The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors issued a pointed response to Arizona state Senate Republicans, who issued a new series of subpoenas to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on July 26 related to their audit of the 2020 election.
Board Chairman Jack Sellers condemned the audit in his portion of the response, stating that the board has “little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land.”
In early 2020, the state’s Senate chose Cyber Ninjas, a private firm with no previous election experience, to carry out another count of ballots in Maricopa County. The firm is spearheaded by a Trump supporter who promoted false conspiracy claims last fall.
The Board of Supervisors’ response to the audit-related subpoenas also contained a letter from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office objecting to certain demands, including turning over all ballot envelopes or images of them, routers, network logs, and all county registered voter records to date.
“There was no fraud, there wasn’t an injection of ballots from Asia nor was there a satellite that beamed votes into our election equipment. It’s time for all elected officials to tell the truth and stop encouraging conspiracy theories,” Sellers said.
Sellers concluded his portion of the response by the auditors to release their report, as well as asking them to “be prepared to defend any accusations of misdeeds in court.”
A Republican official serving as a liaison between the Arizona state senate and the private contractor conducting a election recount on its behalf resigned on Wednesday, but changed his mind soon after.
“I’ve always tried to act as a man of integrity and honesty and I’m sure I don’t accomplish that all the time, but I cannot put a rubber stamp on a product I am being locked out of its development,” Bennett told radio host James Harris Wednesday.
“I’m going to step down today. I’ll issue a statement later for the press later this morning.”
But when contacted by NBC News on later, Bennett said that after talking with Senate President Karen Fann, also a Republican, he had decided not to resign after all.
“It will include me continuing as Senate Liaison,” he said in the message. He did not provide the outlet with a reason for changing his mind.
Fann in a statement Thursday quoted Bennett apologizing for publicizing data from the audit.
She shared a statement attributed to him, which said: “I shared some box counts of how many ballots were in each box, and that got leaked to the press and I apologized to Senate President Fann. I had promised that information would not be leaked to the press, but it indirectly got done, so that’s how I got barred from the audit.”
The audit has been beset by delays and controversy since it was launched in April by the Republican-controlled state senate.
Former President Donald Trump has seized on the audit as part of his bid to delegitimize President Joe Biden’s election win last year, calling on legislatures in other states where he lost to conduct similar audits.
The process of examining ballots in the audit has been concluded, Cyber Ninjas said this week, and contractors are now drawing up a report based on their findings.
The company contracted to audit the 2020 presidential election result in Arizona’s Maricopa County has said that it had received $5.7 million from pro-Trump groups toward the effort, according to multiple reports.
The largest named donor – The America Project with $3,250,000 – is led by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who met with Trump and the conspiracy-theorist lawyer Sidney Powell to plot contesting the result last December, The Washington Post reported.
America’s Future, which was listed as having contributed $976,000, lists former National Security Advisor and prominent Trump supporter Michael Flynn as its chair, the Associated Press reported.
Voices and Votes, listed as contributing $605,000, is led by Christina Bobb and Chanel Rion, correspondents for hard-right news network OANN where they have issued calls for donations, the AP reported.
LDFFTAR/EIFFTAR – known as “The Legal Defense Fund for the American Republic” – is a Palm Beach-registered nonprofit which is listed as contributing $280,000, according to Fifeld. Its website states it is raising money for audits in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Former President Donald Trump on Saturday praised the Republican-controlled state Senate for its ongoing audit of the 2020 election results while saving plenty of time to berate GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.
At the “Rally to Protect Our Elections” in Phoenix, Trump thanked the “brave and unyielding conservative warriors in the Arizona state Senate” for proceeding with the partisan audit, which is examining the results in Maricopa County, the most populous jurisdiction in the state.
Trump then praised GOP state Senate President Karen Fann and Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward for their support in his effort to review President Joe Biden’s 10,457-vote statewide victory.
Ward, a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2016 and 2018, was called a “fighter” by the former president. However, Ducey, a two-term governor who certified Biden’s win in Arizona last year, much to the consternation of Trump, received no such praise.
“Republican Party chairwoman – somebody that has tremendous courage,” Trump said of Ward. “She’s really a fighter, and she fights your governor, who doesn’t do a damn thing.”
“I called up Kelli recently and said ‘Why wouldn’t the governor want an audit?’ Maybe everything will prove to be correct, which we know won’t happen. … When I did rallies, he always wanted to be in the front row. ‘Sir, could you mention my name please?'”
The former president added: “He wasn’t very popular … I’d introduce him and I wouldn’t get much of an applause … and I kept saying, you know, this guy’s not very popular. But now, you know what? He’s not popular with me either.”
The rallygoers cheered at Trump’s proclamation.
The former president also threw cold water on supporting Ducey in a possible 2022 US Senate campaign.
“He’s not getting my endorsement, I can tell you,” he told the crowd.
Last month, Ducey told KTAR News 92.3 FM that he looked forward to the results of the Maricopa audit, but was confident that the outcome of the race would not change in Arizona.
“I do stand behind by what I did,” he said at the time. “I know that there are people that want to complete this audit. I look forward to the findings.”
In 2020, Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1996 to secure the state’s electoral votes. When Biden won the state last year, he also carried Maricopa by a 50% to 48% margin.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a 2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has repeatedly criticized the audit process and said on Friday that Trump should “accept” his loss to Biden and “move on.”
“The bottom line is that Arizonians are tired of being led by conspiracy theorists,” she said. “They don’t support this fake audit and they’re ready for leaders who are going to put those partisan games aside and deal with real issues.”
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is calling for an investigation into former President Donald Trump and his allies over “intense efforts to interfere” with the counting of ballots in the 2020 election.
In a letter to Arizona’s attorney general that was shared on Twitter, Hobbs urges him to look into reports that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Kelli Ward tried to interfere with election officials, potentially in violation of state law. She said they contacted officials in Maricopa County, where a GOP-backed audit of the election was recently underway, to disrupt ballot counting.
“Local reporting recently uncovered intense efforts to interfere with the tabulation of ballots and canvass of the 2020 election in Maricopa County,” Hobbs said in a tweet. “In Arizona, interfering with election officials is a felony.”
Citing The Arizona Republic’s reporting, the letter says Trump and his allies reached out to election officials during the ballot tabulation process “to induce supervisors to refuse to comply with their duties.”
Hobbs notes an incident in which Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, told the chairman of the board of supervisors, “We need you to stop the counting” and “I know you don’t want to be remembered as the guy who led the charge to certify a fraudulent election.”
The comments were made via text messages that were included in records obtained by The Arizona Republic.
Hobbs called for Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate these reports and enforce any laws that were violated.
“Arizona law protects election officials from those who would seek to interfere with their sacred duties to ascertain and certify the will of the voters,” she wrote. “I urge you to take action not only to seek justice in this instance, but to prevent future attempts to interfere with the integrity of our elections.”
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.”
A correspondent for the far-right One America News Network, who is covering the ongoing Maricopa County election audit, has also been aiding the GOP-backed recount effort since at least December and using her visibility on the pro-Trump channel to fundraise for the controversial audit.
Audit-related documents requested and published by The Center for Public Integrity and watchdog We Are Oversight reveal that Christina Bobb, host of “Weekly Briefing” on OAN was supplying Arizona Senate President Karen Fann with witness declarations, statements, and expert testimony in early December to help bolster the Republican-led effort to undermine election results in Maricopa County, where President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by 45,000 votes.
Fann has been spearheading the ballot-counting, which has been decried by elections experts. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has alleged security violations, software malfunctions, and personnel issues and the US Justice Department has warned the recount may even violate federal law.
In emails between Bobb and Fann from December, Bobb appears to be acting as a liaison between Fann and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, providing Fann declarations from election observers on behalf of the then-president’s attorney.
In a December 4 email, Fann also asked Bobb to pass along lists containing names of “deceased or illegal aliens” who allegedly voted that Bobb’s team reportedly said they would send. An additional document shared by the Center for Public Integrity’s Carrie Levine includes a report from Donald J. Trump for President to be presented by Giuliani, which appears to be referenced in the email.
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. 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 since the election had already been audited more than once by credible firms.
In addition to playing a long-time behind-the-scenes supportive role, Bobb has also been covering the audit since it began in April. BuzzFeed News reported earlier this year that Bobb and OAN are getting special access to the effort that other local outlets have been denied. The Trump-approved network was also given primary access to livestream the audit process.
In an impromptu CNN interview last week, Fann cited OAN’s live coverage of the audit as proof that the entire process has been transparent.
When CNN reporter Kyung Lah pushed back, Fann feigned insult.
“Are you saying OAN is not a credible news source?” Fann asked. “Okay, I’ll remember that. CNN is saying that OAN is not a credible one.”
But Fann was corresponding with OAN’s Bobb about the recount effort as early as December and emails released last week by American Oversight show the lawmaker was also aware that Bobb was doing her own fundraising to support the audit through a group called Voices and Votes.
Fann did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.
On April 9, Bobb tweeted about her organization and asked her followers to donate to support the Arizona audit. Later that day, she said the group reached its $150,000 fundraising goal, but the correspondent has continued to solicit financial support on social media and on-air at OAN.
In May, Bobb told BuzzFeed that her employer is not “in any way” affiliated with Voices and Votes or her fundraising “other than allowing me to mention my efforts on air.” She also told the outlet that OAN has not received any perks in return for Voices and Votes’ support.
Bobb did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Though OAN’s partisanship has been well-documented, Bobb’s ongoing promotion of baseless claims about the 2020 election results, in tandem with her overt support of the partisan Arizona audit as she covers the effort for a news network, is new ground when it comes to journalistic ethics.
OAN did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
And as the Maricopa spectacle begins to wind down – AZCentral reported that auditors are on track to finish counting ballots this week – the long-term repercussions of the Arizona audit are only beginning to come into view.
On Tuesday, state senators from Georgia and a senator from Alaska visited the audit site on the tail of three Pennsylvania legislators who toured last week. An audit official told KTAR News lawmakers from Virginia and Wisconsin may also fly in later this week.
The slew of observers comes as GOP state reps across the country field growing calls for similar audit efforts of their own, more than six months after Biden unequivocally beat Trump.