The Arizona Senate’s ‘Audit’ of the 2020 Election Results Is Finally Over, but at What Cost?

By Lorraine Longhi

September 24, 2021

The Cyber Ninjas discovered that Joe Biden did in fact win the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

The Arizona Republican-controlled Senate’s audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County is over.

Cyber Ninjas, the cybersecurity firm hired by the Senate to conduct the audit, found that Joe Biden won the election in Maricopa County—and by more votes than originally reported by the county, according to the hand count of votes in the audit’s final report.

Elections officials on both sides of the political aisle spent the last few months blowing the whistle on the mismanagement throughout the audit process and cautioning the public about the unreliable findings.

RELATED: Democrats Blast ‘Cancer’ of Arizona Election Probe on Eve of Release

But 10 months and millions of dollars later, the Ninjas ultimately weren’t the ones to break the news about the audit’s results as they had originally intended to on Friday afternoon. Several media outlets broke the news Thursday night, a full 18 hours before the Ninjas were set to present their findings to the public.

While the results ultimately don’t change anything for supporters of the former President Donald Trump, the audit—and the “Stop the Steal” movement that helped propel it into existence—left plenty behind in its wake. 

Some of the audit’s fallout includes the introduction of new, restrictive voter legislation; mistrust in the state’s democratic process; threats against its election officials; and the resignation of a county supervisor.

What Did It Cost?

The audit in Arizona has racked up a hefty price tag over the last 10 months, with Arizona voters on the hook for at least $2.8 million in costs needed to replace hundreds of voting machines that were compromised during the process.

But the tax dollars aren’t the only price Arizonans have paid.

Arizona has a “tried and true” vote-by-mail system, according to Gov. Doug Ducey, and three-quarters of the state’s registered voters were signed up to vote early as of last September. But that same system of voting came under attack as unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about widespread fraud related to stolen ballots, dead voters, and even Sharpies began to spread following the election.

On Friday, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, who has promoted conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, advocated for getting rid of mail-in ballots altogether.

The attacks against Arizona’s elections continued to grow on the heels of the failed siege of the US Capitol on Jan. 6. Supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol as a result of the unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud surrounding local and national elections that flourished around the country.

Despite the fervent disappointment and mistrust among Trump supporters about election results, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann has repeatedly insisted the audit is not about overturning the election and instead about answering questions and restoring integrity in the election process.

“We must bring back confidence that the election results reported are how votes were legally cast,” Fann said in January.

The Arizona Senate’s 'Audit' of the 2020 Election Results Is Finally Over, but at What Cost?
AP Photo/Matt York, Pool

Restrictive Voter Laws, Threats Against Lawmakers Follow in Wake of Audit

In January, Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said the discussions around voter fraud were being used as a catalyst for lawmakers to pass restrictive voting legislation.

Several new laws, including a bill that would purge thousands of voters from the Permanent Early Voting List, were introduced in the Arizona Legislature this year amid complaints by some Republicans that the election had not been secure.

Out of 361 voting restriction bills introduced this year, Arizona Republican lawmakers introduced the third-highest number, trailing only Texas and Georgia, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

“They need to use our election as justification for the bills that they are introducing right now,” Gallardo said. “They don’t like who’s voting, so let’s make it more difficult for them to vote.”

The mistrust in the elections process has also had real-life consequences and concerns for Arizona’s elected officials.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s chief elections officer, was assigned two separate security details in the months following the 2020 election, after receiving threats for certifying the election and for being critical of the audit. Arizona legislators and Maricopa County officials have also received threats as the audit has unfolded.

On Friday, Hobbs said the Senate president and Cyber Ninjas had dragged the state through months of “partisan political theater.” “The partisan ballot review was never about affirming the results of an election,” she wrote in a statement. “Instead, it was an outright attack on our democratic process that has stoked threats of violence against election workers.”

And on Monday, Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri said he would resign over comments he had made in March of this year where he repeated unfounded claims of election fraud and criticized his fellow supervisors’ opposition to the audit.

Members of the Board of Supervisors—a majority of whom are Republican—have been vocal critics of the audit.

RELATED: Experts Slam Cyber Ninjas’ ‘Half-Baked’ Audit of Election Results in Arizona

In June, Chucri said he had initially been in favor of an audit of the election results after questions were raised by some in the community about whether or not every vote in the county had been counted, including from his own mother. 

But the supervisor later said the audit had turned into a mockery. “Let’s move forward together and hopefully put this audit behind us,” he said earlier this summer.

On Monday, announcing his resignation, Chucri echoed similar sentiments.

“The picture some individuals are trying to paint about a cover-up, scam and other nonsense about my colleagues and myself is simply false,” he wrote in a statement. “There was no cover-up, the election was not stolen. Biden won.”

What’s Next?

Just before the audit results were presented to the Senate on Friday, approximately 300 Arizonans advocating for “election integrity” rallied in front of the Capitol. 

One family wore shirts that said “Trump won.” Others carried signs calling on Arizona to decertify the election.

Fann acknowledged Friday that the count of ballots conducted in the audit closely aligned with the original ballot count in Maricopa County.

“Truth is truth, numbers are numbers. We’ve said that from day one,” she said. “What you’re going to see is exactly what it is. The truth.”

But Fann also advocated for “bigger audits” moving forward, and made a nod to the legislators from other states who have toured the audit in recent months, sparking chatter that the process could be replicated across the country.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who has criticized the audit process at length in recent months, opted to look toward the future as the news broke late Thursday night, tweeting:

“Can we get back to work now and improve elections with input from all sensible stakeholders?”

See the Maricopa County Elections Department website for more information on how the county conducted the 2020 elections.

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