Final report ordered by Arizona state Senate GOP affirms Biden win

A report on Maricopa County’s 2020 election ordered by Arizona state Senate Republicans and presented to them on Friday affirmed the results of the state’s certified election: President Joe Biden won Arizona. 

The report is similar to a draft report that was obtained by CBS News on Thursday night. The tally by the contractors who led the review found Mr. Biden’s 45,000-vote margin was slightly larger than Maricopa County found during its canvass last year. 

However, contractors also presented in their report a number of complaints about Maricopa County officials, who contested many of their accusations. During the hearing, the county defended its signature verification and curing process, fought back against accusations about voters who had moved out of the county, people who may have voted in multiple counties, and the suggestion that more ballots were returned by voters than received. The county also said that it has maintained all necessary data

The controversial review process began in April after the Arizona Senate obtained voting equipment and the county’s 2.1 million ballots by subpoena. Maricopa County, the most populous county in Arizona and one of the most populous counties in the country, is a Republican stronghold, but in 2020 President Biden prevailed, the first Democrat to do so since 1948.

Throughout the months-long review,  election officials from both political parties as well as local Republicans in Maricopa County all criticized the effort. The review was led by Cyber Ninjas, a cybersecurity firm with no experience in official election audits. The company’s CEO posted about election conspiracy theories, but pledged to be neutral and transparent during the review. 

Republican Senate President Karen Fann has said for months that the review was about making improvements to the election process going forward, not overturning the 2020 election. 

“This has never been about overturning an election,” Fann said before the presentation. “This has never been about anything other than election integrity.”

The Senate’s review cost taxpayers more than $400,000, but was largely funded by private organizations. The  team conducting the review disclosed in July which groups have been funding the process. At that point, the team had received about $5.7 million, mostly from groups whose leaders have spread unsubstantiated theories about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. 

Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer, said the review was designed to try to demonstrate fraud and those conducting the review had to meet a high burden of proof. 

“This was Donald Trump’s best chance to prove his cases of elections being rigged and fraudulent, and they failed,” Ginsberg told reporters on Friday ahead of the Senate presentation.

Despite the review’s affirmation of Mr. Biden’s victory, contractors said they discovered some issues related to election administration and processes. Fann sent a letter to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is running for U.S. Senate, highlighting findings that she said she found concerning. 

That included the signature verification process, voter roll maintenance, cybersecurity procedures and preservation of evidence. Fann said the Senate is working on legislation to address those issues. 

“As the Senate enters that next phase, there are several items in the reports that merit the attention of your office,” Fann said. “I am therefore forwarding the reports for your office’s consideration and, if you find it appropriate, further investigation as part of your ongoing oversight of these issues.”

Ahead of the presentation, election experts criticized some of the methodology used by Cyber Ninjas that was detailed in the draft report. The report said the firm used a commercial public database to try to match information about voters. Such databases typically rely on the National Change of Address database, which can be out of date and incomplete and isn’t designed for that purpose, said Barry Burden, the Director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Cyber Ninjas used a commercial firm to try to validate the addresses of voters. That’s not what the purpose of those databases is for,” Burden said. “To use that kind of database as the foundation for some of the questions and allegations that are in the report is just really problematic.”

“I hope those holding on to their anger for the past ten months will see the truth and put their energy into supporting the democratic process instead of trying to tear it down,” Jack Sellers, the Republican Chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said in a statement Thursday night.