The Arizona Senate’s Partisan Audit of Maricopa County Election Results

Efforts to undermine the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona have culminated in an "audit" of votes cast in Maricopa County. Not only was the recount instigated by a partisan majority in the state legislature, but the founder of the firm hired by the state Senate to oversee the audit has repeatedly circulated conspiracies and lies about widespread voter fraud.

Baseless lies about widespread voter fraud and false allegations of a “stolen” 2020 presidential election have inflamed mistrust in democracy and provided the political fuel for hundreds of proposals across the country to enact new barriers to voting. These efforts to undermine the election have been especially conspicuous in Arizona, where voter fraud conspiracies are behind a state Senate–led push to conduct a partisan “audit” of votes cast in Maricopa County, which was won by President Joe Biden. 

The audit was not based on any evidence of widespread voter fraud, in Maricopa County or elsewhere. In fact, an independent audit in February confirmed that the ballots in the county had been tabulated accurately and that there were no irregularities with the election equipment or software.

After the 2020 election, Senate President Karen Fann and then-Arizona Sen. Eddie Farnsworth issued subpoenas to Maricopa County for the 2.1 million ballots as well as election machines and other materials. Those subpoenas were re-upped in January by Fann and state Sen. Warren Petersen, who replaced Farnsworth as chair of the Judiciary Committee. County officials argued that turning over the ballots would violate state law, but in late February a judge ruled that the county must turn them over, leading to confusion when the Senate did not have a place lined up to safely store them.  

On March 31, Fann announced that the audit team would be led by the firm Cyber Ninjas. The founder of Cyber Ninjas, Doug Logan, repeatedly circulated lies that the 2020 election was rigged and vocally supported the “Stop the Steal” movement, including by attacking Dominion Voting Systems and retweeting conspiracy theories. Moreover, the statement of work signed by Cyber Ninjas indicated that the company planned to engage in direct contact with Arizona voters, the subject of a legal challenge from the group Protect Democracy. Records later obtained by American Oversight in June contained a report dated March 1 that indicated that a group called the Citizens’ Non-Partisan Grassroots project had canvassed more than 3,000 homes in Maricopa and Pima Counties; in early May, the Justice Department warned that such canvassing could violate federal law. 

Arizona supporters of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him had been stoking fears about voter fraud for months in an attempt to undermine a valid democratic election. On Nov. 30, 2020, Rudy Giuliani and several Arizona lawmakers — including state Rep. Mark Finchem, one of the leaders of the effort to overturn the state’s election results — held an unofficial “hearing” in Phoenix in which participants made unsubstantiated allegations about the election’s integrity. Trump supporters also submitted a phony Arizona electoral vote certificate to Congress, a copy of which was obtained by American Oversight along with illegitimate certificates from six other states. 

Other records that American Oversight obtained in June contained emails revealing Fann’s frequent contact with Giuliani in the weeks after the election, including one message to a constituent in late December 2020 in which Fann said she had received “a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud.”

Like Trump’s hollow voter-fraud commission and the voter-fraud task forces created in advance of the 2020 election, the state Senate’s audit of Maricopa County votes is yet another official action that is purportedly about election “integrity” but in reality serves a narrow political agenda — in this case, the continuation of the “big lie” that the election was stolen.  

Aggressive oversight is needed. American Oversight has filed public records requests for the audit-related communications of Fann, Petersen, Farnsworth, and Finchem — including with Trump attorneys, Maricopa elections officials, and contractors like Cyber Ninjas — as well as for copies of any contracts with companies like Cyber Ninjas to provide services relevant to the audit.

On May 19, the watchdog group filed a lawsuit after the Arizona Senate failed to release many of the requested records. Over the summer, multiple courts ruled in American Oversight’s favor and ordered the Senate to release the documents — including files in the possession of Cyber Ninjas — to the public. While tens of thousands of pages have been produced in compliance with the court orders, thousands more have not yet been released. American Oversight is continuing to pursue the release of all of the requested “audit” records.

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Updates

News Roundup: The Lasting Damage of Partisan Election Reviews

November 19, 2021
A new poll finds that the bogus Arizona “audit” reinforced doubts about the 2020 election. And the partisan investigation in Wisconsin has escalated into calls for a Republican takeover of elections in the state.

News Roundup: January 6, Wisconsin’s Partisan Election Review, and Transparency in Georgia

November 11, 2021
The investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection — and, more specifically, into what Trump was doing when the mob overran the U.S. Capitol — accelerated this week, with new public documents, new subpoenas, and a new court ruling.

Judge Sets Dec. 2 Hearing on American Oversight’s Motion to Hold Arizona Senate in Contempt

November 2, 2021
Despite the court having ordered the release of documents related to the partisan election “audit,” the Senate continues to withhold records in the possession of lead contractor Cyber Ninjas, claiming they’re “not the Senate’s problem.”

News Roundup: Jan. 6 Accountability and Election ‘Audit’ Transparency

October 22, 2021
The Jan. 6 attack isn’t the only consequence of the Big Lie that Trump allies are trying to shield from public scrutiny.

New Arizona ‘Audit’ Records Released

October 5, 2021
The records reveal an EAC commissioner’s early support for the “audit,” and provide yet more evidence of the partisan review’s partisanship and anti-democratic origins.

News Roundup: More Bogus Audits, Trump’s Covid-19 Postcards, and the Costs of ‘Operation Lone Star’

October 1, 2021
As we wrote last week, it did not matter that the sham “audit” of votes cast in Maricopa County repeated what had already been confirmed by actual independent audits — that Joe Biden defeated Trump. The election review’s primary outcome was in keeping conspiracy theories and lies about voter fraud alive for the multiple months it dragged on.

More Evidence of the Biased Origins of the Arizona Senate Election ‘Audit’

September 30, 2021
More documents were released last week by the Arizona Senate in response to American Oversight’s litigation for records from the problematic election “audit.”

News Roundup: The Arizona ‘Audit’ Was — and Still Is — a Dangerous Political Stunt

September 24, 2021
From the beginning, the “audit” was a sham process designed to provide a pretext for restricting voter access.

American Oversight Asks Court to Hold Arizona Senate in Contempt

September 23, 2021
Despite clear court orders, the Arizona Senate has failed to compel its contractor, Cyber Ninjas, to turn over documents to be released.

Why You (Still) Should Not Trust the Arizona Senate’s Final ‘Audit’ Report

September 23, 2021
Officials have said that the much-delayed final report on the purported findings from the Senate’s election-undermining political stunt will be released on Friday, Sept. 24.

Cyber Ninjas Tells Arizona Senate It Won’t Be Releasing ‘Audit’ Records Anytime Soon, Despite Court Order

September 17, 2021
In an email sent on Friday to the Arizona Senate, lead election “audit” contractor Cyber Ninjas indicated that it does not intend to turn over the bulk of the records until after its final report is released.

News Roundup: The Evolution of the Big Lie

September 16, 2021
This week saw two major victories for transparency in Arizona and Pennsylvania — and new developments in the partisan election investigation in Wisconsin.

Arizona Senate Has Not Received Cyber Ninjas Records, Despite Court-Ordered Release

September 16, 2021
The attorney representing the Arizona Senate disclosed that the Senate plans to release its “audit” report next Friday, Sept. 24.

Arizona Supreme Court Effectively Upholds Rulings Determining Cyber Ninjas ‘Audit’ Records Are Public

September 14, 2021
The court’s decision dissolves the stay on a state judge’s order that the Arizona Senate produce documents held in the physical custody of election “audit” contractor Cyber Ninjas.

From Voter-Fraud Myths to Bogus Election Audits: The Evolution of the Big Lie

September 13, 2021
On Monday, American Oversight published an in-depth look at the "Big Lie" and the decades-long campaign by conservative activists and lawmakers to hype up the threat of voter fraud.

New Details from Arizona Senate’s ‘Audit’-Related Records

September 3, 2021
Additional review has found further contacts with prominent election deniers and activists conducting canvassing operations, as well as new information about costs and the election review’s reach in other states.

News Roundup: The Big Lie’s Infiltration of State Governments

September 3, 2021
On Tuesday, the Arizona Senate released tens of thousands of pages of records related to its partisan election "audit."

Arizona Senate Releases ‘Audit’ Records Following Court Order

September 1, 2021
Included in the documents is information regarding audit payments as well as communications that audit officials and legislators exchanged with outside parties, including election conspiracy activists, members of Trump’s legal team, and others.

News Roundup: Transparency Is Coming, Even Amid ‘Audit’ Report Delays

August 27, 2021
As the Arizona Senate continues its efforts to delay transparency in its election "audit," its contractors have introduced yet more delays of their own.

News Roundup: Victories for Transparency and Preparations for Disinformation

August 20, 2021
As the "audit" has dragged on for months, the Arizona Senate has resisted transparency about the operation.

Arizona Appeals Court Denies State Senate’s Attempt to Shield Cyber Ninjas ‘Audit’ Records from Public

August 19, 2021
The ruling upholds the Superior Court’s order to produce records by Aug. 31, and comes as the “audit” team prepares its draft report to submit to the Senate.

Arizona Appeals Court Denies Stay of Audit Records Lawsuit, Grants Limited Stay of Document Release Order

August 11, 2021
While the limited stay is another delay in much-needed transparency over the so-called audit, the expedited deadline is an important acknowledgment that the case centers on a matter of enormous public interest.

News Roundup: The Big Lie’s Long Reach

August 5, 2021
New details continue to emerge about the attempts by former President Trump and his allies to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Court Orders Arizona Senate to Immediately Release ‘Audit’ Records

August 3, 2021
An Arizona judge again rejected the Arizona Senate’s argument that records held by the firm Cyber Ninjas could be shielded from public release.

News Roundup: The Resurgent Pandemic and Partisan Election Reviews

July 29, 2021
The Delta variant's spread across the U.S. has created a pandemic of the unvaccinated and, like many aspects of the past year and a half, one that each state is experiencing differently.

News Roundup: Sham Audit, Sham Findings

July 22, 2021
Officials involved in the Arizona Senate's partisan election "audit" have said they still need more information before they can complete it. They also introduced new baseless allegations.

New Report: How the Arizona Election ‘Audit’ Has Already Been Compromised

July 22, 2021
Drawing from the hundreds of pages of documents and emails uncovered by American Oversight, as well as public reporting, the report identifies key issues that undermine the credibility of the Arizona Senate’s partisan election review.

News Roundup: A Victory for Transparency in Arizona

July 15, 2021
An Arizona court dealt a severe blow to the state Senate's attempt to keep key documents related to its sham election "audit" hidden from the public.

Court Rejects Arizona Senate’s Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit for Records from Sham Election ‘Audit’

July 15, 2021
"It is difficult to conceive of a case with a more compelling public interest demanding public disclosure and public scrutiny," wrote the judge.

News Roundup: New Hearing in Lawsuit for Arizona ‘Audit’ Records

July 9, 2021
The more we learn about the origins and operations of the Arizona Senate's partisan recount of Maricopa County ballots, the clearer it becomes that those who instigated the exercise did not have the public's interest in mind. And as we outlined last week, we've already learned a great deal.

News Roundup: What We Already Know About the Arizona ‘Audit’

July 1, 2021
It's already clear that any "findings" from the partisan operation will be dubious at best.

Newly Released Arizona ‘Audit’ Records Contain Service Agreements, Emails to Senate President Fann

June 22, 2021
The Arizona Senate released additional records related to its partisan “audit,” revealing new details about the involvement of various outside companies as well as the role of Senate President Karen Fann in preparing for the operation.

News Roundup: From the Trump White House to Wisconsin

June 17, 2021
New emails released to Congress show the former president exerting pressure on Justice Department officials to support his baseless fraud claims. The lies haven't disappeared.

News Roundup: Arizona Senate Emails Reveal Giuliani, Trump Contacts

June 10, 2021
American Oversight obtained records that provide yet more evidence that the Arizona Senate’s bogus “audit” is less about assuring voters of election security and more about serving the election-overturning goals of former President Trump’s allies.

Arizona Senate Releases Emails Related to Election ‘Audit’ to American Oversight

June 4, 2021
On Friday, the Arizona Senate released records related to the sham "audit" of Maricopa County ballots, including emails indicating Senate President Karen Fann's frequent contact with Rudy Giuliani in December 2020, as well as a "personal call" from President Trump.

News Roundup: Undermining Democracy, One ‘Audit’ at a Time

June 3, 2021
After visiting the sham audit of votes cast in Maricopa County, Ariz., this week, Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers have called for their state to conduct a similar partisan review.

News Roundup: Sham Audits and the Fruits of Disinformation

May 27, 2021
American Oversight's fight for transparency in the Arizona Senate's sham "audit" of ballots cast in Maricopa County continued this week, with the court on Thursday scheduling an oral argument for July 7 in our lawsuit seeking the release of planning documents and records of related communications.

Arizona Audit Investigation Update: Arizona Senate Begins Releasing Fann’s Emails to American Oversight

May 25, 2021
American Oversight has obtained records in our investigation of the state Senate’s partisan audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results. arizona

Judge Sets Hearing Date in American Oversight’s Audit Litigation

May 24, 2021
An initial hearing is scheduled for this Thursday, May 27, in American Oversight’s public records suit against the Arizona Senate.

News Roundup: The Arizona Audit’s Ongoing Threat to Democracy

May 20, 2021
Every week seems to bring alarming and often incredible news from the Arizona election audit. American Oversight is now suing the Arizona Senate for related records.

American Oversight Sues Arizona Senate to Release Audit Records to the Public

May 19, 2021
The state Senate claims it doesn’t have “possession, custody or control” of key records of its own audit of Maricopa County ballots.

News Roundup: The Jan. 6 Attack and the Big Lie

May 13, 2021
Top officials testified this week in a hearing about the deadly Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, one of the most glaring consequences of the stolen election lie.

News Roundup: Voting Rights and Trump Accountability

May 7, 2021
In addition to focusing on threats to voting rights and democracy, American Oversight has also been working to hold Trump officials accountable for their actions.

News Roundup: What’s Going On in Arizona?

April 30, 2021
Conspiracy theorists, former President Trump himself, and supporters of his lie that the election was stolen continue to cling to the “audit” in Maricopa County as another potential way to overturn the vote.

News Roundup: From Georgia to Arizona

April 8, 2021
Like Georgia's new voting restrictions, a partisan election audit in Arizona is predicated on the lie about widespread voter fraud.

American Oversight Launches Investigation of Arizona Senate’s Partisan Election Audit

April 6, 2021
The founder of the firm hired by the state Senate to oversee the audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results repeatedly circulated lies about widespread voter fraud.
Show all updates

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