What Might Imminent Maricopa County Audit Report Reveal About 2020 Elections in Arizona?

The report on the 2020 election audit in Maricopa County, which kicked off in late April 2021 and envisaged examining 2.1 million ballots and voting equipment, is being drafted, according to Arizona GOP.

On 16 August, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann confirmed that audit companies are currently drafting the Maricopa County 2020 election audit report to present it to the senate team. “The Senate team will then review for accuracy and clarity for the final report which will be released publicly,” tweeted Fann.

Arizona GOP State Senator Wendy Rogers suggested in her Monday tweet that the preliminary report was “coming in several days.”

On Tuesday, the Senate president appeared on the show Wide Angle with Brendon Fallon to discuss the hurdles and inconsistencies she and her GOP counterparts faced during the forensic audit.

In particular, she drew attention to the Maricopa Board of Supervisors flip-flopping over the need to conduct the recount. Fann claimed that initially the Maricopa officials welcomed the idea of carrying out the audit together with the Senate for the sake of election integrity, however, at some point they abruptly changed their mind and began hindering the recount, refusing to provide subpoenaed election materials.

“They have said they [will] give us the routers then they said they won’t because it was tied to security with the deputy sheriffs and then the latest is: ‘Oh no, there were no routers at all’,” the Senate president recalled.

​When asked what was behind this apparently inconsistent behaviour on the part of Maricopa officials, Fann responded:

“I think that their attorneys said: ‘We don’t know what we might find in a forensic audit and this could be opening up a lot of questions that you may not want people asking.’ Just my own personal opinion here.”  

Earlier this month, Maricopa County officials and Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor which provided election equipment to the county, slammed the Arizona GOP subpoenas as “illegal and unenforceable.” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has opened an investigation into whether Maricopa County broke the law by refusing to comply.

There appeared to be some “external influence” steering the Maricopa officials, claims Fann. She noted that the liberal media started bashing the Senate GOP’s recount initiative even before the audit started, while the Democratic Party was “100 percent against” the examination of Maricopa ballots and voting equipment by independent auditors.

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. Arizona’s largest county has approved nearly $3 million for new vote-counting machines to replace those given to legislative Republicans for a partisan review of the 2020 election. The GOP-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said Wednesday, July 14, 2021 that the machines were compromised because they were in the control of firms not accredited to handle election equipment. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

Duplicates, Non-Matching Numbers

Meanwhile, in mid-July, the team of auditors hired by the Arizona Senate raised the red flag suggesting that the number of votes certified by the county and the number of ballots counted in the audit do not match.

Moreover, Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the leading group of independent auditors, announced that auditors could not find records concerning tens of thousands of mail-in ballots in Maricopa County: “We have 74,000 [mail-in ballots] that came back from individuals where we don’t have a clear indication that they were ever sent out to them,” he underscored.

The auditors also claimed that they found 18,000 people who voted but were removed from voter rolls “soon after the election”; 11,326 people who were not on the voter rolls on 7 November 2020, but appeared on the rolls on 4 December 2020; and 3,981 people who voted after registering after 15 October 2020.

In addition, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett revealed during the 15 July hearing in the Arizona upper chamber that thousands of duplicate ballots with no serial numbers were found during the audit.

​”In Arizona and every other state if you have a spoiled ballot… we make a duplicate ballot and you run the duplicate on through because the spoiled ballot won’t go through,” Fann explained while speaking to Brendon Fallon this Tuesday. “Every ballot has a number, 12345, hypothetically, and when you make a duplicate ballot you are supposed to mark that one 12345. So you know that there’s only one duplicate ballot that is replacing one original spoiled ballot. We have boxes of ballots that are marked duplicate and none of them have corresponding numbers on them.”

Fann insisted that the audit initiative is designed to restore election integrity as voting rules appear to have been violated for quite a while. However, the reported discrepancies also trigger concerns about the 2020 race outcome among US conservatives given that President Joe Biden won Arizona by a razor-thin margin of 10,000 votes, or 0.3 percentage points.

Sign directs voters to a polling station on Election Day in Tucson, Arizona, U.S. November 3, 2020

Arizona Audit Comes Under Heavy Criticism

The Maricopa Board of Supervisors has repeatedly dismissed the findings of the Senate audit team, suggesting that any inconsistencies found during the recount could be caused by the lack of experience and professionalism of the auditors. For her part, Arizona’s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs denounced the audit as a political PR stunt aimed at jeopardising public trust in the outcome of the 2020 elections. Besides this, voting machines examined during the 2020 election audit in Arizona were decertified in Maricopa County under the pretext that they could now “pose a risk to free and fair elections.”

The audit was also challenged at a federal level: late last month, the US Department of Justice issued a second warning for states conducting post-election audits, suggesting that they could violate federal laws.

On 16 August, the National Association of Secretaries of State approved a series of recommendations for audits “aimed at combating Arizona-style, slapdash reviews” of elections, according to Politico. In their new guideline, the secretaries call on audits to have a definitive timeframe with state and local election officials being “an integral part of the post-election audit process.”

They also warned against using third-party auditors to conduct the recount, adding that outside auditors should work closely with election officials. When it comes to voting machines, they should be audited by a “federally or a state accredited test lab,” according to the new recommendations.