if they either don’t vote or vote in person for two election cycles – all different means of what Terán terms “voter suppression.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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