Arizona audit updates: Small group gathers at state Capitol for J6 rally

Arizona Republic

Months ago, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann had hoped for a fairly quick review of election procedures to look for ways the voting system could be improved. The Arizona audit launched in April and originally was expected to last a month. Here's the latest on the long-running political spectacle.

Follow coverage of the Arizona election audit by Republic reporters here.

2 p.m. Saturday: A day after audit announcements, small group rallies in support of Jan. 6 insurrection

Several dozen people gathered at the lawn of the Arizona state Capitol for the "Justice for January 6" rally Saturday. The event was a localized version of the sparsely-attended Washington, D.C., rally a week earlier, and similar events had been announced in other states.

The rally at the Arizona state Capitol started just after 2 p.m. with a prayer for those who are imprisoned. 

Federal prosecutors have charged hundreds of people with crimes during the Jan. 6 rally, in which insurgents smashed doors and windows at the U.S. Capitol, assaulted police officers, stole property from congressional offices and threatened to kill elected officials including then-Vice President Mike Pence. Five people died during and after the events. Rioters that day stormed the building in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings, presided over by Pence, which officially certified the election of President Joe Biden and the defeat of former President Donald Trump. 

Though the crowd at Arizona's capitol Saturday was small, a number of politicians spoke, including congressional candidate Jeff Zink, Arizona Rep. Walter Blackman and former state Rep. Anthony Kern.

The event also was attended by a group of self-described Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violent confrontations — and by a Phoenix man charged in the Jan. 6 raid who, as a condition of his release from jail, promised a federal court not to associate with Proud Boys. 

Zink, who had previously told The Republic that he attended the Jan. 6 event, is a congressional candidate. He spoke about his son, who was arrested on charges related to being at the riot. 

Zink said he condemns “everything about what happened with the destruction of the federal government building” but claimed that the violence was committed by Antifa members and has been mistakenly attributed to supporters of former President Donald Trump.

His son, Ryan Zink, had posted video online documenting his actions that day. In one, Ryan Zink stood in front of his camera phone, saying "We knocked down the gates! We're storming the Capitol!" 

Ryan Zink, who lives in Texas, was later arrested and charged with several crimes related to the riot. In court records, prosecutors presented other online posts by Zink that they recovered, including one that said, "Literally inside the capitol shots fired on the floor there is a fire and gas and flash bangs have been used multiple serious injuries reported." In another private message, Ryan Zink wrote, "Broke down the doors, pushed Congress out of session I took two flash bangs I'm ok," and later, "I'm afraid the time for rioting is over better clean those guns and invest in some level 4 armor."

Jeff Zink said Saturday that his son is one of many whose lives and livelihoods have been upended unfairly because of their association with the events of Jan. 6.

Micajah Jackson speaks to a crowd during a J6 rally at the Arizona Capitol on Sept. 25, 2021.

Also speaking to the crowd was Micajah Jackson, a Phoenix resident who was charged after the Jan. 6 riot.

Micajah Jackson claimed that the “radical” U.S. government, which was under Trump at the time of the riot, used organizations including the FBI and Capitol and D.C. to “set up a coup against patriotic Americans like myself and hundreds of thousands of others that are still being persecuted.”

Jackson faces federal charges of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct related to the riot. The federal criminal complaint against Jackson shows photographs of him walking outside the Capitol alongside members of the Proud Boys. He later told FBI agents he had traveled alone and acknowledged the Proud Boys had given him an orange armband to wear. The criminal complaint alleges Jackson walked next to a person who yelled through a bullhorn, "Whose streets?" The group responded by yelling, "Our streets."

A group of the Proud Boys pose for a photograph during a J6 rally at the Arizona Capitol on Sept. 25, 2021.

As part of his release conditions, Jackson agreed to "not associate with the Proud Boys or any person the defendant knows to be associated with the Proud Boys." 

Of the few dozen people at the rally, one group included people in "Proud Boys" T-shirts, and other speakers noted the group's presence.

On Saturday, Jackson said at the small rally, "We’re going to restore law and order in this country and bring God back in this nation and take back our local communities, our school boards, and put the America first agenda back in order.” 

Kern, the Arizona politician, was photographed in multiple places outside the Capitol raid, but has repeatedly insisted he did not breach the building itself. On Saturday, he said, "I was there on Jan. 6. Jan. 6 is a big lie. It was not an insurrection. It was not traitorous." 

Former state Rep. Anthony Kern speaks to a small crowd during a J6 rally at the Arizona Capitol on Sept. 25, 2021.

Kern, who later participated in the Arizona Senate's partisan ballot recount, even though his name appeared on the ballots he was supposed to be counting, has refused to turn over messages or records about his travel to the Jan. 6 event.

His attorney, responding to public records requests from The Arizona Republic, said Kern attended the rally as a private figure who had "completed his active service as a public official at the time of the riots." In fact, though, Kern was still a member of the Legislature. He had run for re-election and lost, but the new Legislature was not sworn in until five days after the riot. 

Couy Griffin, a county commissioner from New Mexico and leader of a group called  “Cowboys for Trump,” also came to the Arizona event. Griffin was at the Jan. 6 raid. Later, at a Jan. 14 meeting of the Otero County Board of Commissioners, he told the meeting he planned pack firearms to return to Washington for the inauguration.

Couy Griffin, a commissioner from New Mexico's Otero County, speaks to a small but passionate crowd during a J6 rally at the Arizona Capitol on Sept. 25, 2021.

Though Griffin faces charges of unauthorized entry and disorderly conduct, on Saturday he said he had been at the Capitol to peacefully pray for the nation alongside thousands of others. Drawing cheers and applause from a few dozen people, he described Jan. 6 as  “the most amazing day of my life.”

6:30 p.m.: Ken Bennett: Audit wasn't a 'failure'

Senate audit liaison and former Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett outlined election laws and procedures that he said were not followed to the letter and suggested “constructive improvements.” 

Among his concerns were 2,500 ballots without serial numbers and an incomplete chain of command from the county dating back to the election, he said. Whether those rise to violations of law, however, would be determined by the state attorney general. 

Bennett, speaking through video conference, said that he was already hearing from disappointed voters who expected the audit would show a different result. 

“I have already started to hear from people saying that the audit failed because it didn’t prove that the election was overturned, or that there was a different result,” Bennett said, nearing the end of roughly 3½ hours of reports on the audit.  

“There was no predetermined outcome that if we didn’t find this or didn’t find that we have failed,” Bennett said.

Instead, he said, the review was aimed at identifying the strengths and weaknesses in the election process. 

The fact that the hand count closely matched the county’s tally, he said, should not be seen as something bad.

“I don’t consider that a failure at all,” he said. 

Bennett said that CEO Doug Logan and the Cyber Ninjas “have identified the most accurate hand counting process that’s ever been used in the country.” Bennett said that ran counter to the criticism from elections experts and some media personalities who mocked spinning ballots on rotating platforms. 

Yet there is still work to do. 

"Further investigation, with the cooperation of the county, hopefully, is necessary to determine whether ineligible voters were allowed to vote in the 2020 election,” Bennett said.

— Stacey Barchenger, Richard Ruelas

6:20 p.m.: Machine count confirms original Maricopa County vote tally

A machine recount of ballots cast by Maricopa County voters in 2020 confirmed the county’s count was accurate. 

Randy Pullen said the review under his oversight “independently confirmed numbers that the county and Cyber Ninjas found in the ballot count.”  

Pullen, the Senate audit’s spokesman and a former state GOP chairman, oversaw a 12-day machine recount in July using high-speed machines purchased by the Senate. The machine count tallied 121 votes fewer than the county's official results, which was “not surprising,” Pullen said. 

Pullen said there were organizational issues with how batches of ballots were provided for his team’s review. Boxes would have six batches of ballots in them, when paperwork said they should have seven, Pullen said as one example.

The impact of those discrepancies? “If things were done more properly, this would be much easier, it could've been done faster,” he said. 

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said Pullen was brought on board just in case there were discrepancies between what Maricopa County and Cyber Ninjas found in other ballot counts. To date, all those audits have disproven Trump’s claims of fraud. 

— Stacey Barchenger

6:05 p.m.: Final report drops earlier reference to canvass effort 

A draft report of the state Senate’s audit report states that results from a grassroots voter-canvassing effort were used to enhance the report, but that text is omitted from the final report published today. 

The U.S. Department of Justice warned that knocking on doors as part of the audit could be considered illegal voter intimidation.

Cyber Ninjas, the chief contractor hired by the Senate to conduct the audit, said in its original statement of work that canvassing was important to determine whether the election was fair. Senate President Karen Fann rejected the use of canvassing after the DOJ sent its warning, postponing the operation indefinitely.

But that didn’t stop Liz Harris, a Chandler real estate and unsuccessful legislative candidate in 2020, from leading a group of hundreds of volunteers into neighborhoods around the Valley to ask voters about their election experience.

The Arizona Republic was invited out for a canvassing session with the group last month, but didn’t observe any problems among the voters interviewed by canvassers. Harris published a report earlier this month that claimed the county election featured significant numbers of invalid voters voting, or valid voters whose votes weren’t counted. Harris refused to release any of the underlying data for the overall claims. Two specific examples of alleged voter problems she provided were debunked by Maricopa County officials and the news media.

A leaked draft report by Cyber Ninjas states that Harris’ group chose on its own to do canvassing “to validate some of our results. We have integrated those results for the completeness of our report.”

However, in an interview with news media members after the Senate’s presentation, Fann reiterated that she halted the plan for canvassing after the DOJ warning, and she disputed that any draft report talked of integrating the canvassing results. The final report did not have such language, she said, adding that “sometimes you get misinformation” in draft reports.

The final report posted on says nothing about integrating the canvassing results, instead stating that because of Fann’s decision, “Cyber Ninjas was not able to perform any canvassing as part of the audit.”

Fann said she doesn’t know Harris personally, but told her she would love to have the canvassing results turned over to the state Attorney General’s Office. She emphasized “there is nothing of Liz Harris’s in that report.”

Yet if the draft report text wasn’t purely fictional, did Cyber Ninjas at some point use canvassing results in its findings — and then “un-integrate” them?

Ray Stern

5:50 p.m.: As cyber issues detailed, county pushes back 

Maricopa County officials indicated they were underwhelmed as the Arizona Senate hearing on the ballot review ended.

“So it’s over then?” the county tweeted, sharing a post from a reporter about the hand-count results.

County officials also quickly explained away many of the main “critical” findings in the report, including questions about the county’s voter rolls and election records.

They said that if Cyber Ninjas understood data analysis, it would have “performed standard processes to rule out situations that lead to faulty conclusions.”

“Unfortunately, AZ Senators gave unvetted, unqualified, private companies with known biases a platform to share misguided theories and faulty assumptions about Maricopa County elections,” one tweet read.

As CyFir CEO Ben Cotton attempted to raise questions about the security of the county’s election management system and voting machines, the county reminded people that the tabulation equipment “did its job.”

“Per Chairman (Jack Sellers’) earlier statement, ‘everything else is noise.’”

Cotton raised what he described as a host of security issues, including failing to update antivirus programs and failing to preserve security logs.

Cotton described tens of thousands of election-related files that were deleted. He said he didn’t know what happened to those deleted files and could not say whether they were archived or not.

CyFIR LLC is a Virginia-based digital security company contracted to work with Cyber Ninjas on the Arizona Senate’s audit.

“This may be part of a normal process,” Cotton said Friday, “but the timing of this become a bit suspect.”

Cotton said that it appeared an individual intentionally overwrote security logs. Cotton said he knew when these incidents happened and was able to use security footage to find images of people at computers.

“We have captured screenshots of Maricopa County people at the keyboards during those time periods,” Cotton said.

After that, there was applause from the gallery of spectators.

Cotton said that beyond the screenshots, his group had identified the employees by name.

“We will not release those names,” he said, “because we understand what the scrutiny is and what the impacts will be to those individuals.”

Cotton asserted that at least five devices used in the election had been connected to the internet. He found evidence of online visits to websites, including that of Maricopa County and Microsoft, on a portion of hard drives that was “unallocated,” or hidden from typical use.

Maricopa County officials countered Cotton’s claims. In a tweet on Friday, they said “Maricopa County strongly denies claims that … staff intentionally deleted data.”

Officials said that files were archived to make room on the county's election management system, not deleted. The Senate did not request the archived data, according to county spokesperson Megan Gilbertson.

"It had nothing to do with us deleting them," said Scott Jarrett, county elections director.

Although Cotton claimed he didn't have the information he needed to fully assess the county's network, officials have said that the county provided everything that competent auditors would have needed.

In a settlement with the county, the Senate announced that the county satisfied its subpoenas.

In response to Cotton's claims that some county machines showed some internet connections, the county tweeted that these were not machines that are part of the county's air-gapped election management system.

For example, one of the machines was the server for the Recorder's Office website. The county tweeted: "We shouldn't have to explain this."

Jen Fifield, Richard Ruelas, Robert Anglen

4:30 p.m.: Brnovich said findings are under review 

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Friday his office will review allegations of election fraud raised by Cyber Ninjas in its draft audit report of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results.

“I will take all necessary actions that are supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority. Arizonans deserve to have their votes accurately counted and protected,” Brnovich said in a written statement.

The Arizona Senate hired Cyber Ninjas to lead a hand recount of all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County last year. The company concluded that President Joe Biden won the election and former President Donald Trump lost by nearly the same margins the county reported before the audit began.

Brnovich said the office’s Election Integrity Unit will “thoroughly review the Senate’s information and evidence,” adding that he could not comment on specific allegations.

Copies of the draft audit report obtained and reviewed Thursday by The Arizona Republic recommended that “several specific findings of our audit be further reviewed by the Arizona Attorney General for a possible investigation.”

Among those are questions about mail-in ballots from voters who moved in and out of the state prior to registration deadlines and allegations that more ballots were returned than went out.

  • Mail-in votes from voters who moved within Maricopa County prior to the registration deadline.
  • Mail-in votes from voters who moved out of Arizona prior to registration deadline.
  • Mail-in votes from voters who moved within Arizona but out of Maricopa County prior to registration deadline.

Robert Anglen

4 p.m.: Cyber Ninjas CEO confirms Biden win, makes recommendations 

Doug Logan, CEO of Florida-based cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas, confirmed in the beginning of his presentation that President Joe Biden won in Maricopa County in the company’s hand recount of votes.

Former President Donald Trump lost votes and Biden gained votes in the hand count results, widening Biden’s victory.

Logan led the months-long review of all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County. That included a complete recount of the presidential and U.S. Senate votes, and an examination of the ballots that included examining many conspiracy theories.

He started by explaining there is more to come from Cyber Ninjas, even after Friday. Under a settlement agreement with the county, the Arizona Senate is able to ask questions about the county’s routers and network logs. This is intended to double-check that the county’s voting machines and election results were not connected to the internet.

Logan outlined several areas where he thinks the state and counties can better secure their election data.

In the draft report that was leaked to the media on Thursday, Cyber Ninjas did not say that they found any internet connections based on their examination of voting machines and the network information it already had access to.

Jen Fifield

3:45 p.m.: Virginia, Georgia Republicans on hand for report 

Several members of the national “Election Integrity Caucus” flew to Phoenix for Friday’s review of the state Senate’s election audit, hoping to gather information they’ll use for election reviews in their own states.

Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, was a founding member of the group and traveled to Virginia last month to push for an Arizona-style audit there. Rogers said at the time that the group reminded her of the Continental Congress. She told conservative media it would be used to start audits like Arizona’s in every state.

Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase, a Republican who traveled to Phoenix to see the ballot review this summer, said the group was in the Senate gallery on Friday to “hear for ourselves what the Arizona brave legislators are going to show us today.”

She said she didn’t want the information “filtered through the fake media.”

The group expects to put out a press release this week after getting a briefing from the group’s Arizona delegation. Even if the final report is similar to draft reports that show Biden still won, “there are concerns that are out there in Virginia,” she said.

“We said that no matter what the results were, we can do better,” she said. “I’ve been committed to fully finding out what happened so it never happens again.”

YG Nyghtstorm, a Republican candidate for Congress in Georgia, is also part of the group. He said that when a large number of voters don’t trust the system, “you owe it to the electorate to some kind of investigation.”

Ray Stern

3:15 p.m.: Engineer questions ballot signatures 

A controversial engineer tied to election conspiracies opened the Arizona Senate’s audit hearing Friday by raising questions about a series of “anomalies” found in Maricopa County mail-in ballots.

Shiva Ayyadurai, or "Dr. Shiva" as he is known to far-right adherents, said his review of ballots found thousands of ballot envelopes with missing signatures, scribbles and even some duplicates that might have been counted in the county’s 2020 election.

Shiva, who said he has four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his company, EchoMail Inc., reviewed 1.9 million mail-in ballots “for signature presence detection.” He outlined 11 so-called anomalies that he said deserve further review and suggested the Senate undertake an even broader audit.

The Arizona Senate signed a $50,000 contract with Ayyadurai on Aug. 27 to review signatures on the envelopes on early ballots sent to the county.

Ayyadurai gained prominence in the early days of the pandemic for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines. He criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a tool of the pharmaceutical industry intent on making vaccines mandatory.

In a YouTube video that racked up more than 6 million views in 2020, Ayyadurai accused Fauci of being a "deep state" operative and falsely claimed vitamin C could be used to treat COVID -19.

He ran two unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts and has announced his intent to run again in 2024. After the 2020 primary, he wrongly claimed on Twitter the state had illegally deleted 1 million ballot images from his race.

Shiva, in a 50-minute presentation, laid out his findings for the Senate, which he ended by asking a series of rhetorical questions for county elections officials and making recommendations to the Senate.

The county did not provide data to Shiva for his review.

Shiva stopped short of accusing the county of wrongdoing, and even said at one point, “I don’t want to accuse that.” He also noted that “there could be an explanation of this” in regard to at least one anomaly.

Among his findings:

  • The county received and might have counted duplicate ballots.
  • His company detected more signature scribbles than the county reported.
  • Some ballots came from voters with matching addresses and signatures but different voter IDs.
  • Blank signature boxes were stamped verified and approved.
  • The number of blank signatures “surged” by 25% after Nov. 4 and through Nov. 9.

Shiva said determining whether these issues indicated fraud or not would require a more thorough audit of signatures.

“A full signature verification audit is absolutely necessary,” he said.

Robert Anglen

2:45 p.m.: Fann presents Brnovich with 'urgent issues' 

Before the first audit report was presented, state Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, sent Attorney General Attorney Mark Brnovich a letter outlining five "urgent issues" that she had identified from the contractors' work.

However, it was unclear how some of those issues would qualify for an investigation into broken laws, as many of them appeared to suggest system improvements.

For example, she suggested the state should have a team of cybersecurity experts to ensure election materials are protected. She recommended better maintenance of the voter-registration rolls and protocols to ensure election materials be preserved in the interest of potential future audits and transparency.

She called the signature-verification process “imperfect” and said signatures should only be accepted if they closely match the voter signature on file with elections officials. That appeared to be one of the issues that the attorney general could look into, Fann suggested.

Fann said the Senate is already at work on legislation to ensure Arizona has “an unimpeachable election process.”

Mary Jo Pitzl

2:35 p.m.: Celebrity news, sort of

Shiva Ayyadurai and actress Fran Drescher attend the 68th Annual Tony Awards Gala at The Plaza Hotel on June 8, 2014, in New York City.

And now for a celebrity news break.

Shiva Ayyadurai, known as Dr. Shiva, who testified Friday about ballot signature verification was married for three years to Fran Drescher, best known as TV’s "The Nanny." 

“The first year was bliss, the second year was agony and ecstasy, and the third year was just agony," Drescher told New York magazine. 

The couple divorced in 2016. 

Richard Ruelas

2:25 p.m.: Democratic organization hits GOP for election doubts

The Democratic Attorneys General Association sought Friday to cast blame for undermining public confidence in elections far past Arizona.

The DAGA called out 18 Republican attorneys general, including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, for refusing to condemn or actively spreading disinformation about alleged 2020 election problems.

In a news release timed with the review of the state Senate’s election audit, the Washington D.C.-based group pointed out that former President Donald Trump is pressuring Brnovich to launch a criminal investigation into the audit report.

Brnovich, who is running for U.S. Senate, has walked a fine line between patronizing election deniers and claiming he’s just interested in ensuring fair elections. He antagonized audit critics last month after issuing a decision that Maricopa County officials had to comply with a Senate subpoena to turn over routers and network logs allegedly needed for the audit.

The 18 Republican attorneys general in some cases “explicitly poured fuel on the fire by joining lawsuits calling the election results into question — leading to things like today’s dangerous Maricopa County ‘audit,’” said DAGA co-chairs Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Nevada AG Aaron Ford in a joint statement. “Their actions undermine the fabric of our democracy and Constitution, and we call on them to stop them immediately.”

As the state’s top legal officers, Republican AGs shouldn’t “pander to a dangerous, far-right political agenda” as they’re doing, and should “call out” the audit as a “dangerous political stunt meant to further divide this country.”

Brnovich announced Friday that he would review the audit report’s alleged finding of election problems.

Ray Stern

2:15 p.m.: County GOP officials call for Ward to resign

Maricopa County Supervisors Clint Hickman and Bill Gates called on Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward to resign after her support for the ballot review. 

Hickman and Gates, both Republicans, said her baseless claims of a fraudulent election, along with GOP electoral losses during her tenure as chair and promotion of conspiracies is harming the Republican Party. 

In 2020, former President Donald Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden and Democrats picked up a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.

A state GOP spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Arizona Republic’s request for comment. 

Ward and the state Republican Party have spent months fundraising off the ballot review, but it appears those funds have not paid for the audit, Hickman and Gates said.

They said her continued push of a false narrative is harmful to the Republican Party and democracy more broadly. 

They also urged Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who serves as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, to join them in their calls. A spokesperson for Ducey did not immediately comment.

“She's made videos, she's questioned our integrity, she’s asked if maybe we should be picked up by law enforcement, she’s questioned the machinery and Dominion,” Hickman said. “If it comes out that Biden won by even more, Kelli Ward needs to go. It is a track record of losing. She's only won one race (as a state senator), and that was in Mohave County many years ago.

“She has had an issue with creating a track record of victory and she’s been using the party apparatus to fundraise for something that rips apart our democracy, and that’s what this grift is.”

Gates said Ward’s leadership is doing long-term harm to the party and could further divide Republicans heading into the 2022 midterm elections. 

“She’s not focused on winning elections — she never has been,” Gates said. “She’s focused on tearing down other Republicans. She spends so much time doing that and those around her. And so, it's time to turn the page.”

He said the release of the Senate’s election review findings is a good opportunity to do so. 

“She’s going to continue to relitigate November 2020 and that is a recipe for disaster,” he said. 

Ward narrowly won re-election to retain her position as chair in January after a race that went to a runoff.

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

1:40 p.m.: Fann still claims troubling problems

During her opening remarks, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, acknowledged that draft reports of the ballot review were mostly correct, but said the public has not focused on the many irregularities uncovered in the review by Cyber Ninjas.

Draft reports leaked Thursday showed Cyber Ninjas effectively confirmed Maricopa County’s final tally showing President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump in Maricopa County, as the county reported 10 months ago.

The final numbers for each candidate differed slightly, and the Florida company hired by the Arizona Senate emphasized it found troubling irregularities as it went through the 2.1 million ballots.

Fann called the alleged irregularities a key part of ensuring election integrity. Fann assailed Maricopa County officials for resisting the audit as she originally envisioned it, and said the report presents matters still demanding attention.

“The interesting fact is truth is truth, numbers are numbers, and we’ve said that from Day One,” she said. “What you have not seen and you have not heard is about the statutes that were broken, how chain of custody was not followed, how we had a number of issues, which is why people questioned the ballots in the elections.”

County officials have long said they wanted an audit from an accredited firm. Cyber Ninjas has never before conducted an election review.

State Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, lamented the lack of cooperation during his opening remarks.

“It is unfortunate that this is an incomplete audit,” he said.

Ronald J. Hansen

1:30 p.m.: Presentation draws Senate spectators

Several Arizona state senators showed up to hear the ballot review presentation in person in the Senate's main chamber.

Seated at their desks were Republican Sens. Paul Boyer of Glendale, Vince Leach of Tucson, Kelly Townsend of Mesa, Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff, and Nancy Barto of Phoenix.

Floor privileges were granted to former lawmakers Anthony Kern and David Livingston.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., took a seat against the Senate's west wall.

Kern briefly served as an audit volunteer before being disqualified since it is against protocol for politicians to be reviewing ballots on which they were listed.

Other senators said they would stay home and watch the proceedings online.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

1:10 p.m.: White House downplays ballot review

During her regular press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki seemed to downplay the draft results of the months-long ballot review:

"It confirmed what we have known for some time, and that millions and millions of people in the country know," she said Friday during a White House briefing, shortly before the Arizona Senate proceedings kicked off.

Asked if there’s anything the federal government could do to address calls from Republicans pushing for similar reviews in other states, she said: “I’ll have to check and see if there’s anything substantive that we would have the power to do.”

—Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

1 p.m.: Cyber Ninjas reports about to be made public

The long-awaited ballot review results from Cyber Ninjas, the Florida company hired by the Arizona state Senate, are about to be posted.

After leaked draft reports showed President Joe Biden won Maricopa County by a slightly wider margin over former President Donald Trump on Thursday, the big question is whether those reports were accurate.

For his part, Trump indicated in a statement on Friday that the report found “significant and undeniable evidence of FRAUD!” The fraud, he wrote in another statement, is “many more times than the so-called margin of “victory.’”

Democrats and election experts have eyed the draft reports warily, noting that Cyber Ninjas has never conducted an election audit before and the Arizona ballot review has been riddled with problems.

If the leaked reports are correct, they suggest the Cyber Ninjas tally was little different than the county’s certified results.

Including Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate, the draft numbers were about 600 votes different than the county’s official results. 

With nearly 2.1 million votes cast, that suggests Cyber Ninjas disagreed with one vote out of every 3,700 ballots counted.

— Ronald J. Hansen

12:30 p.m. Democrats rip report, Republicans ahead of release

State Democratic leaders launched a blistering attack on the draft reports of the state Senate's partisan election audit before the expected release of an official report today.

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios and House Majority Leader Reginald Bolding, Jr., addressed reporters outside of county headquarters in Phoenix, pulling few punches as they criticized the process and demanded accountability from Republican leaders who support it.

Gallardo described the audit as "nonsense" and a "circus" that has "undermined democracy" and cost millions of taxpayer dollars. He wasn't sure what would be in the final report presented by the Senate today, but predicted it would be "BS."

"The one thing we're going to get out of the review is this: Our elections were safe, secure, and accurate, and (former President) Donald Trump lost Arizona, period," Gallardo said. "And there is nothing else we can do, and nothing else any of the election experts can do to change the minds of the folks who can't accept the fact that their candidate lost."

State Sen. Rebecca Rios and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo demanded accountability from Republican leaders who support the audit.

The conspiracy promoters pushed Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, into a process she had "no control whatsoever" of, and that decisions were being made by Trump-supporting groups and people.

Rios and Bolding, both Phoenix Democrats, predicted that the audit and the "embarrassing" way it turned out would negatively affect Republicans in important elections in 2022, such as the challenge to U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and the race for governor.

"We need to change the actual people who are running for office and let them know that they are so far to the radical right that it is not consistent with what Arizonans are asking for," Bolding said.

Rios said Republican lawmakers will use the report to justify new legislation designed to "suppress the vote" of people of color, senior citizens and disabled people.

"At the end of the day, they lost, and they know without suppressing the vote ... that they're going to continue to lose elections," she said.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed two bills in this year's legislative session that Democrats saw as creating significant obstacles to voting in the state, including one that changes the rules of the former Permanent Early Voting List.

Bolding said Ducey and other Republicans who may not have supported the audit, but didn't condemn it, either, can no longer "hide" from voters and would have to choose whether they would continue to tolerate, or more, election-conspiracy rhetoric.

—  Ray Stern

11:30 a.m.: Sen. Mark Kelly weighs in

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., reiterated his stance that Arizona conducts professional and fair elections ahead of the Senate's 1 p.m. release of the ballot review findings. 

The review of 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County focused on both the presidential race and the 2020 U.S. Senate contest, where Kelly unseated Republican Sen. Martha McSally. 

“In the nearly ten months since this election was certified by Republicans and Democrats, I have been focused on doing my job — helping Arizona beat COVID-19 and rebuild our economy," a statement from Kelly to The Arizona Republic said. "Our state does elections well. These baseless conspiracies should not be used to justify any further attempts to undermine our democracy.” 

— Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

11:05 a.m.: 'Fed up' Patriot Party supporters rally at Capitol 

Hundreds of people went to the state Capitol for a rally that organizers said was in support of medical freedom and election integrity hours before results from the audit by Cyber Ninjas was set to be presented to the Senate.

The Capitol area was a sea of American flags and signs condemning COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Booths were set up to sell shirts and hats, and to sign attendees up for the Patriot Party of Arizona.

A speaker just after 10 a.m. asked attendees to put pressure on Gov. Doug Ducey to call a special session to address vaccine mandates, saying that people are “fed up.”

Sen. Kelly Townsend addressed the crowd and asked veterans and parents of a “vaccine-injured child” to stand with her, adding that she is both.

Townsend described President Joe Biden’s administration as “fascist,” saying that she and others in attendance would not comply with vaccine mandates.

Steve Daniels, chair of the Patriot Party of Arizona, said that legislators and candidates who spoke at the rally were asked to sign a pledge to support his group beforehand.

A dustup happened after Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake entered the stage without having signed the pledge.

Daniels showed her the contract as she took the stage and she declined to sign it, saying it would be “irresponsible” to sign it before reading it in its entirety.

After some in the crowd continued heckling Lake, an organizer took the microphone and asked for them to allow Lake to finish. 

“I’m not afraid of bullies, guys,” Lake told the crowd.

Before appearing to cut her speech short, Lake expressed confidence that the results of the audit would show fraud. She said as governor she would “prosecute everyone involved” and push back against vaccine mandates.

— BrieAnna J. Frank

10:00 a.m.: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema weighs in

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., weighed in on the draft results of the GOP Senate-ordered review of Maricopa County ballots, saying the 2020 election "was a success" and a "demonstration of the will of Arizona voters." 

In a written statement to The Arizona Republic ahead of the Senate's official release of the ballot review results, she thanked state and local election officials for their work. She noted the exercise could result in an erosion of public trust in the nation's election systems.

"It has been deeply troubling to see state leaders wasting time and taxpayer money sowing doubt about the election when no credible evidence of irregularities exists," her statement said. ".... The Arizona election produced bipartisan results, in which members of both parties won races — and these results have been confirmed by stakeholders across the political spectrum."

Eight challenges contesting the state's election results were heard by both federal and state courts, she noted. All were either dismissed or withdrawn.

"Those of us who are trusted with elected office are, first and foremost, public servants. We serve our constituents — we do not seek to substitute our personal ambitions for the will of the American people," she said.

— Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

9:30 a.m.: Congressional panel wants Cyber Ninjas CEO to testify

A congressional committee that has for months been seeking information relating to the company conducting Arizona's long-running ballot review now wants the firm's CEO to testify next month about the matter.  

Citing his repeated "obstruction," the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a letter late Thursday to Doug Logan, the head of Cyber Ninjas, saying his appearance has become necessary to understand what it characterized as a "questionable audit."

The Democrat-controlled panel's request came a day ahead of the scheduled release of his company's review for the Arizona Senate and signals the national concerns among Democrats over its implications. The committee wants him to testify at an Oct. 7 hearing. 

— Ronald J. Hansen

8:35 a.m., Sept. 24: What to expect as election audit results are presented

In a contentious battle between the Arizona Senate and Maricopa County supervisors earlier this year, the Senate prevailed in gaining access to the county's ballots and election materials.

The Senate's audit contractors recounted the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County in the presidential and U.S. Senate races and examined each ballot. They also examined all ballot tabulating machines and reviewed signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes. 

Four reports are expected to be presented beginning at 1 p.m. Friday by contractors and Senate representatives. Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, and Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, will preside over the event.

  • Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, will present results on the hand count and examination of ballots.
  • Audit spokesperson Randy Pullen will present results from a separate machine count of ballots.
  • Conspiracy theorist Shiva Ayyadurai will present results from a review of envelope signatures.
  • Senate liaison Ken Bennett will report his observations on whether election law was followed.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

12 p.m., Sept. 23: GOP gubernatorial candidate wants statewide audit

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon — who is seeking the GOP nomination for Arizona governor — called for an election audit and canvass to expand across the state on Thursday, one day before Senate leaders overseeing the audit in Maricopa County are scheduled to make the results public. 

Though he has not seen the results of the election review, Salmon also used the impending announcement to pledge that if he is elected governor, he would “not sign any other bills, including the state budget, until additional, enhanced election protections” like requiring identification for all forms of voting are in place.  

Salmon — who declined to say who won the presidential race in Arizona when asked by The Arizona Republic — said he believes there were “serious discrepancies” in the election. Those call for a statewide audit, he said, to “identify and address the problems taking place in Arizona’s elections.” 

While Maricopa County’s votes helped hand the state’s electoral votes to Joe Biden by a small margin, Trump won 10 of Arizona's 15 counties, often by massive margins. 

Polling shows a majority of Arizona Republicans believe there was fraud in the election, making so-called “election integrity” an easy issue for Republican candidates like Salmon to support ahead of the August 2022 primary election. 

In a Thursday podcast interview with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, which was also recorded on video, Salmon told Bannon that “if we’re going to try to contest this election, we know it’s probably going to end up in the courts at some point and time and we need a lot more forensic evidence.” Salmon’s campaign did not immediately respond to a question about what new legal claims could be made. 

The election result has been certified by Gov. Doug Ducey — also a Republican — and multiple court challenges were tossed out by Arizona courts. 

— Stacey Barchenger

2:30 p.m., Sept. 22: Are plans for a 'nullification committee' afoot?

A recent Phoenix meeting of the John Birch Society, which once was a group on the far fringes of the political right, turned into a shouting match over the election review and other issues.

A video of the confrontation posted on Facebook by Daniel McCarthy, who has unsuccessfully run for office in Arizona, might be most notable for showing the elected officials and others who attended the meeting and what some of them had to say.

One state representative says during the raucous 12-minute video that he is working on a “nullification committee" for elections laws while another says she is working to eliminate voting machines.

But before that, there were plenty of fireworks with McCarthy criticizing the election audit.

The video, which appears to be filmed by an associate of McCarthy, begins with him shouting at Senate audit liaison Ken Bennett as Bennett leaves the room. McCarthy asks if Bennett will provide the two dozen or so people there with an update.

Bennett says he has to leave for a meeting to receive a preliminary update on the audit, but McCarthy launches into an outburst that interrupts the meeting despite multiple participants asking him to be quiet.

“A lot of power brokers in the state are here. A lot of people are quite curious about this grift that’s been running,” McCarthy says to Bennett. “Let’s have a conversation on what we can do to install some confidence rather than running a massive grift with an audit where you guys are raising a ton of money and the Republican Party is raising a ton of money, and there’s a bunch of shenanigans.”

The meeting appears to be in a private room at a restaurant. Bennett leaves after the brief exchange with McCarthy.

McCarthy asserts that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers in Arizona didn’t do enough to prevent the fraud. There has been no evidence of fraud in Arizona’s election, and multiple lawsuits over the matter were dismissed for lack of evidence.

Corporation Commissioner Jim O’Connor takes little interest as he finishes his meal while the men shout across the room.

Mesa Republican Verl Farnsworth tries to quiet McCarthy, telling him his outburst is not on the agenda. The two exchange words.

The video then shows another Arizona Corporation Commissioner, Justin Olson, get up from his meal and leave.

McCarthy begins railing against COVID-19 vaccines and people who wear masks.

Gen. Michael McGuire is there, and McCarthy criticizes him for wearing a mask during an appearance with Gov. Doug Ducey. McGuire retired as director of the Arizona National Guard to run for the U.S. Senate. He keeps his back to McCarthy and doesn’t speak to him.

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, tells McCarthy the Legislature is working on a “nullification committee.”

He didn't explain what he meant by that at the meeting. Reached Thursday, Fillmore said the committee's duty would be to determine which federal laws were acceptable to the state, including election laws.

"With H.R. 1 where the federal government is trying to have some extreme overreach and take control of elections, there might be some reason there that states might want to nullify that position," Fillmore said.

H.R. 1 passed the House in Congress but not the Senate. The law addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics.

In the video, McCarthy then singles out Rep. Jacqueline Parker, R-Mesa, who explains that lawmakers have made vaccine mandates illegal and are working on election issues.

Parker says lawmakers are trying to eliminate the use of machines in voting.

“We are working on that,” she says when asked specifically about machine voting. “Yes, we are trying to get rid of the machines.”

— Ryan Randazzo

5:45 p.m., Sept. 17: Details about audit report presentation are released

At the Sept. 24 roll out of the results of the review of Maricopa County's 2020 election, three men will present the results of their work.

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan will present the findings of the hand count done of the county's 2.1 million ballots — both how the votes added up for the presidential and U.S. Senate candidates and the number of ballots.

Audit spokesman/fundraiser Randy Pullen will discuss the results of the machine count of ballots. Senate President Karen Fann ordered the count after she learned that the Ninjas' hand count of the number of ballots didn't match the official result.

Fann, R-Prescott, said the count would serve as a "check" on the Ninjas' work. The tally was done on high-speed paper counting machines that cost the Senate about $30,000. Pullen said his presentation would not take much time.

Checking in via Zoom will be Shiva Ayyadura, whose firm, EchoMail, did a review of the signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes. "Dr. Shiva" as he is known to his followers, has subscribed to election conspiracies that the 2020 election was stolen.

Ayyadura was hired by the Senate for the signature review on a $50,000 contract. He also was a subcontractor for the Cyber Ninjas, hired to review digital images of all 2.1 million ballots.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

4:35 p.m., Sept. 16: Election official seeks inquiry after voter data posted online

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is asking Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate after voter registration records were posted online.

Voter registration records known as the “voter file” are available to the public, but it's a felony to publish the information on the internet. The voter file includes the name, address and party affiliation of registered voters, along with some phone numbers. It shows whether the person has voted in recent elections but not the candidates and issues they supported.

“It appears that in this case, information from a public records request may have been posted in violation of state law,” Richer said in a statement Thursday. "I trust the Attorney General will look into this and take any necessary action.”

Richer did not name the group responsible for the alleged violation, but an expansive list of voters remained accessible Thursday afternoon on a website posting podcasts, articles and other materials in support of the Republican Party.

Richer and Brnovich are both Republicans.

— Associated Press

4:15 p.m., Sept. 16: Audit volunteers celebrate — just don't call it that

State Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, posted pictures on Twitter of a gathering for audit volunteers that apparently took place Wednesday evening at the American Way Market in Chandler, and Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan was in attendance.

Logan's smiling face was captured among Rogers' photos just hours after his lawyer told the Arizona Court of Appeals there was no way Cyber Ninjas could comply with a court order to produce emails, texts and other communications from the audit by Friday. Logan was just too busy, his lawyer said.

Logan and his company on Aug. 25 were ordered by a court to preserve all such records in the event their legal battle to keep them secret was snuffed out by the courts, which is what happened this week when the Arizona Supreme Court declined to take up their appeal. It was the fifth court loss for the Senate in its attempts to withhold the documents.  

Logan's lawyer told the court that Cyber Ninjas probably needed 30 days to produce the records, partly because the company still was working on the audit report.

When The Arizona Republic noted on Twitter that Logan was seen celebrating the audit that has yet to release results, Senate President Karen Fann took exception. She texted a reporter, writing that "it was not a celebration party."

Fann, R-Prescott, was also photographed at the event.

She said it was planned to thank those who volunteered as observers at the audit. She didn't directly answer when asked whether the observers sent to the audit by the Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs were invited, but it seems unlikely.

So the "event" for "thanking the people that worked on the audit," in Fann's words (which Rogers described as a "reunion"), was not a "celebration." Noted.

Meanwhile, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge asked Fann's lawyer in court Thursday when the final audit report would come out, and after a direct question from the judge, the lawyer said Sept. 24. Not long after he made that disclosure, television personality Christina Bobb from One America News posted on Twitter that the report would come out that day, as did Rogers.

— Ryan Randazzo

3 p.m., Sept. 15: Maricopa County still mulling over subpoena request

Maricopa County's Board of Supervisors has met three times in closed-door sessions trying to decide whether to further comply with Arizona Senate Republicans' election-related subpoenas that include a demand to access county routers. 

A county spokesperson said no action was expected Wednesday after the third closed-door meeting executive session.

A lot is on the line. Attorney General Mark Brnovich told the supervisors last month they were breaking the law by not fully responding to the subpoenas. He is threatening to withhold state funding if the supervisors don’t comply by Sept. 27.

The state funding in jeopardy accounts for 42% of the county’s operating budget, affecting public safety, public health, courts, elections and all other county operations.

Supervisors and other county leaders have been mum on what they might do, but a county spokesperson said last week the options include responding further, trying to negotiate with the senators or filing a lawsuit.

The county has given the Senate nearly everything asked for under the subpoenas, including the ballots and voting machines that launched the audit, but not the county’s routers.

County officials have said it would be a security risk to hand over the routers. They also say the Senate’s contractors don’t need them — they already gave them the network logs, voting machines and other materials that would allow the contractors to ensure the voting system wasn’t connected to the internet during the November general election.

The county’s election system and voting machines don’t use routers to transmit election results, and an independent audit in February found that no internet connections occurred during the election.

— Jen Fifield

Noon, Sept. 15: Too busy to provide proof of voting irregularities?

After former President Donald Trump's defeat in November, Matt Braynard, a former campaign staffer of Trump's, got national attention for the claims he made about voting problems in several states, including Arizona. His findings were mentioned recently in a controversial report by Liz Harris on voter canvassing in metro Phoenix.

But anyone looking for evidence that backs up Braynard's claims will have to wait.

As he told The Arizona Republic, he's busy until Sept. 18, the day he’ll lead the “Justice for J6” rally in Washington D.C. in support of more than 570 people who face federal charges for participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“I'm in the political business and that means I can't drop everything I'm doing right now to satisfy some local reporter's questions,” said Braynard, the founder and executive director of Look Ahead America, a Trump-supporting voter outreach organization, in a Sept. 11 message to The Arizona Republic via social media. “I will let you know when I am free to address that stuff but I don't have any time right now.”

Harris' report states that Braynard phone-surveyed Republican voters who didn't have a record of voting and allegedly found that half said they did actually vote. That finding, however, didn’t come with any data to back it up. And if Braynard has released such data, he’s not releasing it now.

Braynard claimed in direct message that he “did release it but finding that out would require journalism.” He subsequently cut off communication.

Law enforcement officials expect about 700 people to show up for the D.C. rally this Saturday.

In December, Braynard’s supposed findings in Georgia were debunked in a virtual hearing with lawmakers when Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen explained how she’d checked on his multiple examples of claimed voter fraud and found them to be erroneous.

Harris hasn’t yet released any voter data that could be used to verify the claimed canvassing results of her operation, either, and the only two specific examples she gave of problems withered under basic scrutiny.

— Ray Stern

5:30 p.m., Sept. 14: Talk of Pima County canvassing raises questions

State Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, recently told podcast host and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon that he’s "talking to the Pima County GOP" about canvassing voters there.

If so, that's news to the leader of the Pima County Republican Party. 

Finchem, who Monday received Trump’s endorsement in his campaign for Arizona secretary of state, made the remarks Sept. 10 following the release of a canvassing report by Liz Harris, a Chandler real estate agent, that relied on dubious statistics and unverifiable statements to advance the conspiracy theory of widespread election fraud. 

Shelley Kais, chair of the Pima County Republican Party, said she’s not aware of any canvassing operation and nobody in the organization had discussed it, as far as she knows. 

Since December, Harris has led a team of election deniers into Valley neighborhoods to knock on doors and ask voters questions in what the U.S. Department of Justice has warned could be acts of voter intimidation. 

While the DOJ warning led the state Senate to cancel canvassing plans as part of the audit of Maricopa County votes, Harris has carried out the plan that Cyber Ninjas, the lead contractor for the audit, previously said was an “important” part of its scope of work. 

Now, Finchem, who was outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and who calls himself the “vanguard” of voter integrity, claims he’s in discussions to launch a door-knocking operation in Pima County with “evidence that Dr. Shiva’s worked on.” 

“We hope to release that next week,” he told Bannon on Sept. 10. “It’s big.” 

Finchem had mentioned during a separate Aug. 24 interview with Bannon that “we’ve been conducting” an investigation into alleged problems with voting in Pima County. He didn’t return a message Tuesday inquiring about his statements.

Presumably, in the Sept. 10 podcast, Finchem was talking about Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, who helped give a presentation to Arizona lawmakers on Nov. 30 with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, about supposed flaws in the election.

Audit spokesperson and former Arizona GOP Chair Randy Pullen told The Arizona Republic last week that Finchem “hooked us up” with Ayyadurai. The Senate signed a contract with Ayyadurai in August to review signatures on the envelopes of 1.9 million early ballots sent to the county.

The Pima County Recorder’s Office didn’t return messages on Tuesday, and it’s unclear who, if anyone, has contracted Ayyadurai to investigate the 2020 election in Pima County. 

Asked if she thought widespread voting problems had occurred in Pima County in 2020, Kais said she “didn’t know enough about the process” to answer. Still, “irregularities” in the election are a “really huge issue,” she said. “We need to get to the bottom of it.”

— Ray Stern

5 p.m., Sept. 14: Supreme Court rejects appeal on Cyber Ninjas' records

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the state Senate's bid to keep records from Cyber Ninjas and other contractors working on the election audit out of public view.

After the decision was announced, Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she was preparing to comply with an order from a lower court to release the documents.

The Senate had refused to turn over records from the audit that are in the possession of its contractor, Cyber Ninjas, and other subcontractors, even after two Maricopa County Superior Court judges in separate cases and the Appeals Court all ruled they are public documents.

After the Appeals Court's ruling, the Senate asked the Supreme Court to weigh in. The justices discussed the matter in a private conference Tuesday and decided not to take it up.

— Ryan Randazzo

11 a.m., Sept. 13: Report makes big claims about voters, offers no proof

Election conspiracy theorists hailed the arrival of a report on a voter-canvassing effort trying to help the Arizona Senate's audit of the 2020 election.

But the report failed to include any way to verify its dubious findings, and the only two specific examples it provided of alleged ballot problems were swiftly debunked.

The woman behind the canvassing effort, Liz Harris, refused to release data by which her claims in the Sept. 8 report could be checked. The new report also claims that the canvass team "can make sworn affidavits supporting these findings readily available," but Harris refused to release those, either, or comment about the report to The Arizona Republic.

The Maricopa County Recorder's and Assessor's offices ripped the report in a joint statement Friday, but noted that officials would investigate the findings — if they could.

— Ray Stern

9 a.m., Sept. 13: GOP state senator targeted with threat

A Republican state senator who has criticized the ongoing review of the 2020 election was threatened in an email sent the same day prominent conspiracy theorist Seth Keshel urged his followers to contact her.

The Sept. 9 email to Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, begins with a racial slur.

It goes on to say, "You have one chance to give the American people the Audit report or were coming for you, we know where you live, we know where you get groceries, and we know where your family lives. You better do the right thing or your [sic] going to feel the consequences. You Understand? We the people are no longer willing to play."

It's only the latest threat against an Arizona public official since Trump lost the November election here, sparking a backlash by supporters across the country who demanded a review of the results.

The Department of Public Safety's threat mitigation unit is reviewing the email, a department spokesperson said.

— Ray Stern

10 a.m., Sept. 10: Many documents released by Senate inconsequential to audit

The Arizona Senate turned over thousands of mundane and inconsequential emails in response to a court order making records from its election audit public.

At the same time, it withheld texts, emails and memos between lawmakers and others, including Cyber Ninjas, the company contracted to lead the audit. The Senate provided a 269-page report listing specific documents it chose not to release because of what it called legislative privilege, attorney-client privilege or other privilege.

These documents could be critical to understanding what was behind the recount of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County during the 2020 election.

Among the records released were thousands of copies of a subscription journal sent daily to legislators, chain emails from constituents, texts from media members and conspiracy-laden screeds from around the world.

The records were released on Aug. 31 in response to lawsuits filed by the Arizona Republic and a nonprofit watchdog group called American Oversight. A team of six Arizona Republic reporters spent several days going through each of the 22,000 documents.

Several thousand records were copies of The Yellow Sheet, a subscription-only political tip sheet published by the Arizona News Service, along with emails from legislative staffers confirming it had been sent.

Emails were almost exclusively in support of the Senate’s actions; out of a batch of 10,000 documents, a reporter found only two or three emails asking lawmakers to call it off. 

Lawmakers were flooded with emails demanding they hire Jovan Hutton Pulitzer and other conspiracy theorists to do the audit. The requests came not only from across Arizona but also from states from Massachusetts to Oklahoma. Concerned citizens in Poland and Australia added their pleas to the chorus of emails, many of which had a form-letter feel.

The people behind these emails expressed confidence in the statements of conspiracy-minded data crunchers and appeared to have a blind hatred for local election officials. Many legislators seemed to pander to the writers.

The tone ranged from polite — "Respectfully request the Senate use Col. Phil Waldron's firm along with Jovan Pulitzer auditing the ballots," wrote Gary Nunns, who did not identify if he was an Arizona resident — to outright demands: "A forensic audit by Jovan Hutton Pulitzer is what we the people want and need period," Joe Gomes wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen.

Senate President Karen Fann often responded with a simple thank you message. To others, she gave brief updates about efforts to move the audit forward.

— Robert Anglen, Mary Jo Pitzl, Ray Stern, Ryan Randazzo, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

6:45 p.m., Sept. 9: Draft reports expected by middle of next week

Senate President Karen Fann confirmed Thursday that the full draft report of the audit the Senate commissioned earlier this year should arrive at the Senate by the middle of next week.

The long-anticipated draft was first expected to arrive in late August, but its completion was delayed by a COVID-19 outbreak among three of the Cyber Ninja auditors.

The draft report will be examined by the Senate’s nine-person legal review team, which will review it for “clarity, accuracy, proof and documentation of any findings,” Fann has said.

In addition, the legal review team is expecting reports on two other audit-related checks it ordered, according to Randy Pullen, the audit's spokesperson and one of its chief fundraisers. They are the machine count of the number of ballots cast in the election, and a review of the signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes.

The final reports will be delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee and made public, although it is unclear how much time it will take to move from draft form to the final version.

The review team consists of Fann; Judiciary Chairman Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert; Senate legal counsel Greg Jernigan; contract Senate attorneys Kory Langhofer and Thomas Basile of Statecraft; Garth Kamp, the Senate’s senior policy adviser; audit liaison Ken Bennett, and audit spokesman Randy Pullen. Doug Logan, CEO of the Cyber Ninjas, is also on the team to provide answers and context.

A special committee of the Senate Government Committee also will be required to review the final reports. The committee can recommend any statutory changes that might be needed in the wake of the audit and can request a special session of the Legislature to deal with any proposed bills.

The committee has not yet been formed because the law that authorized it doesn’t take effect until Sept. 29. When it is named, it will have to act fast: By law, its authority lapses on Dec. 31.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

4 p.m., Sept. 6: U.S. Senate candidate helped pay for audit security 

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Jim Lamon has emerged as a key behind-the-scenes player in the state Senate's long-running ballot review, from helping bankroll security to directing Ken Bennett to take a position as a spokesperson for the effort.

Lamon's involvement adds to an already lengthy list of conservative causes he has helped underwrite during his brief candidacy. 

The solar company executive has said he has paid for security during the ballot inspections and directed Bennett to pause the work he was doing with Lamon to recruit Republican voters so he could help with the partisan election review.

Lamon’s partial name appeared in a text message released this week by the Republican-controlled state Senate related to its review of the 2020 election, an exercise Lamon has supported even before it began in earnest earlier this year. 

On the campaign trail, as he met with GOP voters at pancake breakfasts and political meet-and-greets, Lamon has taken credit for helping inspire the ballot review. In one appearance, he said he “started pressuring” Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, to pursue the efforts when legal efforts by electors — including him — to overturn the election came up short. 

— Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

9 a.m., Sept. 6: Trump adviser helps funnel money to audit

A prominent Republican attorney who advised President Donald Trump as he tried to overturn the 2020 election helped set up an escrow account to funnel money to companies working on the Arizona election audit.

Cleta Mitchell's role came to light as The Arizona Republic combed through documents the state Senate released after a court order. The documents provide previously unknown details on payments to companies and people participating in audit work and link the audit even closer to Trump.

Mitchell, who gained national attention for advising Trump during his January call to Georgia election officials in which he asked them to find votes in his favor, arranged for $1 million to be sent from the escrow account in late July to three subcontractors working under Cyber Ninjas, the Senate's lead contractor. 

This adds to the millions of dollars in outside funding that has paid for the months-long partisan review of Maricopa County's ballots and voting machines. Republican leaders in the Senate ordered the unusual review, which has been funded mainly by "Stop the Steal" advocates and Trump allies.

— Jen Fifield and Stacey Barchenger

5 p.m., Sept. 5: Taxpayers pick up $425K in audit costs, with more coming

Taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $425,000 for the costs of the audit of the 2020 election results Senate Republicans are conducting, with thousands of dollars more in bills yet to come, state records show.

The largest expense is for $223,000 in legal fees paid through July, followed by $68,100 for security costs at the state fairgrounds in May.

Those security costs were contracted by the Guardian Defense Fund, a dark-money nonprofit started in February to "fight back" against allegations about the involvement of three Arizona Republican politicians in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Senate President Karen Fann, who authorized the audit, acknowledged overall costs are climbing. But she said a lot of that is due to Maricopa County's refusal to cooperate with the audit, resulting in legal fees, unexpected security costs and rental charges.

— Mary Jo Pitzl

12:30 p.m., Sept. 5: State Senate hires conspiracy theorist for ballot review

The Arizona Senate has hired an election conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine activist to conduct its review of voter signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes in Maricopa County.

Cyber Ninjas, the Senate's lead audit contractor, hired the same man to review images of all 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 election.

Shiva Ayyadurai, or "Dr. Shiva" as he is known to far-right adherents, was tapped for both reviews in the waning weeks of the audit process, records show. However, he had participated in discussions with Arizona Republicans about challenging the state's election results as far back as November.  

The Arizona Republic found one of Ayyadurai's contracts among thousands of records the Senate released in response to a court order. 

— Robert Anglen and Jen Fifield

7 p.m. Sept. 2: Audit workers get paid ... finally  

One of the firms working on the audit left the project in May, but a payment dispute lingered for months, documents released by the state Senate show.

Wake Technologies apparently didn’t pay its subcontractors until it struck an agreement in late July with Cyber Ninjas, the lead contractor on the audit, and the dozens of people Wake had hired.

As of Aug. 16, records show, 21 subcontractors were mailed checks totaling $166,550. This was labeled as “round one” of payments; in all, Wake was responsible for 41 contractors who were paid hourly rates ranging from $50 to $125.

Wake’s role was to recount the 2.1 million ballots cast in the November 2020 election in Maricopa County. The firm worked at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum from early April until May 14, when the audit’s contract for the state fairgrounds property lapsed.

It is unclear from the settlement agreement what caused the payment delay. But late Thursday, audit spokesman Randy Pullen said Cyber Ninjas had fulfilled its contractual obligation to Wake.

- Mary Jo Pitzl and Jen Fifield

5 p.m., Sept. 1: 'At least 2 weeks' until a final audit report is ready

As the review of the Maricopa County election moves into its fifth month — at its start, Senate officials said the initial count would take just 30 days — one big remaining unknown is when will the public see the findings.

At a court status conference over public records Wednesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp asked Kory Langhofer, the attorney for the Arizona Senate, that burning question. When would the Cyber Ninja's preliminary report on the audit go to the Senate, Kemp wanted to know, and would the Senate seek to protect that from public disclosure as it has thousands of other records?

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, announced last week that the preliminary report was delayed because Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and two other members of his team contracted serious cases of COVID-19. The Senate still hasn't received that document, Langhofer said. 

Langhofer said the preliminary report is expected to come in three volumes, and one volume is not yet written. He said it will be "at least two weeks" before a final report is produced.

Kemp engaged in some foreshadowing in the courtroom, anticipating a fight over the documents that the Senate said are not subject to release.

"I have a feeling there will be some substantial disagreements over whether documents are privileged or not," the judge said.

— Ryan Randazzo