Retired election experts again offer Senate a way to check Maricopa County ballot counts

Ronald J. Hansen
Arizona Republic

Corrections & Clarifications: The election experts offering to check the new ballot tally are former executives with Clear Ballot Group. An earlier version of the headline and the article misstated their connection with the company.

Three retired election experts who have assailed the review of Maricopa County ballots by a Florida company with no experience are again offering their work as a check on a new tally sought by the Arizona state Senate.

For more than a month, a Pima County Republican and two former officials with Boston-based Clear Ballot Group have sought to have Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, compare their box-by-box breakdown of Maricopa County’s ballots to the box counts put together by Cyber Ninjas.

Last week Fann ordered a separate count of the 2.1 million ballots from the county using high-speed paper counters as a way to roughly check the Cyber Ninjas’ work. It will only count the number of ballots, not tally the votes for each candidate.

In a letter Monday, the retired officials praised Fann for seeking more independent corroboration but again suggested Arizona make use of their more sophisticated method.

Neither Fann nor former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who is serving as the media liaison to the ballot review, could be reached Monday to comment on whether Fann has any interest in the latest offer.

Randy Pullen, a spokesman for the Senate review effort, chuckled at the offer and declined.

“We already did that,” he said, adding the audit team has a complete spreadsheet laid out with all the numbers of ballots in the boxes. “This is not complicated."

The officials have offered the reconstruction of Maricopa County’s certified results in a way that accounts for all the votes in all 1,600 boxes — a way the county didn’t track.

“Without independent ballot and vote counts by box, the Cyber Ninja’s two-month-long recount cannot be audited,” their letter said. “However, all is not lost. We have taken it upon ourselves to create an independent comparison against the official results.

“Using only publicly available data and with no access to the ballots, we have assigned 2,089,563 ballots into 10,341 batches (of approximately 200 ballots each) and grouped them into 1,634 storage boxes that now sit on 45 pallets.”

Election experts offer challenge to Cyber Ninjas:We can count ballots without opening boxes

If the ballots were put back in the boxes the same way Cyber Ninjas’ workers took them out, the numbers should perfectly match Clear Ballot’s count, the letter predicted.

The letter came from Benny White, a prominent Pima County Republican data analyst; Larry Moore, the founder of Clear Ballot; and Tim Halvorsen, Clear Ballot's retired chief technology officer.

Does recount show doubts exist?

The ballot review of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona’s most populous county has served as a national political spectacle during the ongoing efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to undermine the result of the election.

As a sign of what they are offering, the letter-writers included some of the data they have analyzed.

In an interview Monday, Moore said he thinks Fann's decision to seek a count of the number of ballots in each box itself is a sign of concern over what the Cyber Ninjas might report for results.

"If you read between the lines, they don't trust the Ninjas' count," he said.

Moore said the Senate's purchase of the paper counters, along with a comparison to the box-by-box results Clear Ballot produced, would spotlight any disparities with the Cyber Ninjas results when they are published.

The group initially offered to let the Senate Republicans running the audit select an unopened box of ballots (any box), and the team would within minutes provide an accurate count of each race on all 1,000 or so ballots inside.

They proposed to do this without ever opening it or stepping foot in Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the Cyber Ninjas' ballot review unfolded. Fann's ballot count is taking place at the Wesley Bolin building.

The Senate did not take them up on the challenge.

Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at ronald.hansen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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