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Governor sidesteps questions on audit amid mounting issues

By: - May 7, 2021 7:44 am

The floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum during the Arizona Senate’s audit of the 2020 general election in Maricopa County. Photo by Courtney Pedroza | Washington Post/pool

Gov. Doug Ducey declined to comment on the state Senate’s ongoing audit of the 2020 election, an event that has attracted national attention over the past several weeks as auditors chase bizarre conspiracy theories, proponents of baseless claims that the election was rigged against Donald Trump count ballots, and the U.S. Department of Justice seeks assurances that federal laws aren’t being broken.

“Let this be completed and then we can talk about what the findings are,” Ducey told reporters on Thursday at an elementary school in Tempe.

Asked whether he has any concerns about the audit, Ducey said he’s focused on his day job. As to how the audit may be affecting Arizona’s image on a national level, the governor said, “This is an issue in every state, and it’s been an issue in the last several elections.”

The governor has repeatedly declined to comment on the audit, from the protracted legal battle between the Senate and Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which ultimately led to a judge ordering the county to submit to Senate President Karen Fann’s subpoenas for ballots and other election materials, to the revelations of the past few weeks.

The audit and hand recount ordered by Fann got off to a rocky start and new issues have continually arisen since it began in late April. Fann hired Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity company, to oversee the audit, despite the company’s lack of experience with elections and the fact that its owner, Doug Logan, repeatedly promoted false claims of election fraud.

Election experts have raised numerous concerns about what they say are a lack of proper policies and procedures about handling of ballots, among other issues. Cyber Ninjas refused to even disclose its policies and procedures to the public until a judge ordered their release in a lawsuit brought by the Arizona Democratic Party. 

The audit is not only counting nearly 2.1 million ballots and examining the tabulation machines that Maricopa County election officials used to count them. One audit official said workers are examining the fibers in the ballots to determine if the paper contained bamboo, deemed a potential indicator of counterfeit ballots from Asia. An inventor and treasurer hunter created technology being used by the audit that he claims can detect counterfeit ballots by inspecting folds in the paper. And workers initially examined ballots with ultraviolet lights for watermarks, despite Maricopa County’s insistence that it doesn’t use watermarks on its ballots.

Some GOP lawmakers have stated their intent to sponsor legislation to address the audit’s findings.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice informed Fann that the audit may be violating federal laws requiring the preservation of ballots for nearly two years after an election, and that a plan to knock on people’s doors to inquire about their voter registration and history could violate anti-voter intimidation provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Fann’s contract with Cyber Ninjas is for only $150,000, though she acknowledges she knew when she signed it that the audit would cost far more. Outside groups have raised funds, largely from unknown sources, to pay for the audit. 

Trump and some of his supporters have loudly proclaimed that the audit will show that the election in Arizona, which President Joe Biden won by 10,457 votes, was plagued by massive fraud, and that the revelation will uncover similar problems in other states and ultimately show that Trump actually won the election.

Ducey has largely avoided addressing the election fraud claims, but has defended the 2020 election in Arizona as secure and fair. Trump publicly castigated him for certifying the election, despite a total lack of evidence of fraud, malfeasance or other problems.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”