PHOENIX — In a point-by-point rebuke titled “Correcting the Record,” the Maricopa County Elections Department on Wednesday rejected every one of 76 claims made by Arizona Senate Republicans’ review of the 2020 election results.
“Despite all evidence to the contrary, false allegations continue to persist and damage voter confidence,” according to the report.
“Nearly every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions, and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws.”
Here's what we know about the new report:
Response to Senate's September report
The county’s 93-page report is a response to the Arizona Senate GOP report issued in September, as well as to claims made by the Senate’s contractors when they presented their work.
The county report was provided to 12 News ahead of its release at a Maricopa County Board meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The board oversees elections in the country’s second-largest voting jurisdiction. The county report was put together by Elections Department staff, with assistance from an outside contractor.
Report debunks explosive allegations
Claim that data was deleted: The report aims its harshest criticism at contractor Ben Cotton, founder of a digital forensics firm called CyFIR.
“There is not a single accurate claim in his analysis,” the report says.
Cotton delivered the most explosive allegation at the September presentation: Maricopa County intentionally deleted election data on its computers before the Republican review started.
The crowd in the Senate gallery cheered as he spoke. To many, that appeared to suggest potential criminal activity.
Maricopa County’s response: “The statement is baseless and insinuates malfeasance. There is no evidence to support this claim.”
The county said its November 2020 election files were archived because of space constraints on its computers. The Senate never subpoenaed the archived files.
"The inclusion of some of these claims and recommendations demonstrate CyFIR's misunderstanding of how cybersecurity best practices are implemented,” the county report says.
Thousands of Ballots Questioned: Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, the one-man firm hired by Republican Senate President Karen Fann to oversee the election review, claimed more than 53,000 ballots were improperly voted.
The largest share were more than 23,000 ballots voted from a prior address.
“Our analysis found that Cyber Ninjas made faulty and inaccurate conclusions,” the county responded.
In a running theme, the county said Cyber Ninjas - working on its first election review - didn’t know what it was doing.
“Maricopa County election professionals found seven false claims, 23 inaccurate claims, and nine misleading claims about the ballots in question," the report says.
“This includes faulty conclusions about voters who moved, early voting files, certified results, voter registration information, the county’s ballot duplication processes, and ballots for military and overseas voters.
“At the heart of these inaccuracies is a basic misunderstanding or ignorance of election laws and procedures."
The county said it found fewer than 100 questionable ballots out of the 2.1 million that were counted:
“Our analysis found 37 instances where a voter may have unlawfully cast multiple ballots. We have forwarded these instances to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for further investigation. We also found 50 instances in which a ballot was potentially double-counted.”
Many claims debunked in real-time
Many of the claims in the Senate report were debunked by the county in real-time on Twitter, as the report was being released last September.
The county’s Elections Department is issuing its own report five days before the start of Arizona’s new legislative session, on Monday.
Republicans have had designs of using their election review - and any potential crimes uncovered by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office - to push for dramatic changes in state election laws during the 2022 session.
The Maricopa County report might limit that effort.
Origin of Senate Report
After President Donald Trump’s defeat more than a year ago, Senate Republicans embarked on what they labeled a first-of-its-kind “forensic election audit.”
Media reports revealed that Trump and his allies had pressured Maricopa County elections officials to do something about the election results before Congress certified the election on Jan. 6.
Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to lose Maricopa County in 72 years. Democrat Joe Biden's victory here helped put him in the White House.
The Senate’s partisan review was funded, promoted and run by individuals who peddled the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
Yet the review, which delved into conspiracy theories as bizarre as a hunt for bamboo ballot paper, failed to turn up any evidence of election fraud.
In fact, Cyber Ninjas’ recount of 2.1 million ballots came close to matching the election results that delivered Maricopa County to Biden.
“Truth is truth and numbers are numbers,” Fann, who commissioned the review without a vote by the full Senate, told reporters on Sept. 24, after the results were presented.
But she added that there were "broken statutes" and flawed election procedures.
What Comes Next
Before the Senate Republicans’ election review was released in September, Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich had agreed to investigate its findings.
That was four months ago.
Now Brnovich, who is running in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate, has come under fire from Trump and fellow Republicans for being slow to file criminal charges.
Brnovich hasn’t commented on the inquiry.
Former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who was ousted in the 2020 election, has said he was interviewed by Brnovich’s investigators.
12 News has learned that County Board members have also been contacted by the investigators.
It’s still not over
Senate Republicans' election review was supposed to wrap up in about six weeks. It's now entering its ninth month.
The review was hung up by a squabble over claims floated by conspiracy theorists that Maricopa County's computer servers might have been hacked.
Independent experts have verified that the computers are not connected to the internet.
But the Senate and the county worked out a deal for a three-person IT team to investigate the equipment.
According to a county spokesman, the IT team was being "finalized" over the Christmas break.
Former Republican Congressman John Shadegg is overseeing the team at a cost of $500 an hour.
Shadegg and the IT team's costs will be covered by county taxpayers.
The Senate partisan review has cost taxpayers an estimated $4 million and counting.
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