Election officials rebut Arizona ballot review claims

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In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo Maricopa County elections officials count ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Election officials in Arizona’s most populous county on Wednesday presented a point-by-point rebuttal of claims made in a partisan review of the 2020 election that former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters have used to promote the myth that Trump lost because of fraud.

Election administrators and the mostly Republican leaders of Maricopa County have always maintained that the review, conducted by Trump supporters on behalf of state Senate Republicans, was deeply flawed.

The detailed response presented in a public meeting of the County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday rebutted virtually all the claims made by contractors hired by the state Senate to review its election procedures, equipment, voter registration rolls, and ballot tabulation.

The report said that after “an in-depth analysis and review of the reports and presentations issued by the Senate’s contractors, we determined that nearly every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions, and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws.”

“It’s my hope this will be the last word on the November 2020 election,” Republican board Chairman Bill Gates said at the start of the hearing.

The county experts did find some issues when they analyzed claims in the Senate report. The county review validated only a handful of the 33,000 ballots that the Senate report said could have been illegally cast because voters had moved prior to the election.

Five voters were identified as having voted in more than one county, and six people may have voted twice in Maricopa County. The county report also found 27 cases where ballots were counted that were cast by people who died before they were returned in the mail; those were referred to the state attorney general for more investigation and possible prosecution.

The county is reviewing another 100 cases involving people who died close to the election but still cast ballots. The Senate report had identified 298 voters who had potentially cast a ballot but died before the election.

In all, the county found 38 instances where a ballot may have been illegally cast, and all have been sent to the attorney general’s office.

The county report also said that election workers had inadvertently double counted a batch of 50 ballots.

But the number of vote counting errors and potential illegal votes would not have affected the outcome of the election. President Joe Biden won Maricopa County by about 45,000 votes, key to his 10,500-vote win of Arizona. Previous reviews of the 2.1 million county ballots by nonpartisan professionals that followed state law have found no significant problem with the vote count in the county, which includes metro Phoenix.

The Senate report was overseen by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company with no election review experience. Its CEO, Doug Logan, previously worked with attorneys and Trump supporters trying to overturn the 2020 election and appeared in a film questioning the results of the contest while the ballot review was ongoing.

The Senate’s closely watched ballot review ended in September without producing proof to support Trump’s claims of a stolen election. Experts described the report presented by Cyber Ninjas as riddled with errors, bias, and flawed methodology.

Still, Republican Senate President Karen Fann asked GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate issues raised in the report. That review is ongoing, and a spokeswoman for Brnovich declined comment.

The review began with a sweeping subpoena issued by Senate Republican leaders in late 2020 as Trump and his allies searched in vain for evidence to support his claim the election was stolen. The subpoena demanded access to all 2.1 million ballots, the machines that counted them, and troves of digital election data from Maricopa County, home to 60% of Arizona voters.

The Cyber Ninjas report confirmed Biden’s narrow victory in Maricopa County but claimed a number of shortcomings in election procedures and suggested the final tally still could not be relied upon. Trump has repeatedly pointed to those claims in his rallies and public statements.

Cyber Ninjas and other contractors alleged that election computers were connected to the internet, that there were tens of thousands of potentially illegally cast ballots, and that the county purged computer files that could contain evidence of fraud.

Wednesday’s county rebuttal said all those claims were false or misleading, and the changing vote-counting procedures left even the hand recount suspect.

“If you are biased or not using an objective process, you’re likely to come to a faulty conclusion,” said Scott Jarrett, director of the county Elections Department.

The former president is scheduled to host a rally January 15 outside Florence, his second in Arizona since his election loss.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.