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GOP review finds no proof Arizona election stolen from Trump
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PHOENIX — The long-awaited Senate audit formally confirmed Friday that Joe Biden outpolled Donald Trump in the state’s largest county.

And it found no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.

In presentations Friday, Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, said that the hand count his firm performed with volunteers found 1,040,873 votes for the Democratic challenger. That actually is 99 more than the official Maricopa County tally.

By contrast, the audit tallied 995,404 votes for the former president, 261 less than the county found.

But the individuals and companies hired by the Senate told lawmakers that the ballot tally does not address other issues about how the election was conducted. And that, they said, brings into question the accuracy of all that.

The presentation occurred against a backdrop of demonstrations and speeches near the Capitol by people who identified as both supporters of the former president and in opposition to vaccines, including Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb who spoke to demonstrators. Many of these people then filled in the approximately 100 seats available to the public in the gallery.

There were no specific allegations of fraud presented. Senate President Karen Fann said that’s not a surprise.

“You can’t prove it by just an audit,’’ she said, saying that is intentional malfeasance.

“We can’t prove that there were intentional actions that caused these problems,’’ Fann continued. “We do know that there were intentional problems that need to be fixed.’’

In a statement, however, Trump said the audit “shows incomprehensible fraud at an election changing level.

“Arizona must immediately decertify their 2020 presidential election results,’’ he said, though no one, including Trump, has explained how that is even a legal possibility.

And Fann herself said the goal of the audit was never to change the election results but just examine the procedures and identify problems. Those problems were detailed Friday by a parade of witnesses.

That included Shiva Ayyadurai, hired as a handwriting expert. He told senators he found a series of “anomalies,’’ ranging from ballots without signatures that were counted to cases where there were duplicate votes from what apparently were the same voters.

“Why are blanks being stamped as verified and approved?’’ he asked. “The signature verification process is unverifiable.’’

Ayyadurai acknowledged he had no answers. And Fann said his findings and the entire report is being turned over to the attorney general’s office to investigate possible fraud.

Fann also said the report will be used to craft legislation to update election laws, with a possible sepcial session before lawmakers are scheduled to return in January.

The recommendations range from regular audit procedures to having ballots on “official paper’’ that are specially watermarked to prove they are authentic. It also proposes to make public the images of every ballot cast — obviously removed from any way of identifying who cast it — “for increased transparency and accountability in the election process.’’

And Logan said that if Arizona decides to continue to allow people to vote early, something he does not recommend, there should be better methods to ensure the identity of those who are casting those ballots.

There was a proposal this past session to require voters to provide a date of birth and a driver’s license or other identification number. But that failed, at least in part because of opposition from elements of the business community who said it could disenfranchise voters.

Fann said lawmakers will consider various proposals when the legislature reconvenes in January.

“Arizona voters deserve an unimpeachable electoral process,’’ she said. “And the State Senate is already working hard on new legislation to deliver that.’’

But Megan Gilbertson, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, told Capitol Media Services there is a simple explanation: He is reviewing all the ballots scanned, not the ballots counted.

For example, she said, every early ballot envelope is scanned when it comes in.

If a signature does not appear to match, her office tries to contact the voter. If there is an explanation for a mismatch, like someone had a stroke, then the ballot is rescanned.

So, two ballot images, Gilbertson said, but only one was counted.

Ditto, she said of situations where there is no signature: The original ballot envelope is scanned — but not counted — and then the one that someone comes in and signs also is scanned, with only that one counted.

Gilbertson also said the audit finding of 23,344 mail-in ballots voted from a prior address also is flawed.

She pointed out that Cyber Ninjas used not official county voter files but a commercial program from a company called Melissa.

“We can’t attest to the completeness or accuracy of the Melissa web site,’’ Gilbertson said. In fact, she said, there is no real-time commercial database of voter registration that tracks day-by-day changes of where people live.

“People are allowed to move from one house to another even during the election,’’ she said. “If the driver’s license matches the voter registration address, they’re still allowed to vote.’’

And Gilbertson pointed out that the post office will not forward mail-in ballots to any other address.

The report also said it found 10,342 potential voters that cast ballots in multiple counties. That was based on what Logan said were a comparison of people with the same first, middle and last name, and birth year.

“While it is possible for multiple individuals to share all these details, it is not common, and this list should be fully reviewed,’’ the report says.

Gilbertson said she can’t say what happened in other counties. But here, too, she said Cyber Ninjas was working with insufficient information.

“It’s incredibly possible that voters would share the same name and year of birth,’’ she said. “Think of all the John Smiths and Maria Garcias in Arizona,’’ Gilbertson said. She said the Senate — and the auditors — had access to some voter files which have the actual date of birth, not just the year, to make comparisons but did not use them.

And Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said there are “robust systems’’ to prevent and detect duplicate votes.

“Whatever the Cyber Ninjas were using to come up with this list of duplicate voters is not comparable to the systems we have in place,’’ she said.

Even Logan himself acknowledged some potential flaws to his report, like the claim that there were 3,432 more ballots received than people who were listed as voting. He said one reason is that the voter registration files do not include people with protected addresses like judges and victims of domestic violence.

Logan’s conclusions and findings have been questioned before, and not only because his firm has never done such an review before.

For example, Logan said in July there were 74,243 mail-in ballots being received “where there is no clear record of them being sent. Logan also said there were 11,326 individuals who did not show up on the version of the voter rolls prepared the day after the election but did show up on the Dec. 4 list as not only being registered but having voted.

County officials responded with a point-by-point rebuttal. And Logan has made no claims like that since.

Ben Cotton, founder of CyFIR, a computer security firm, told lawmakers that he wanted to check to see whether election equipment was connected to the internet.

“Given the lack of access, I cannot do that at this time,’’ he said. Cotton said that should be possible after the county, under an agreement with the Senate, makes its computer routers accessible to security experts retained by a “special master.’’

Yet he later said that there is evidence of internet connection of some machines.

Maricopa County officials say that two separate audits they had conducted both showed no internet connection. But Fann has argued that neither was the kind of “forensic audit’’ that she Senate wanted.

Cotton also questioned the timing of some election files that were deleted, calling it “a bit suspect.’’

“There may be a plausible explanation,’’ he said. “I simply can’t know at this point.’’

And Cotton said that videos of the county election offices shows employees at the keyboards during the times files disappeared.

“Some individual went into an application and they chose to run something that would clear all the records that were in a system the day before the audit started,’’ Logan added.

But no one explained the relevance of that, particularly given that they had the actual ballots which verified that Biden outpolled Trump in Maricopa County. More to the point politically, he did it by a large enough margin to offset Trump support in rural counties, giving the Democrat the state’s 11 electoral votes.

And Gilbertson said the claims show the lack of understanding of elections.

“We have archival procedures for our elections related to the November election,’’ she said. And Gilbertson said that the reason is there is only limited storage capacity on the server.

“And we had to run the statutorily mandated election in March,’’ she said.

Some doubts about the veracity of the audit were raised because of the fact that the $150,000 that the Senate agreed to pay Cyber Ninjas came nowhere close to covering the actual costs. Logan, who had made comments about fraud in the election even before the audit started, acknowledged earlier this year that he had collected about $5.7 million from outside sources, most with links to Trump or his supporters.

The presentation occurred against a backdrop of demonstrations and speeches near the Capitol by people who identified as both supporters of the former president and in opposition to vaccines. Many of these people then filled in the approximately 100 seats available to the public in the gallery.

Group that won judgement for audit records wants Senate president held in contempt
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PHOENIX — An organization that won a legal battle with the Senate over audit-related records is now asking a judge to hold Senate President Karen Fann in contempt — and possibly jail her — for failing to comply with the court order.

In new court filings, attorney Roopali Desai who represents American Oversight points out to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp that he has twice ordered Fann and the Senate to obtain documents from Cyber Ninjas, the firm the Senate president hired to conduct the audit. And Desai said that legal efforts to fight that order ended Sept. 14 when appellate courts refused to void that order.

“Yet defendants still have not produced the documents they were ordered to ‘immediately’ produce back on Aug. 2,’’ she told the judge. Desai said the Senate is not only not pursuing Cyber Ninjas for its records but has not even asked others involved in the audit for the public records they have.

And the excuse, Desai said, is that Cyber Ninjas said it would not begin transferring records to the Senate because the request “is causing Cyber Ninjas to take time away from the completion of its audit report.’’ And even after the audit is released, she said there were no assurance made about when production would begin.

“Cyber Ninjas essentially told the Senate to pound sand,’’ Desai wrote. But she said that ignores the fact that the agreement that Fann has with the firm requires it to cooperate when, as in this case, the Senate has been sued.

And Desai said this can’t be entirely blamed on Cyber Ninjas.

“After being told that transferring the public records would not happen promptly because doing so would purportedly ‘take time away from the completion of Cyber Ninjas’ audit report,’ defendants elected not to instruct their agency to prioritize compliance with this court’s order over further work on the audit,’’ she told the judge. “Defendants’ decision to take no action to compel their agent to promptly produce all the records or put pens down on the audit until the transfer of public records was completed was contemptuous.’’

Desai told the judge he should take note that the Senate was releasing the audit report on Friday. Yet Arizonans are being deprived “of their statutory right to see what lies beneath the report.’’

Of note is that the kind of contempt citation that Desai is seeking could involve more than a financial penalty against Fann and the Senate. She told Capitol Media Services that there is an option for jail until the party found guilty “purges’’ the contempt by complying with the court order.

The failure to pursue documents from Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors is only one of the issues for which Desai wants an order from Kemp.

There was no immediate response from Fann.

In separate legal filings, she said the Senate is taking an overly broad view of what is protected by “legislative privilege’’ and need not be disclosed under the state’s public records law.

“Defendants now rely on legislative privilege to shield from public view virtually every communication between or among Sen. Fann, Sen. (Warren) Peterson, Senate Liaison Ken Bennett and/or Senate Liaison Randy Pullen relating to the audit,’’ she told the judge. In fact, Desai said, the Senate wants to shield communications between any of those people “and anyone at Cyber Ninjas or the various subcontractors who are conducting the audit on the other.’’

That list of withheld documents, she said, includes “virtually every substantive text message and email about the audit.’’ Instead, Desai complained, what the Senate has produce are “many thousands of pages of irrelevant materials,’’ including multiple copies of newspaper articles, generic emails from members of the public commenting on the audit, and even multiple copies of already public filings from this and other cases.

“But the documents produced provide no answers to the fundamental question that American Oversight’s requests sought public records to answer.

For example, she want to know where are the funds to pay Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors coming from. The Senate has said it is paying $150,000 but Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan has said he has collected $5.7 million from other sources.

Then there’s the question of how and why Fann selected Cyber Ninjas which had no previous election audit experience.

“Who participated in that decision and what input did they receive?’’ she asked.

Kemp already has scheduled an Oct. 7 hearing on that complaint.

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New yearly PCSO report shows dramatic increase in fentanyl seizures
  • Updated

FLORENCE — Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies are seeing an increase in the number of drugs trafficked through the county, according to a new yearly report from the office.

The office’s Narcotics Task Force, which investigates local drug supply chains and works to disrupt the drug trade within the county, confiscated a total of more than 132 pounds of drugs over 91 cases, the majority of which was more than 126 pounds of marijuana, according to the report. The task force also confiscated more than 5,221 dosage units of fentanyl.

PCSO’s Anti-Smuggling Unit, which focuses on human and illegal drug smuggling and is a separate unit from the Narcotics Task Force, seized around 134 pounds of drugs including more than 90 pounds of marijuana and around 42 pounds of methamphetamine over 15 cases. It also seized 23,765 dosage units of fentanyl. The Anti-Smuggling Unit works with the U.S. Border Patrol and other federal agencies to stop the flow of illegal drugs and human smuggling through the county.

The amount of fentanyl deputies are encountering and seizing has increased over the last three years, according to PCSO spokeswoman Lauren Reimer.

In 2018, the office had zero seizures of fentanyl pills. In 2019, deputies seized about 700 blue fentanyl pills. In 2020, deputies seized 200,000 pills and so far this year, deputies have seized more than 1 million pills, she stated in an email.

Deputies are responding to a call involving fentanyl about every 40 hours, Reimer stated.

The office does not have specific numbers on the amount of human smuggling that is occurring, according to Reimer. The information on the increase in human trafficking comes from a mix of data and general observations from deputies and reported incidents.

This is the first time the office has released a report of this kind, Reimer said.

The report also lists details such as the number of calls for service deputies responded to last year, the number of traffic accidents, criminal investigations and the activities of various departments within the office.

The report also notes the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic had on calls for service for the office. Deputies responded to fewer calls for service in 2020 than in 2019, according to the report. In 2019, deputies responded to 43,224 calls for service, and 40,547 calls in 2020.

A list of the top 15 types of calls that deputies responded to in 2019 and 2020 in the report shows that calls for issues such as residential alarms, reckless driving and non-injury accidents decreased as more people stayed home during the pandemic.

It also shows an increase in calls for domestic situations, suspicious acts, noise disturbances and medical issues for probably the same reason.

The report also states that the office started reorganizing the beats that deputies patrol, especially in the northern parts of the county in the San Tan Valley, Queen Creek, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Florence and Superior areas where the office gets most of its calls for service. The new beat structure was started in January.