Poll workers count ballots inside the Maricopa County Election Department in Phoenix, Ariz., on Nov. 5, 2020. (Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images)

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BY EPOCH VIDEO April 23, 2021

An audit of votes cast in Arizona’s largest election during the 2020 election is proceeding after the Arizona Democratic Party on Friday refused to pay a $1 million bond.

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Over 2 million ballots and nearly 400 tabulators were delivered to the coliseum earlier this week as contractors prepared to conduct the review.

Arizona Republicans have said the audit will help bolster public confidence in the election results.


First day of Arizona Senate election audit nearly stopped before it began.

AzCentral - Andrew Oxford - Arizona Republic 24 April 2021

Here's what happened

The first day of an unprecedented recount of every ballot cast by Maricopa County voters during last year's general election almost did not happen Friday. A court battle nearly stopped it. And, as the recount was starting, officials seemed to be figuring out rules and training on the fly. Later, the daily press briefings that were promised were placed on an indefinite hiatus.

What was clear is that the 2.1 million ballots the Republican-controlled state Senate obtained through a subpoena are now fully in the custody of a Florida-based company called Cyber Ninjas. Rows of pallets piled high with boxes were surrounded by a fence on the floor of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Many questions still remain unanswered, among them: Who will do the counting? Who will pay for the process? The head of Cyber Ninjas would not say when he spoke to reporters before the recount began. And, as of now, reporters can't go back inside to film or photograph the process.

Those uncertainties created a concern about the procedures for a judge, who ordered the Arizona Senate to "pause" its recount but only if the state Democratic Party, which asked for the halt, could post a $1 million bond to cover any costs from the delay.

The party said it would not put up the money to stop the recount, however, after bringing a last-minute lawsuit with County Supervisor Steve Gallardo charging that the process violated state election laws.

During a court hearing on Friday, an attorney for Gallardo and the state Democratic Party argued the Senate and the companies it has hired to run the audit do not have adequate policies or procedures in place to conduct a recount in accordance with Arizona law.

The attorney, Roopali Desai, pointed to security breaches at the coliseum and the use of blue pens by recount workers, even though state election procedures specifically call for using red ink that cannot tamper with ballots.

Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury ordered that the recount fully comply with Arizona law and asked the Senate, as well as its contractors, to provide more information on policies and procedures for a hearing on Monday morning.

"I do not want to micromanage and it is not the posture of this court to micromanage — or even to manage — the process by which another branch of government, the Legislature, the Arizona state Senate, proceeds," Coury said.

"However, it is the province of the court to ensure voter information and those constitutional protections are held sacrosanct and that also includes the protection of ballots under Arizona law."

The audit could have stopped until Monday if the state Democratic Party posted the bond Coury set.

Arizona Democratic Party Chair Raquel Terán said she would not risk supporters’ money when the Senate has not disclosed the real cost of the audit. But she said the order still amounted to a victory, as it would require the Senate and its contractors to disclose more about the process for the recount.

“Today’s temporary restraining order required that the Cyber Ninjas turn over all documents regarding their internal procedures, which should have been made immediately available to the public if this were a transparent or credible process,” Terán said in a statement.

Who's counting? Who's paying?

Attorney: Senate immune from lawsuit

An attorney representing Cyber Ninjas asked the state Supreme Court on Friday if it could submit these documents to the court under seal, which would keep them private. The court did not rule on that question, but it signaled that the public might not get much insight soon.

Meanwhile, Kory Langhofer, an attorney representing the state Senate, argued the Senate enjoys legislative immunity and cannot be sued over the recount now.

"Because the Legislature is in session, the legislators and their agents are immune from civil process and they're immune from any civil liability as well for their conduct in furtherance of legislative duties," he said during the hearing.

And Langhofer argued that the separation of powers prevents the court from telling the Senate how to run the audit.

Coury asked for written briefings on those issues but signaled concerns about how the Senate is handling the audit.

During Friday's hearing, Desai noted that blue pens were distributed to workers inside the facility. But the state's election procedures manual allows only red pens. Red ink cannot be read by ballot tabulating machines. Blue ink and black ink can be read by those machines, however.

The existence of the blue pens on the floor was reported by an Arizona Republic reporter who was an observer at the coliseum. Reporters are otherwise not allowed to watch the proceedings in person.

“We need this audit to stop at a minimum until all the blue pens are out of the coliseum so there is no question about whether people are marking ballots as we speak with pens that can be read by tabulation machines,” Desai argued.

A lawyer for Cyber Ninjas later said the blue pens were replaced with other pens.

Roberts: Trump ninjas don't know what ink color to use on ballots. And they're auditing our election?

Desai also pointed to security breaches at the coliseum, at least a few of which were obvious. When officials tried to lock reporters out of a press conference about the recount on Thursday evening, for example, the journalists entered the building through an unlocked door and proceeded to the floor of the coliseum where all of Maricopa County’s ballots are now stored.

And a television crew from CBS 5 reported that it entered the building on several occasions during the week without anyone asking for identification or stopping them.

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Reporters blocked from attending

While the building’s security became an issue in court, access to it has also become a point of contention.

Unlike at county election offices, where reporters are invited inside to observe and film the proceedings, the press was not allowed to view the recount itself.

Reporters can only go inside if they sign up to work six-hour shifts as observers. And observers can't have cameras or notepads of their own.

A media coalition including The Arizona Republic, the Arizona Broadcasters Association and the Arizona Mirror is seeking their reporters’ immediate access to the coliseum to observe the audit of the ballots and tabulating equipment.

“It’s clear this audit has been bought and sold by hyper partisans intent on sowing doubt," said Greg Burton, The Republic's executive editor. "Senate leaders have throttled legitimate press access and handed Arizona’s votes to conspiracy theorists.”

Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who is serving as the Senate’s liaison during the process, said the public could see plenty via round-the-clock video of the facility that will stream online at azaudit.org.

"You can see everything that’s happening through the cameras," he said.

Bennett also said he would hold daily press briefings but later said those briefings would not resume until litigation “has been dealt with by the courts.”

Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, said he wants the public to be able to believe fully in the process.

“It’s really, really important to us that we have integrity in the way we do this count and in the results that come out of it. And it’s really important to us that there’s full transparency in everything that we do,” Logan told reporters during a press conference on Thursday.

Many unanswered questions on audit

There was still little transparency, though, about several aspects of the audit.

Logan would not say who exactly will count ballots, a process overseen by the Pennsylvania-based firm Wake TSI. He said the firm has drawn primarily from former law enforcement, veterans and retirees.

A Republic reporter saw former state Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, working as a counter, for example. But Logan could not commit that each team of counters would include at least one Democrat and one Republican.

It also remains unclear who exactly is footing the bill for the process.

The Senate contracted with Cyber Ninjas to conduct the audit and produce a report in about 60 days for $150,000.

But Logan said he expected counting to last 16 days, with more than 250 people working in two shifts every day but Sundays.

His company had received outside funding for the audit, Logan confirmed Thursday.

Indeed, prominent supporters of former President Donald Trump have solicited donations for the audit. Former Trump administration official Christina Bobb has publicly appealed for donations and is also on site as a broadcaster for the right-wing channel One America News Network.

Trump also touted the recount in a statement to supporters on Friday.

Neither Bennett nor Logan would say how much the audit will cost. And Logan told reporters that he does not know who has donated to the effort.

Contact Andrew Oxford at andrew.oxford@arizonarepublic.com


Trump Asks Arizona’s Governor to Provide ‘Large-Scale Security’ for 2020 Election Audit

President Donald Trump meets with Arizona's Gov. Doug Ducey in the Oval Office, in Washington, on Aug. 5,  2020. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump meets with Arizona's Gov. Doug Ducey in the Oval Office, in Washington, on Aug. 5, 2020. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via Getty Images)

The Epoch Times - BY SAMUEL ALLEGRI April 24, 2021

Former President Donald Trump on Saturday asked Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to provide security for a 2020 election audit taking place in the state’s largest county.

“The Republican Party is demanding that Gov. Ducey of Arizona immediately provide large-scale security for the brave American Patriots doing the Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election,” Trump wrote in a statement on April 24.

“Gov. Ducey will be held fully responsible for the safety of those involved. State police or National Guard must be immediately sent out for protection. The Democrats do not want to have this information revealed, and they will do anything to stop it. Gov. Ducey must finally act!” Trump stated.

Ducey’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The audit started on Monday in Maricopa County.

Companies hired by the state Senate are examining 2.1 million ballots, testing voting machines, looking for IT breaches, and performing a hand count.

The state-issued subpoenas needed in order to execute the audit were ruled as valid on Feb. 25.

Arizona Democrats filed an emergency request to block the audit late Thursday. A judge granted the request the following day, but only if the party posted a $1 million bond. Democrats refused, so the audit was not paused.

In the lawsuit, Democrats alleged workers set to perform the audit were not properly trained and that the companies have not adopted or implemented security procedures, including ballot handling rules, required by state law. Roopali Desai, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said during the hearing that reports suggested there had been illegal access to ballots this week. A lawyer for the state Senate, Kory Langhofer, said Democrats did not provide evidence for their claims.

The audit is being conducted by four out-of-state companies—Wake Technology Services, CyFIR, Digital Discovery, and Cyber Ninjas. Florida-based cybersecurity company Cyber Ninjas will be leading the audit, the Senate said, adding that they focus on computer application security for financial services and government clients.

A report is expected to be released on the audit’s findings in about two months.

Arizona Secretary of State Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who has expressed concern about audit security, asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, on Friday to investigate reports that the Senate failed to secure the equipment and ballots its contractors are auditing, resulting in “unauthorized and unmonitored access to both.”

Brnovich told Hobbs in a response letter that her vague reference to reports “does not meet the standard of a credible allegation—it is speculation insufficient to support the request for an official investigation.”

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.


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