Cyber Ninjas' 2020 allegations are 'not worth the paper they're printed on,' says Arizona's top elections official

Katie Hobbs Maricopa County audit
Left: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Right: An observer watches as contractors working for Cyber Ninjas examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election in Phoenix, Arizona on May 8, 2021. CNN/Getty
  • Arizona Republicans chose Cyber Ninjas to review the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

  • The private company could submit its allegations as early as this week.

  • Election experts from both parties say the "audit" is unreliable and not to be trusted.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Findings from a controversial election review in Maricopa County, set to be delivered as soon as this week to the state Senate, "are not worth the paper they're printed on," Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said Monday, citing a report from her office that the effort - led by a private company called Cyber Ninjas - was riddled with unprofessionalism and seemingly designed to prove false allegations of fraud.

"This was a partisan, political review, and not a post-election 'audit,'" Arizona's top elections official, a Democrat, said on a conference call with reporters. She noted that allegations of fraud had been rejected last fall by numerous judges.

"There is no evidence, so they're trying to use this exercise to make it up," she said.

In a report issued last week, Hobbs' office said the Cyber Ninjas review "fails to meet industry standards for any credible audit, much less for an election audit."

Based in Florida, Cyber Ninjas was chosen by Arizona's Republican-led state Senate amid false claims that President Joe Biden's 45,000-vote margin of victory in Maricopa County was based on fraud. Its founder, Doug Logan, has asserted the 2020 election was "rigged" and, since April, staff and volunteers have been on a mission to prove that - including by scanning ballots for evidence of "bamboo" to prove they were fake and manufactured in China.

It has submitted a "portion" of its final report, according to Arizona state Sen. President Karen Fann, but the full document has been delayed because Logan and other Cyber Ninjas staff are "quite sick" with COVID-19, she said Monday afternoon.

According to Hobbs' report, meanwhile, observers witnessed a slew of eyebrow-raising practices that call into question the integrity of the process, including: a lack of proper security for the 2.1 million ballots under review; inadequate transparency about how ballots are being examined and why; and a reliance on ever-shifting methods for conducting the examination itself.

All told, the results of the review "are invalid and unreliable," the report said.

One of the observers, Ken Matta, an information-technology expert with the secretary of state's office, said Monday a key issue was that "the chain of custody of the data is nonexistent." While TV crews could record people counting the ballots, "that visibility stopped as soon as they entered their data into their computer systems." Even the Arizona Senate's liaison to the review, former Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett, has complained of that data being withheld from him.

'I worry about our country,' Republican official says

In a June report, election experts with the nonpartisan States United Democracy Center said the effort violated all best practices for an audit and that its findings "should not be trusted."

Speaking Monday, one of the authors of that report, former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, said it would be a "disservice" to call the Maricopa County review an "audit," citing a flawed method of reviewing ballots that could enable a miscount.

"Nothing that that report says should be given any kind of credence," Grayson said. Instead of reassuring voters of election integrity, he argued it was designed to perpetuate concerns - and that it was important to stop similar partisan reviews from being conducted elsewhere.

"As a Republican, as an election administrator, I worry about our country," he said. "I'm worried about the future of my party. And I don't want bad ideas like this running to other states."

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