Arizona audit flags thousands of suspect ballots, kicking issue to state's attorney general
As Attorney General Mark Brnovich vows full probe, Democrats cheer findings while a key Trump lawyer calls for decertifying Arizona's election results.
Long-awaited and engulfed in controversy from start to finish, the Arizona Senate's election audit gave America a split decision while leaving the question of whether illicit ballots were improperly cast or counted to the state’s attorney general.
The audit released Friday afternoon through painstakingly technical testimony concluded the final count of votes in the state's largest county of Maricopa showing President Joe Biden won Arizona was accurate, but it also included tens of thousands of ballots that were suspect and require more investigation.
The more than 50,000 ballots flagged by auditors for more investigation involved concerns ranging from people voting from addresses from which they had already moved to residents voting twice. The total in question was nearly five times the 10,400 vote margin that separated the two presidential candidates, giving Donald Trump's troops fresh reason to call for more scrutiny.
The job of resolving the question now falls to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican who has ambitions of winning a U.S. Senate seat in 2022.
Brnovich immediately seized the opportunity, announcing his office's election integrity unit would review the questionable ballots to determine if further action was warranted.
"I will take all necessary actions that are supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority," Brnovich tweeted a short while before the final official audit results were to be released. "Arizonans deserve to have their votes accurately counted and protected."
Across the country, Republican efforts to audit results in states like Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania got a glimpse of what may be in store politically as well as a roadmap for what issues to review. Democrats and their media allies declared the election integrity issues to be over, while some prominent Republicans called on Arizona to decertify its results.
"There were significant and widespread irregularities and lawlessness in thousands of ballots, sufficient to overcome the margin of difference between Trump and Biden," said Jenna Ellis, a key lawyer for Trump and chairwoman of the Election Integrity Alliance, which is aiding states in reviewing election issues.
"The 2020 election was irredeemably compromised, and Arizona's legislature must do now what they failed to do in November — use their plenary authority under the U.S. Constitution and reclaim their delegates by decertifying the results, acknowledging that the certifications were based on incorrect accounting," Ellis told Just the News. "We are in a constitutional crisis that demands accountability for the American People and election justice."
Democrats had their own reasons to cheer: in particular the conclusion of a hand count of 2.1 million ballots.
The audit concluded that "there were no substantial differences between the hand count of the ballots provided and the official canvass results for the County," meaning the count last November that declared Biden a winner was accurate. In fact, Biden picked up a small number of voters in the audit.
"This is the most important finding in the audit because the paper ballots are the best evidence of voter intent, and there is no reliable evidence that the paper ballots were altered to any material degree," the report said.
But the auditors cautioned that finding did not allay concerns, citing a total of more than 50,000 ballots that appeared to pose significant questions. It recommended that Brnovich conduct a canvass of the voters in question and other investigative tactics to make "any conclusive determination."
Nearly half of the votes flagged as suspicious — 23,344 — fell into a category called "ballots cast from individuals who had moved prior to the election." They included 15,035 who moved within the county before the registration deadline, 6,591 who moved to another state before the registration deadline and 1,718 who moved to a different county before the registration deadline.
"Mail in ballots were cast under voter registration IDs for people that may not have received their ballots by mail because they had moved, and no one with the same last name remained at the address," the report said.
The report noted the impacted ballots may have benefited Biden: 39.5% were from registered Democrats, 33% were Republicans, 26.5% were independents, and 1% came from Libertarians.
The review also flagged a large number of voters who potentially voted in Maricopa and at least one other county in the state. It said 5,295 voters cast ballots in Maricopa and at least one other county using "the same first, middle, last name and birth year."
The final review also flagged a large anomaly in which there were 9,041 more ballots shown as returned in the official early voting file from individuals than were shown in the records of ballots that were mailed out. "In most of these instances an individual was sent one ballot but had two ballots received on different dates," the auditors noted, saying possible explanations ranged from data entry errors to fraud.
During testimony, the CyberNinja consultants who conducted the audit also raised serious questions about the possible deletion of data from Maricopa County's election computers.
Cybersecurity professional Ben Cotton said an anonymous user accessed the internet on one of the county's computers that holds election data. Around the exact same time, files were purged from the system without any notice from the county.
"Obviously this requires an explanation," Cotton said during his testimony. He went on to outline how this lack of data impacted the audit, as well as the county's refusal to assist the investigators.
"This may be a part of a normal process with how they handle votes, but the timing of this is suspect," he continued.
When explaining what happened to the election data, he said, "We simply don't know."
The Cyber Ninja report did not specifically point to any evidence of widespread voter fraud. Still, it did make a list of recommendations including legislation that does not allow an election to be certified until the official canvas and final vote is fully reconciled.
Karen Fann, the Arizona Senate president who led the audit, said she believes it has turned up evidence of state laws being broken, an issue now left for Brnovich to resolve.
Even in the hours before the results were released, reactions to the leaked findings were aligned with political agendas. Democrats insisted the audit should put an end to claims of a stolen election and even made plans to summon the auditors before Congress.
Trump and his supporters cried foul, accusing the news media of ignoring legitimate questions about the ballots flagged as suspect.
"The Fake News is lying about the Arizona audit report!" the former president said. "The leaked report conclusively shows there were enough fraudulent votes, mystery votes, and fake votes to change the outcome of the election 4 or 5 times over."