Arizona Republicans Subpoena Routers Amid Cyber Ninja’s Shambling Election Audit

Early voting baallots piled up for legitimate hand auditing by Maricopa County Elections Department staff in October 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Early voting ballots piled up for legitimate hand auditing by Maricopa County Elections Department staff in October 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo: Courtney Pedroza (Getty Images)

The Republican goons in the Arizona Senate backing the farce of a “recount” of the 2020 election results is pressing local election officials for access to even more data, the Associated Press reports. Yet they might not be able to back up their threats, and some key figures behind the audit appear to be getting cold feet.

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The Arizona Senate Republicans contracted a previously little-known firm named “Cyber Ninjas,” which is run by pro-Donald Trump QAnon conspiracy theorist Doug Logan, to run an “audit” of the vote in Maricopa County that’s been ongoing for months. The entire process has clearly been orchestrated to fudge the numbers so that it looks like Joe Biden only won Maricopa County due to voter fraud, which in turn would proclaim Trump the truthful winner of the state and its 11 electoral college votes. In reality, this wouldn’t change anything—the election has already been certified, and both the governor’s office and local election officials have already carried out multiple audits showing the count was accurate. But such an outcome would ingratiate its GOP backers with Trump, who remains popular with Republicans, has floated running again in 2024, and is reportedly telling everyone in earshot about his fantastical certainty he will be reinstated to the presidency by the end of the summer.

Cyber Ninjas and crew have resorted to absurd extremes as they try to swing the audit outcome as far in their favor as possible through sheer force of fetishized irrationality. They’ve employed untrained Trump supporters as volunteers to scan ballots under microscopes for traces of nefarious Chinese bamboo and phantom watermarks, cooked up bogus science that would help them throw out ballots on the basis of how they were folded, and blamed non-existent data manipulation by county officials for their own technical incompetence. Maricopa County election officials have since refused to cooperate, and on Monday, the AP reported Senate President Karen Fann and Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen issued subpoenas demanding troves of data from the county and voting tech manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems.

The senators are demanding that the county turn over envelopes from all mail-in ballots (or images of them), complete voter registration records with complete histories, any records related to security breaches, and their network routers with all traffic logs, according to the AP. Of Dominion Voting Systems, which has become a popular election bogeyman on the right, the senators demand that Cyber Ninjas be given admin-level access to all ballot-counting machines used in the county.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which is comprised of four Republicans and one Democrat, has insisted that Cyber Ninjas are incompetent grifters undermining the integrity of the county’s vote. In a statement to the AP, board spokesperson Fields Moseley said they were reviewing the subpoena with lawyers, but have “already provided everything competent auditors would need to confirm the accuracy and security of the 2020 election.” In a separate statement, Dominion Voting Systems told the AP releasing their intellectual property to an “unaccredited, biased, and plainly unreliable actor such as Cyber Ninjas would be reckless, causing irreparable damage to the commercial interests of the company and the election security interests of the country.”

Fann, the Senate president, lacks the powers to hold members of the board of supervisors in contempt if they simply choose to ignore her, the AP wrote. Even were the Senate in session, she also lacks the 16 votes that would be necessary to put them in cuffs.

The Republican official serving as the Senate’s point man on the audit, former Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett, recently leaked initial audit results showing the county’s original count was accurate and found himself locked out of the audit facility for days as a result, according to Vice. While Bennett told Vice he was trying to “work things out with [Senate] President Fann” and resume his role, in recent interviews he had also detailed being shut out of Cyber Ninja’s audit processes and admitted he had threatened to resign. He also suggested the firm might “force balance” their report, an accounting term for maliciously cooking the books with fake data. (As Slate noted, Bennett’s last-minute flip after months of promoting misinformation about the Maricopa County vote reeks of distancing himself from the disaster.)

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At least two Senate Republicans who are responsible for helping bring the ongoing debacle about are starting to have second thoughts.

Scottsdale State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita recently tweeted “it’s become clear that the audit has been botched” thanks to the “incompetence” of Fann, ABC 15 reported. Phoenix-Glendale State Senator Paul Boyer told the network he agreed, but had a disingenuous excuse: Republicans had supported the audit but “just didn’t think it would be done by a firm that didn’t have a clue of what they were doing.”

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In related news, on Tuesday, Twitter banned two accounts affiliated with the audit effort, @AuditWarRoom and @ArizonaAudit. According to the Arizona Republic, the Senate GOP and Cyber Ninjas have kept the identity of whoever was tweeting from the @ArizonaAudit account (which had nearly 98,000 followers as of July 24) secret, even as it went on tirades about opponents like Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and members of the media. While Bennett told reporters in May 2021 that the account “had kind of gone down a road I’m not supportive of.” It subsequently began posting less, but the @AuditWarRoom account appeared around that time and amped up the attacks.

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