Maricopa County officials are furious at Republican ‘audit’ of their votes. Emphasis on furious


To recap, we knew that state Senate Republicans had retained Cyber Ninjas, a firm that has no election experience but is headed by a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, to “audit” the Maricopa County ballots—which have already been reviewed and audited by professional auditing firms. We knew that Cyber Ninjas was prepared to have its workers use blue ink pens, which could permanently spoil ballots since ballot scanners can’t read blue ink. Only when a reporter caught that did Cyber Ninjas replace the blue pens with red and green ones. We knew that security around the ballots was at one point so lax that a news team repeatedly gained access to the areas where they were stored. We knew that the counting was haphazard at best, so that it’s possible some ballots were counted twice and others not at all. We knew that they were, bizarrely, looking for bamboo fibers in ballots because that would have supposedly proven a conspiracy theory that had ballots being flown in, post-election, from South Korea. (And if you’re thinking, “Isn’t it kinda racist to assume that South Korean efforts to fake ballots would involve bamboo?” You’re not wrong.)

But there’s more. The board of supervisors’ letter details a series of accusations and demands from Fann and Cyber Ninjas that show more and more ignorance of the elections and vote-counting process—and a couple of things that are downright dangerous. In her letter, Fann accused Maricopa County of refusing to provide all the passwords needed to conduct an audit. Their answer is twofold: They have provided every password they have, but some of the needed passwords for voting machines are proprietary and belong to Dominion. (Yes, the Dominion that is suing a series of members of Team Trump and right-wing news outlets for their election conspiracy theories.) Maricopa County’s contract with Dominion does not allow it to access those passwords, and Fann, they write, could have easily taken a look at that contract. “Instead you call us liars and insult us, when a simple public records request would have helped you avoid such indecent conduct.”

But! Yes, the previous audits of Maricopa County votes did have access to those passwords. Why? Because the county retained firms accredited by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission as voting system testing laboratories. So why can’t the state Senate Republican effort get that access? “Your chosen ‘auditors,’ the Cyber Ninjas, are certainly many things. But ‘accredited by the EAC’ is not one of them. Regardless, we cannot give you a password that we do not possess any more than we can give you the formula for Coca Cola. We do not have it; we have no legal right to acquire it; and so, we cannot give it to you.” 

Are you getting the feeling the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is a little bit angry? Well, get a load of this: Fann and Cyber Ninjas are also demanding access to the county’s routers, which, the board writes, would be a serious security risk, because: “The County’s routers provide a blueprint to the County’s network. Were that blueprint to fall into the wrong hands, the results could be catastrophic.”

That anger—at the insult of an enforced “audit” to check the work they carefully did conducting an election, at the accusations that they’re lying, at the threats to the security of their own systems—comes through in virtually every paragraph of the letter. And the letter is 13 pages. 

Some more samples: A tweet from an official account had accused Maricopa County of deleting data, but, the supervisors responded, the screenshot offered as evidence of deleted files not only didn’t prove deleted data, but suggested a series of possible errors the “auditors” might have made. 

Regardless, the failure of your so called ‘auditors’ to locate data files on the copy they made of the County’s server speaks more to their ineptitude than it does to the integrity and actions of our dedicated public employees who effectively and accurately run the elections in the fourth largest county in the United States,” the board wrote.

A demand by Fann for chain of custody documentation on the ballots left the board “stunned,” they wrote, at her “spectacular lack of understanding” of how these things work. Because yes, they already supplied full chain of custody documentation. A series of questions from Fann about how ballot bags and boxes were sealed and how ballot transmittal slips work drew technical and simultaneously contemptuous explanations of how she was yet again showing that she and the “auditors” she had hired didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.

They conclude the letter by calling on Fann and her fellow state Senate Republicans to call off the “audit,” which is nowhere near finishing—about 500,000 ballots have been counted so far in a county where 2.1 million ballots were cast.

“We express our united view that your ‘audit’, no matter what your intentions were in the beginning, has become a spectacle that is harming all of us. Our state has become a laughingstock. Worse, this ‘audit’ is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic,” they write, going on to cite the blue pens and the bamboo and other signs of incompetence or malicious intent.

“Unfortunately, this has become a partisan issue, and it should not be one,” the board—which, again, is majority Republican—writes. “It is time to make a choice to defend the Constitution and the Republic. As County elected officials, we come from different political parties, but we stand united together to defend the Constitution and the Republic in our opposition to the Big Lie. We ask everyone to join us in standing for the truth. The November 3, 2020 general election was free and fair and conducted by the Elections Department with integrity and honor.”

But of course, all this is the point. If Republicans like those in the Arizona Senate and at Cyber Ninjas and on Team Trump can’t actually overturn the 2020 election—as they tried to do, including through violence on Jan. 6—they will do their best to undermine public faith in elections while passing restrictive voting laws that will help rig 2022 and 2024 in their favor. It’s striking how some Republicans—like the ones in the Maricopa County government, and elections officials in Georgia, and Rep. Liz Cheney—have tried to stand up to this with so little success. It’s not that there aren’t some Republicans out there who think the truth matters and democracy matters. It’s the there are far more Republicans dedicated to driving those people out of their party.



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