‘This Isn’t A Real Audit’: Arizona Election Officials Blast Cyber Ninjas

The controversial Arizona 2020 election review is almost over, but top officials in the state’s largest county and Secretary of State’s office aren’t waiting for the conclusions, launching a pair of preemptive strikes against a report that could land as soon as next week. Two Arizona elections officials — one Republican and one Democrat — issued extensive reports Thursday blasting the private firm Cyber Ninjas’ partisan “audit” of ballots in Maricopa County, which is expected to be released next week.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, released a prebuttal laying out all of her office’s criticisms of the so-called election “audit.” She detailed the pre-and post-election testing election equipment underwent in Maricopa County and called the state Senate-led effort “secretive and disorganized” that routinely discarded best practices of an actual audit. Stephen Richer, the Republican county recorder in Maricopa County, on Thursday issued a lengthy report of his own in the form of an open letter to state Republicans, challenging the credentials of the reviewers and defending his own Republican stances. Election officials in the state have opposed it and the firm leading the effort, called Cyber Ninjas, nearly every step of the way, including Richer, Hobbs, and the GOP-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Since late April, contractors hired by the Republican-controlled state Senate have been reviewing all the ballots cast in Maricopa County, which President Joe Biden won en route to flipping the state, along with examining election equipment. The process was initially supposed to take 60 days but has stretched on well past that.

The review in Arizona has been plagued by disorganization and in-fighting. Cyber Ninjas’ owner is a supporter of Donald Trump and has promoted conspiracy theories about the election. Officials have said they were checking for bamboo fibers in ballots, a nod to a fringe theory that ballots were smuggled in from Asia. It has been funded by a nonprofit run by a correspondent for the far-right One America News Network and a former tech CEO who has poured millions into promoting Trump’s lies about the election.

The state Senate calls the Cyber Ninjas’ work an “audit,” a label almost universally rejected by election officials and experts because the Arizona effort has poorly defined processes and an embrace of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

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