Commentary: Somebody Please Make This Stop! Arizona Audit Proves a Farce

Contractors working for the firm Cyber Ninjas, which was hired by the Republican-led Arizona state Senate, count Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday in Phoenix.
Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

By David M. Greenwald

I think like most normal Americans, I wasn’t paying attention to the Arizona audit.  After all, there was really no reason to do so.  The election is over, there are much more important matters, and even if Arizona proved to have been flawed, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

After reading up on a few things, I believe I made a big mistake not paying at least cursory attention.  Not because I think there was a problem in Arizona, but rather because the process is such a farce that it totally and completely discredits any notion that this is serious—except to a small number of truly paranoid individuals who are convinced that every conspiracy theory is true.

Look no further than the fact that the Senate hired a group called “Cyber Ninjas” to run the audit.

Last week, the big news was the investigators were trying to find traces of bamboo on last year’s ballots.  This apparently would prove a conspiracy theory that the election was tainted by fake votes from Asia.

John Brakey, an official helping supervise the effort, said high-powered microscopes were being used to search for evidence of fake ballots, according to a video interview with the CBS News affiliate in Phoenix.

“There’s accusations that 40,000 ballots were flown in, to Arizona, and it was stuffed into the box,” he said during the interview. “And it came from the southeast part of the world, Asia, OK. And what they’re doing is to find out if there’s bamboo in the paper.

“I don’t believe any of that,” he added. “I’m just saying it’s part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about.”

Paul Boyer, a Republican member of the Arizona state Senate responded to this, “It makes us look like idiots.”

This is what you get when you bring in the “Cyber Ninjas.”

The Maricopa County Supervisors yesterday released a 14-page response to Senate President Karen Fann.  I should point out that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors have an overwhelming REPUBLICAN majority.

I am going to pull out some highlights here but, honestly, read the whole thing—it is one of the best public documents I have ever read.

The Board writes: “These accusations are false, defamatory, and beneath the dignity of the Senate. They are an insult to the dedicated public servants in the Maricopa County Elections Department and Office of the Recorder, who work incredibly long hours conducting the County’s elections with integrity and honor.”

Point one: they note that the charge that Maricopa County deleted data is “false.”

“You claim ‘the entire “Database” directory from the D drive of the machine EMSPrimary has been deleted.’ This is false: the ‘Database’ was not deleted from the server. And an analysis of the screenshot you provided (the ‘screenshot’), which we reproduce below, further proves that fact.”

They continue: “Your tweet, which relies on the ‘modified date’ shown in the screenshot as evidence of wrongdoing, is demonstrably false; the only thing it does demonstrate is your auditors’ incompetence.  Their stunning lack of a basic understanding for how their software works is egregious and only made worse by the false tweet sent defaming the hardworking employees of Maricopa County.”

(They show in great detail why this is false—again, if you want to see how bad the work of the auditors is, read the full section).

They conclude that “the failure of your so called ‘auditors’ to locate data files on the copy they made of the County’s server speaks more to their ineptitude than it does to the integrity and actions of our dedicated public employees…”

Second, Maricopa supervisors note: “Your various questions about our election procedures reveal a serious lack of understanding of election law, as well as the best practices utilized by Maricopa County and other jurisdictions for the conduct of elections.”

Question 1: The County has not provided any chain-of-custody documentation for the ballots. Does such documentation exist, and if so, will it be produced?

Response: “We are stunned that you are asking us this question. It demonstrates a spectacular lack of understanding on your part of what occurred during the County’s transfer of its material to your custody. Simply stated, your liaison, Ken Bennett, was provided with the documentation demonstrating chain of custody. And your counsel, Mr. Langhofer, was consulted as to the final form of that chain of custody documentation.”

(Again they respond in great detail).

Question 2: The bags in which the ballots were stored are not sealed, although the audit team has found at the bottom of many boxes cut seals of the type that would have sealed a ballot bag. Why were these seals placed at the bottom of the boxes?

Response: “The bags in which Election Day ballots were stored were sealed, and the seals you found in the bottom of boxes containing Election Day ballots came off these bags.”

Question 3: “Batches within a box are frequently separated by only a divider without any indication of the corresponding batch numbers. In some cases, the batch dividers are missing altogether. This lack of organization has significantly complicated and delayed the audit team’s ballot processing efforts. What are the County’s procedures for sorting, organizing, and packaging ballot batches?”

Response: “It is the Elections Department’s practice to divide batches of ballots using the Early Voting Transmittal Slips. But no law requires the Elections Department to do that—it is something that its staff tries to do as a best practice.”

Question 4: “Most of the ballot boxes were sealed merely with regular tape and not secured by any kind of tamper-evident seal. Is that the County’s customary practice for storing ballots?”

Response: Yes, that is the County’s customary practice.

Question 5: “The audit team has encountered a significant number of instances in which there is a disparity between the actual number of ballots contained in a batch and the total denoted on the pink report slip accompanying the batch. In most of these instances, the total on the pink report slip is greater than the number of ballots in the batch, although there are a few instances in which the total is lower. What are the reasons for these discrepancies?”

Response: “The slip logs you are referencing are called ‘Early Voting Transmittal Slips.’  Because it is obvious that your contractors have no understanding of these matters, a brief tutorial is in order…”

Later they point out: “You seem to be stating that you counted 218 ballots in Batch 1643, but our Transfer Transmittal Slip log only recorded 200 ballots. We examined the Daily Tabulator Log slip for Batch 1643, and have verified that there were only 200 ballots in that batch—as there should have been.”

Maricopa also noted that they do not have the ability to acquire Dominion’s proprietary passwords.

“In your letter, you state that Maricopa County “has refused to provide passwords necessary to access vote tabulation devices.” However, as we have previously told you, we have produced every password in our custody and control. You, however, accuse us of lying. You state that we could not have conducted our forensic audits without additional passwords, and that ‘it strains credulity’ to suggest that our contract with Dominion Voting Systems does not allow us to obtain additional, proprietary passwords belonging to Dominion.”

They write: “The contract is a public record: you could have requested it. Even a cursory review would show there is no contractual provision granting the County the ability to acquire Dominion’s proprietary passwords. Instead you call us liars and insult us, when a simple public records request would have helped you avoid such indecent conduct.”

Further they note: “Your chosen ‘auditors,’ the Cyber Ninjas, are certainly many things. But ‘accredited by the EAC’ is not one of them. Regardless, we cannot give you a password that we do not possess any more than we can give you the formula for Coca Cola. We do not have it; we have no legal right to acquire it; and so, we cannot give it to you.”

The Senate apparently demanded auditor access to the county routers.  Their response: “The County’s routers provide a blueprint to the County’s network. Were that blueprint to fall into the wrong hands, the results could be catastrophic.”

Finally they note: “Your ‘audit’ is harming all of us, and we ask you to end it.”

They close the letter with the following:

Finally, we express our united view that your “audit”, no matter what your intentions were in the beginning, has become a spectacle that is harming all of us. Our state has become a laughingstock. Worse, this “audit” is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic.

Your “auditors” began the “audit” unaware that using blue pens on ballots could harm them, and apparently would have distributed blue pens to those conducting the recount of ballots had a reporter not informed them. It has gone downhill from there. Your “audit,” which you once said was intended to increase voters’ confidence in our electoral process, has devolved into a circus.

You are using purple lights and spinning tables. You are hunting for bamboo. These are not things that serious auditors of elections do.

You are photographing ballots contrary to the laws that the Senate helped enact, and you are sending those images to unidentified places and people. You have repeatedly lost control of your twitter account, which has tweeted things that appear to be the rantings of a petulant child—not the serious statements of a serious audit.

None of this is inspiring confidence. None of this will cause our citizens to trust elections. In fact, it is having the opposite result. You certainly must recognize that things are not going well at the Coliseum. You also must know that the County’s election was free and fair, and that our Elections Department did an outstanding job conducting it.

Unfortunately, this has become a partisan issue, and it should not be one. It is time to make a choice to defend the Constitution and the Republic. As County elected officials, we come from different political parties, but we stand united together to defend the Constitution and the Republic in our opposition to the Big Lie. We ask everyone to join us in standing for the truth. The November 3, 2020 general election was free and fair and conducted by the Elections Department with integrity and honor.

Regardless of your intentions when you decided to subpoena our equipment and ballots, this cannot really be what you envisioned. You, Senate President Fann, are the only one with the power to immediately end it. We implore you to recognize the obvious truth: your “auditors” are in way over their heads. They do not have the experience necessary to conduct an audit of an election. They do not know the laws, nor the procedures, nor the best practices. It is inevitable that they will arrive at questionable conclusions.

It is time to end this. For the good of the Senate, for the good of the Country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans.

Seriously.  This stuff ranks up there with Sydney Powell’s claims about Dominion and their connections to Hugo Chavez and oligarchs.  Trump and his supporters have had ample time to come up with actual evidence of something and, yet, we get bamboo conspiracies.  Seriously.

This would all be comic relief if 70 percent of Republican voters didn’t actually agree that the election was stolen, despite the lack of any credible corroborating evidence.

The Arizona audit is simply more nonsense.  And, yet, it is being supported and perpetuated by the Republican Senate Leader in Arizona.  And so we cannot simply ignore that it’s happening as some sort of comic farce.

“Whoa. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors isn’t fooling around,” Arizona Republic Columnist Laurie Roberts wrote yesterday. “This GOP-dominated board on Monday proved that not all Republicans have lost their ever-living minds since Nov. 3, when Donald Trump lost the election.”

She writes: “The supervisors took the Arizona Senate’s Cyber Ninja auditors to school on how elections are run. And as for Senate President Karen Fann, the person who ordered this bizarre proctological exam of Maricopa County’s vote?

“They made her look like an absolute fool. Actually, they didn’t make her look at all like a fool. She did that all by herself.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 thoughts on “Commentary: Somebody Please Make This Stop! Arizona Audit Proves a Farce”

  1. Keith Olsen

    I think like most normal Americans, I wasn’t paying attention to the Arizona audit.  After all, there was really no reason to do so.  The election is over, there are much more important matters, and even if Arizona proved to have been flawed, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

    I can’t believe you actually wrote this.  Even though it wouldn’t change the outcome, if Arizona had been proved to have been flawed it would be a huge deal.

  2. Bill Marshall

    My two comments:

    It is truly an egregious farce… a political move with no significance as to fact or substance (the reality of the outcome of the November election will not change)… it is indeed, worse than that… it sullies the performance and reputation of the election officials, and the election workers, who, of all flavors of political beliefs/affiliations, put all that aside, and make sure that the actual election process is honest, fair, impartial, and in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of our laws and constitution(s)[Fed and State].

    Why the VG ‘dignifies’ it by giving it recognition, eludes me… must be a ‘slow news day’… the only thing it can accomplish is to motivate “election deniers”, and their opposite, sentient folk, to post and engage in a VG “discussion”… I long ago dismissed the whole “audit”, as a ‘self-pleasuring act’, by ignorant “sore losers”…


    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Because Bill it doesn’t go away by ignoring it. A sizable number of people actually believe there was massive fraud. Ignoring it won’t change that. At least showing just how absurd it is will convince reasonable people that there was nothing to the claims. To what end, I don’t know.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Sorry, David… reasonable people already KNOW… an inconvenient fact for you, no doubt (pun intended)…

        A sizeable number of people  are un-reasonable… your attempts to suade them will be unproductive, and to think otherwise is unreasonable…

        Go with your last sentence… you remind me of another poster who oft says something like that… maybe why they get to post 6-8 times on a thread, regularly…

        1. Bill Marshall

          BTW, Keith O’s post of 8:05 proves the point I made that apparently you ignored… it would not have been made, had you not opened the door, and beckoned in, I suspect…

  3. Alan Miller

    “And it came from the southeast part of the world, Asia, OK. And what they’re doing is to find out if there’s bamboo in the paper.”

    I claim that my household uses 100% bamboo toilet paper and paper towels.  Could the forensic auditors fly out from Tucson to confirm my claims?

    1. Tia Will


      Our neighbor has lots of bamboo. Maybe that is where it came from?

      Oh, and what about those nonexistent “watermarks” they wasted time and taxpayer money on? You see I was following this piece of political theater beginning well before the great bamboo hunt.

      And one other tidbit. Being a poll worker is a detailed undertaking that most take very seriously. I know because I was trained as a poll worker and inspector. The classes I attended were long and full of detail. And even with meticulous attention to process, at the end of the primary election, we had one more ballot than signature. Despite two teams of workers looking independently to find the discrepancy, we were unable to. This prompted a call to my supervisor for instruction which ultimately ended in me writing in detail what the discrepancy was and what we had already done to account for it. I was assured this was common and would be dealt with at the professional, not volunteer level. I was told how to flag it and where to place the ballot, and all of this was over one lacking signature. Polling procedures are no joke although the Cyber Ninjas have managed to turn the “audit” into one.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Actually, Tia, the Cyber Ninjas are/were ‘just following orders’, and contract, from the Republican majority Arizona State Senate… let’s give credit/blame to where it’s due…

        One might validly opine that the Cyber Ninjas are “useful idiots”, under the command of “nefarious idiots”… but that won’t be ‘appropriate’, so I’ll leave it to others to so opine…

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