PHOENIX (AP) – A Republican-backed review of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona’s largest county ended Friday without producing any evidence to support former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election.
After six months of searching for evidence of fraud, the cabinet hired by Republican lawmakers released a report that experts described as riddled with errors, biases and flawed methodology. Yet even that partisan scrutiny resulted in a vote count that would not have altered the result, finding that Biden won 360 more votes than the official certified results last year.
EXPLAINER: As Arizona Election ‘Audit’ Ends, New ones Begin
The discovery brought an embarrassing end to a widely criticized, and at times bizarre, quest to prove allegations that election officials and the courts have dismissed. This has no effect on the certified final results. Previous reviews of the 2.1 million ballots by non-partisan professionals who followed state law found no significant issues with the vote count in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix. Biden won the county by 45,000 votes, the key to their 10,500 victory over Arizona.
For many critics, the findings, presented at a hearing by the Cyber Ninjas firm on Friday, underscored the dangerous futility of the exercise, which helped fuel skepticism about the validity of the 2020 election and generated mimic audits at the national level.
“We haven’t learned anything new,” said Matt Masterson, a senior US election security official in the Trump administration. “What we’ve learned from all of this is that the Ninjas have been paid millions of dollars, politicians have raised millions of dollars, and Americans’ confidence in democracy is lower.”
Cyber Ninjas acknowledged in their report that there was “no substantial difference” between the manual count of the group’s ballots and the official count. But the report also made a series of other disputed claims that auditors said should cast doubt on the accuracy and warrant further investigation.
Trump issued statements on Friday falsely claiming the review revealed widespread fraud. He urged Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican vying for his party’s nomination to the US Senate, to open an investigation.
Brnovich, who has been criticized by Trump supporters for not supporting the review sufficiently, did not pledge: “I will take all necessary steps that are supported by evidence and where I have legal authority. “he said in a statement before the report was released. released.
Republicans in the state Senate ordered the review under pressure from Trump and his allies, subpoenaing Maricopa County election records and selecting inexperienced and pro-Trump listeners. It took months longer than expected and was largely pilloried by the experts.
Yet the Arizona review has become a model that Trump supporters are pushing to replicate in other swing states where Biden has won. The Pennsylvania Democratic Attorney General continued Thursday to block a subpoena issued by the GOP for a wide range of election materials. In Wisconsin, a retired conservative state Supreme Court judge is leading a Republicans-ordered inquiry into the 2020 election and this week threatened to subpoena election officials who fail to comply. Supporters also called for additional scrutiny of the Arizona election on Friday.
None of the critics can change Biden’s victory, which was certified by officials in each of the swing states he won and by Congress on Jan.6 – after Trump supporters, fueled by the same bogus accusations that generated the audits, stormed the United States Capitol to try to prevent certification of its loss.
Arizona’s report points to a number of shortcomings in electoral procedures and suggests that the final tally still cannot be relied on. Several were challenged by election experts, while members of the Republican-led county supervisory board, which oversees the election, disputed the claims on Twitter.
“Sadly, the report is also littered with errors and flawed conclusions about how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 general election,” county officials tweeted.
Election officials say it’s because the review team is biased, ignored detailed Arizona-law counting procedures, and had no experience in the process. complex area of electoral audits.
Two of the report’s recommendations stood out because they showed that its authors misunderstood electoral procedures – that there should be safeguards for paper ballots and that voting machines should not be connected to the Internet. . All Maricopa ballots are already paper, with machines only used to count the votes, and these tabulators are not connected to the Internet.
The review also checked voters’ names against a commercial database, revealing that 23,344 people said they had moved before the ballots came out in October. While the review suggests something inappropriate, election officials note that voters such as students, those who own vacation homes, or the military can move to temporary locations while still voting legally at the address they are at. registered.
“A competent examiner of an election would not make such a claim,” said Trey Grayson, a former Republican secretary of state in Kentucky.
The election review was led by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, whose cabinet has never performed an election audit before. Logan previously worked with lawyers 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 underway.
Logan and others involved in the review presented their findings to two Arizona senators on Friday. It started with Shiva Ayyadurai, a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic who claims to have invented email, presenting an analysis based on ‘pattern recognition’ that reported alleged anomalies in the way mail-in ballots performed. been processed at the end of the election.
Maricopa County tweeted that the model was simply the electoral office according to state law.
“‘Anomaly’ seems to be another way of saying Senate contractors don’t understand electoral processes,” the county said during testimony.
Logan went on to acknowledge “the ballots that were provided to us for us to count … correlated very precisely with the official poll.” He then continued to report statistical discrepancies – including voters who moved – which he said warranted further investigation.
The journal has a habit of exploring wacky conspiracy theories, spending time checking bamboo fibers on ballots to see if they were secretly shipped from Asia. It has also served as a content generation machine in Trump’s efforts to sow skepticism about his loss, by spreading misleading, out of context information that the former president circulates long after it has been debunked.
In July, for example, Logan presented a series of claims stemming from his misunderstanding the election data he was analyzing, including that 74,000 mail-in ballots were recorded as received but not sent. Trump has repeatedly amplified the claims. Logan had compared two databases that track different things.
The Arizona Senate agreed to spend $ 150,000 on the exam, plus security and installation costs. This is nothing compared to the nearly $ 5.7 million paid in late July by Trump’s allies.
Maricopa County’s official vote count was conducted in front of bipartisan observers, as were the legally required audits to ensure the proper functioning of the voting machines. A spot check by manual counting found a perfect match.
Two additional post-election examinations carried out by federally-accredited election experts also found no evidence that the voting machines changed votes or were connected to the Internet. The county’s supervisory board ordered extraordinary reviews in an attempt to prove to Trump supporters that there was no problem.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press editors Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed.