From the beginning of their audit of Maricopa County’s presidential election returns, Arizona Senate Republicans and their contractor, Cyber Ninjas, have done everything possible to prevent a neutral and open process.
This is especially troubling because elections are a fundamental public responsibility. It would therefore be expected that those overseeing an audit carried out by a private party would be particularly sensitive to the need for transparent processes and reproducible results. Yet, Arizona Senate Republicans and Cyber Ninjas have chosen at every turn to make the process as opaque as possible.
This began with an attempt by Cyber Ninjas to keep the press from effectively observing the proceedings by putting reporters at a prohibitive distance from the audit operations, and it continued with actions including seeking to exclude expert voting observers from the site altogether, requiring other observers to sign nondisclosure agreements, expelling a reporter for revealing that a former Republican state representative was reviewing ballots on which his own name appeared, and resisting until ordered by a court to publish its policies for providing security for the county’s electoral equipment in its custody and other basic administrative procedures.
Now this secrecy effort continues in court. Since mid-May, a public interest organization has been pursuing a case that seeks disclosure from the Senate Republican leadership of Cyber Ninja’s audit records. Despite the fact that Cyber Ninjas has been working at the direction of, and under a contract signed by, the Senate leadership, the Senate’s lawyers have contended that all of Cyber Ninja’s audit records are private property and therefore not subject to Arizona’s public records disclosure law. On August 2, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge completely rejected this contention as a matter of law and ordered that the records be immediately disclosed. Rather than agreeing to disclosure, the Senate Republicans have determined to continue their battle for secrecy by appealing the decision.
Meanwhile, the need for disclosure has become even more acute. In recent weeks, it has been reported that Senate Republican liaison to the audit, Ken Bennett, has told people that he has serious concerns about the conduct of the audit. In particular, Bennett expressed alarm that Cyber Ninjas might engage in so-called “force-balancing,” wherein they would falsify the results of their vote counting to bring it into line with a result they were seeking. In other words, cooking the books.
This is a truly alarming development. Not only does it confirm the strong suspicion that the audit is no more than a thinly veiled effort to claim that Joe Biden did not win the Arizona election, but it adds a sense of immediacy to the need for compliance with the Maricopa County Superior Court’s order.
It also further warrants the July 14 request to Cyber Ninjas by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform for copies of its audit records. Under that request, such records were to be provided by July 28. It has been reported that thus far Cyber Ninjas has not complied.
Clearly there is an urgent need for the Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate the audit of a federal election where that audit appears to involve not only the type of biased processes that have previously been reported, but now raises the specter of outright falsification. Given the history of the audit’s opposition to disclosure over the past five months, the committee would be more than justified in moving to subpoena these materials, should compliance with their request not be rapidly forthcoming.
An Arizona Rangers watches as contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona. Source: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images