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Cyber Ninjas releases findings on Maricopa County election audit

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Cyber Ninjas has released its findings on Friday about the Maricopa County election audit of the 2020 General Election. While it confirmed that final results were similar to those certified from the county, including that President Joe Biden won the county, auditors said the report reveals other problems with the election, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity and integrity of the vote.

Five people, including Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, whose firm has never conducted an election audit before, publicly outlined its findings on the Senate floor Friday afternoon.

GOP Senate President Karen Fann has said that the goal for the audit was not to overturn the election results but rather to evaluate the state's election processes and see if changes to state laws were needed. She noted the review found the official count matched the ballots. "This is the most important and encouraging finding of the audit," Fann wrote.

"What you have not seen is about the statutes that were broken," Fann said during Friday's presentation. She sent a letter to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich detailing specific areas where the state's election processes can be improved. Fann says she views the signature verification process and the state's voter rolls as imperfect. Additionally, she claims that the technology and machines that the county used is "too complicated" and claims that the county failed to take basic cybersecurity measures. 

Ballot Tally

The findings by Cyber Ninjas revealed that Biden received 99 more votes than the original canvass conducted by Maricopa County. It also said Trump got 261 fewer votes. According to the audit report, 1,040,873 votes went to Biden while 995,404 went to Trump. So Biden won by 45,469 votes.

  Trump Biden Total
Maricopa County Forensic Audit 995,404 1,040,873 2,088,569
Official Maricopa County Canvass 995,665 1,040,774 2,089,563
Difference (261) 99 (994)

Source: A draft report of the election audit results obtained by Arizona's Family. We did not include the data for the Libertarian candidate or write-in votes.

Cyber Ninjas outlines issues with mail-in ballots

During the presentation, Shiva Ayyadurai, who identifies himself as the inventor of email and an expert in pattern recognition with more than 40 years of experience, raised issues with the signature verification system. Maricopa County says at no point was the verification requirement relaxed.

Blank Signatures & Duplicate Ballots Counted

Ayyadurai showed a presentation slide where he claims one person received two unique Voter ID numbers — signaling a possible issue with duplicate ballots. He wants the county to answer whether or not they received any duplicate early-voting ballots. Maricopa County claims that Cyber Ninjas did not take into account the fact that many Arizonans share the same name. 

Cyber Ninja Elections Audit

Duplicate ballots favored McSally & Trump

Additionally, Cyber Ninjas said the alleged duplicate ballots they discovered favor Trump, Martha McSally, and independent presidential candidate Jorgenson.

Duplicate ballots favored Trump, McSally

Ayyadurai also claims the county "verified and approved" ballots even when the signature box was left unsigned — he is calling for a full signature verification audit. The County says it hired additional staff to contact voters to cure their signature within five days of Election Day, as allowed by state law.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gathered at the state Capitol lawn to watch the election audit results and while it confirmed President Joe Biden won Maricopa County, some are still in denial.

The review also checked the names of voters against a commercial database, finding 23,344 reported moving before ballots went out in October. While the review suggests something improper, election officials note that voters like college students, those who own vacation homes or military members can move to temporary locations while still legally voting at the address where they are registered.

Cyber Ninja's Audit Process

Doug Logan, the audit company's CEO, says the 2.1 million ballots were processed by hand — all handled with multiple layers of security. He says that all counters were County residents who voted in the last election. Each person was run through a background check, and counted "blind" without being allowed to talk. Part of the paper examination included high-resolution images of front-and-back of all ballots. 

During a technical analysis of the County's servers, it highlighted possible breaches of data integrity as due to thousands of deleted files that are believed to be linked to the elections. One presentation slide by Ben Cotton, the CyFIR founder, suggests that an administrator account deleted the entire General Election Results on Feb. 1, 2021 in the Election Management System. In a tweet, election officials said they don't keep the information in there permanently, but are rather stored in the archives.

In reference to Maricopa County destroying evidence or data — the County  wrote that they strongly deny any staff intentionally deleting data. "We have backups for all Nov. data & those archives were never subpoenaed.

Cotton also cites failure to update the operating system, and antivirus software, which would require the servers to be connected to the internet. The county has previously said that no tabulation equipment was internet-connected during the General Election cycle as a security precaution. 

Maricopa County Responds

The Cyber Ninjas report claims a number of shortcomings in election procedures and suggested the final tally still could not be relied upon. Several were challenged by election experts, while members of the Republican-led county Board of Supervisors, which oversees elections, disputed claims on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, the report is also littered with errors & faulty conclusions about how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 General Election,” county officials tweeted.

Election officials say that’s because the review team is biased, ignored the detailed vote-counting procedures in Arizona law and had no experience in the complex field of election audits. 

On Friday, the County tweeted a "fact check" thread where it disputed most of the election issues brought up by auditors. Some of those disputes involve mail-in ballots, address mismatches and people voting in multiple counties. Election officials continue to refute those claims by stating those cases involve common names of multiple people, military and overseas voters, and recent address changes.

Earlier this summer, the County launched a website called "Just The Facts" to address what they called misinformation. And the state's Secretary of State released a lengthy report claiming that the audit was filled with "security lapses, delays, disorganization, and lack of transparency."

The head of the Board of Supervisors, Jack Sellers, said in a statement on Friday Cyber Ninjas only found anomalies because the company doesn't understand the data or how elections are run. "Once again, these “auditors” threw out wild, damaging, false claims in the middle of their audit and Senate leadership provided them the platform to present their opinions, suspicions, and faulty conclusions unquestioned and unchallenged. Today’s hearing was irresponsible and dangerous," Sellers said.

Mixed Reactions

Still, for many critics, the conclusions reached by the firm Cyber Ninjas and presented at a hearing Friday, underscored the dangerous futility of the exercise, which has helped fuel skepticism about the validity of the 2020 election and spawned copycat audits nationwide.

“We haven’t learned anything new,” said Matt Masterson, a top U.S. election security official in the Trump administration. “What we have learned from all this is that the Ninjas were paid millions of dollars, politicians raised millions of dollars and Americans’ trust in democracy is lower.”

Other critics said the true purpose of the audit may have already succeeded. It spread complex allegations about ballot irregularities and software issues, fueling doubts about elections, said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who oversaw the Maricopa County election office last year.

“They are trying to scare people into doubting the system is actually working,” he said. “That is their motive. They want to destroy public confidence in our systems.”

Supporters of the audit claim it brought election systems failures to light and will help them enact legislation to improve the process.

Cost of audit

Arizona’s Senate agreed to spend $150,000 on the review, plus security and facility costs. That pales in comparison to the nearly $5.7 million contributed as of late July by Trump allies. Maricopa County will also have to pay $2.8 million for new voting machines for the 2022 midterm elections. That's because the machines subpoenaed by the Senate were decertified and can't be used for future elections.

Security during the audit

Questions were raised about security during the audit. Arizona's Family Investigates gained access to the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum through open bay doors, unlocked side doors and doors left propped open when the audit first started in April. Federal election law required the site to be secure because it contained election equipment and ballots. Audit organizers originally brushed off concerns. But earlier this month, a judge's order forced them to release thousands of emails and text messages, which later showed worries over security due to the revelations from Arizona's Family Investigates.


Copyright 2021 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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