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, which involves a hand recount of more than 2 million votes and will cost the state $150,000, is 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 indicates that the company plans to engage in direct contact with Arizona voters, the subject of a legal challenge from the group Protect Democracy.  

Arizona supporters of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him have 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 a 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. And in March 2021, state Rep. Shawnna Bolick introduced a bill that would allow the state legislature to overrule popular election results and choose its own slate of presidential electors. 

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 external parties 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. 

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Updates

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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