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GOP Review: No Proof AZ Election Stolen09/25 08:48

   

   PHOENIX (AP) -- A Republican-backed review of the 2020 presidential election 
in Arizona's largest county ended Friday without producing proof to support 
former President Donald Trump's false claims of a stolen election.

   After six months of searching for evidence of fraud, the firm hired by 
Republican lawmakers issued a report that experts described as riddled with 
errors, bias and flawed methodology. Still, even that partisan review came up 
with a vote tally that would not have altered the outcome, finding that Biden 
won by 360 more votes than the official results certified last year.

   The finding was an embarrassing end to a widely criticized, and at times 
bizarre, quest to prove allegations that election officials and courts have 
rejected. It has no bearing on the final, certified results. Previous reviews 
of the 2.1 million ballots by nonpartisan professionals that followed state law 
have found no significant problem with the vote count in Maricopa County, home 
to Phoenix. Biden won the county by 45,000 votes, key to his 10,500-vote win of 
Arizona.

   For many critics the conclusions, presented at a hearing Friday by the firm 
Cyber Ninjas, underscored the dangerous futility of the exercise, which has 
helped fuel skepticism about the validity of the 2020 election and spawned 
copycat audits nationwide.

   "We haven't learned anything new," said Matt Masterson, a top U.S. election 
security official in the Trump administration. "What we have learned from all 
this is that the Ninjas were paid millions of dollars, politicians raised 
millions of dollars and Americans' trust in democracy is lower."

   Cyber Ninjas acknowledged in its report that there were "no substantial 
differences" between the group's hand count of ballots and the official count. 
But the report also made a series of other disputed claims the auditors say 
should cast doubt on the accuracy and warrant more investigation.

   Trump issued statements Friday falsely claiming the review found widespread 
fraud. He urged Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican vying for 
his party's U.S. Senate nomination, to open an investigation.

   Brnovich, who has been criticized by Trump supporters for not adequately 
backing the review, did not commit: "I will take all necessary actions that are 
supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority," he said in a 
statement before the report was made public.

   Republicans in the state Senate ordered the review under pressure from Trump 
and his allies, subpoenaing the election records from Maricopa County and 
selected the inexperienced, pro-Trump auditors. It took months longer than 
expected and was widely pilloried by experts.

   Still, the Arizona review has become a model that Trump supporters are 
pushing to replicate in other swing states where Biden won. Pennsylvania's 
Democratic attorney general sued Thursday to block a GOP-issued subpoena for a 
wide array of election materials. In Wisconsin, a retired conservative state 
Supreme Court justice is leading a Republican-ordered investigation into the 
2020 election, and this week threatened to subpoena election officials who 
don't comply. Backers also called for additional election reviews in Arizona on 
Friday.

   None of the reviews 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's supporters, fueled by the same false charges that generated the audits, 
stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to prevent certification of his loss.

   The Arizona report claims a number of shortcomings in election procedures 
and suggested the final tally still could not be relied upon. Several were 
challenged by election experts, while members of the Republican-led county 
Board of Supervisors, which oversees elections, disputed claims on Twitter.

   "Unfortunately, the report is also littered with errors & faulty conclusions 
about how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 General Election," county 
officials tweeted.

   Election officials say that's because the review team is biased, ignored the 
detailed vote-counting procedures in Arizona law and had no experience in the 
complex field of election audits.

   Two of the report's recommendations stood out because they showed its 
authors misunderstood election procedures -- that there should be paper ballot 
backups and that voting machines should not be connected to the internet. All 
Maricopa ballots are already paper, with machines only used to tabulate the 
votes, and those tabulators are not connected to the internet.

   The review also checked the names of voters against a commercial database, 
finding 23,344 reported moving before ballots went out in October. While the 
review suggests something improper, election officials note that voters like 
college students, those who own vacation homes or military members can move to 
temporary locations while still legally voting at the address where they are 
registered.

   "A competent reviewer of an election would not make a claim like that," said 
Trey Grayson, a former Republican secretary of state in Kentucky.

   The election review was run by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, whose firm has 
never conducted an election audit before. 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.

   Logan and others involved with the review presented their findings to two 
Arizona senators Friday. It kicked off with Shiva Ayyadurai, a COVID-19 vaccine 
skeptic who claims to have invented email, presenting an analysis relying on 
"pattern recognition" that flagged purported anomalies in the way mail ballots 
were processed at the end of the election.

   Maricopa County tweeted that the pattern was simply the election office 
following state law.

   "'Anomaly' seems to be another way of saying the Senate's contractors don't 
understand election processes," the county posted during the testimony.

   Logan followed up by acknowledging "the ballots that were provided for us to 
count ... very accurately correlated with the official canvass." He then 
continued to flag statistical discrepancies -- including the voters who moved 
-- that he said merited further investigation.

   The review has a history of exploring outlandish conspiracy theories, 
dedicating time to checking for bamboo fibers on ballots to see if they were 
secretly shipped in from Asia. It's also served as a content-generation machine 
for Trump's effort to sow skepticism about his loss, pumping out misleading and 
out-of-context information that the former president circulates long after it's 
been debunked.

   In July, for example, Logan laid out a series of claims stemming from his 
misunderstanding of the election data he was analyzing, including that 74,000 
mail ballots were recorded as received but not sent. Trump repeatedly amplified 
the claims. Logan had compared two databases that track different things.

   Arizona's Senate agreed to spend $150,000 on the review, plus security and 
facility costs. That pales in comparison to the nearly $5.7 million contributed 
as of late July by Trump allies.

   Maricopa County's official vote count was conducted in front of bipartisan 
observers, as were legally required audits meant to ensure voting machines work 
properly. A partial hand-count spot check found a perfect match.

   Two extra post-election reviews by federally certified election experts also 
found no evidence that voting machines switched votes or were connected to the 
internet. The county Board of Supervisors commissioned the extraordinary 
reviews in an effort to prove to Trump backers that there were no problems.

 
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