Tuesday, October 4, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Arizona GOP election recount tallies wider Biden victory, finds no major irregularities

A consulting firm Republicans hired to look for fraud found 261 fewer Trump votes and 99 more for Biden than the county counted in November.

(CN) — Although an eight-month review of the November 2020 election results in Arizona’s largest county showed some differences from certified results, the recount confirmed what the state and U.S. Congress certified — Donald Trump lost, and there was no widespread fraud that could have changed that result.

“These are all very small numbers,” said Doug Logan, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas, which conducted the review of Maricopa County results, referring to discrepancies between the county’s numbers and those found by his firm.

The review “very accurately correlates” to the official results, he said.

Logan and two other witnesses recited a lengthy list of suspected and identified irregularities, numerous times saying there could be explanations for them. But Logan admitted the recount gave Trump 261 fewer votes and President Joe Biden, who won the state by slightly more than 10,000 votes, 99 more.

The presentation caps eight months of work ordered by the Republican-controlled state Senate.

After two audits failed to change the election result or show significant errors, GOP senators asked for a third. When the county refused, the Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, a cyber-security firm with no election audit experience, to review the election.

Arizona Democrats reacted to the Cyber Ninjas report even before the presentation, based on leaked draft copies. In a news conference Monday morning, Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, a Democrat, said the audit was a political game aimed at eroding election trust.

“They confirmed that Biden won by an even larger margin. This is an embarrassment for them,” she said. “The concern is that they will try to use this report to find additional ways to suppress the vote.”

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the five-member Board of Supervisors, pointed to more than a dozen lawsuits over the election as evidence there was no fraud.

“Every one of the lawsuits was dismissed,” Gallardo said. “This is ridiculous. It has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. We don’t even know the total cost. Over what? One big lie? We’re not dealing with rational people here.”

Trump weighed in Friday morning.

“The leaked report conclusively shows there were enough fraudulent votes, mystery votes, and fake votes to change the outcome of the election four or five times over,” he wrote in an emailed statement contradicting what Cyber Ninjas told the state Senate.

Though reviewers found no widespread fraud and didn’t challenge results, the reviewers identified areas of concern.

Security so bad, said Ben Cotton, who reviewed cyber security in the audit, that a “kiddie hacker” could break in within 10 minutes. Administrators used shared accounts and matching passwords for various accounts, making it impossible to track who is doing what.

Antivirus definitions haven’t been updated since August 2019 — something the county told him they couldn’t do, because such changes would invalidate the machines’ certification. But more than 1,400 other .exe and .dll files were either created or modified after the Dominion software was installed, Cotton said.

“If we assume that what the county indicated was true, then that system would not have been certified prior to the 2020 election” because of those changes, he said.

Security logs prior to February 2021 were not provided to Cyber Ninjas. Cotton does not know if they exist, he said.

The mix of shared logins and passwords makes it impossible to know who deleted more than 1 million files between Nov. 1 and March 16, including ballot images, voting machine logs and files showing results, Cotton said.

Ballot scanners also had deleted files — 59,387 from one scanner on March 3, a month before it was turned over, and 196,463 on another one the same day.

“This may be part of a normal process, but the timing of this becomes somewhat suspect, especially when we didn’t see these deletions on (a third scanner),” he said.

Windows security logs were set to max out at 20mb of data, meaning the oldest one was February, despite a federal law requiring logs to be kept longer. In February, March and April, almost 40,000 security logs were overwritten by an admin account shared by multiple employees, Cotton said.

“We’ve identified those people, but we will not release their names” because of security concerns, he said.

On Feb. 1 — the day before the review was set to begin — someone tried to delete thousands of files generated by Dominion software, he said.

Shiva Ayyadurai, an MIT lecturer and Republican candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, addressed signature anomalies. They did not check for signature validity — just whether a signature was present.

In one “critical anomaly,” reviewers saw stamps approving unsigned ballots “behind” boxes that should contain signatures. In other examples, the approval stamps were in blank signature boxes.

“I’m sure there is some explanation for this,” he said, drawing laughs in the Senate chamber.

Among ballots processed before Election Day, 95% of signatures were legible. In the days after the election, 95% were not readable. Approved ballots with no signature also increased in the latter days of voting.

“These are pure blanks, and they’re being approved,” Ayyadurai said.

In three examples they found ballots with similar signatures, same names, addresses and telephone numbers, but different voter IDs.

Senate Republicans ordered the review after Maricopa County refused to let them do their own, third review of results, said Senate President Karen Fann, adding that people not only in Arizona but nationwide do not trust our elections.

One poll showed 45% of Arizona voters don’t trust their elections, she said.

“That should be 1% if anything at all,” she said.

Jack Sellers, the Republican chairman of the board, said the county will look ahead and continue to resist efforts to undermine the election.

“As we have done before, we will correct their errors and misrepresentations about the process they don’t understand. I hope those holding onto their anger for the past 10 months will see the truth and put their energy into supporting the democratic process instead of trying to tear it down,” he said Thursday via Twitter.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.