The claim: An audit 'conclusively shows' voter fraud affected Arizona's election outcome
After six months, the results of an election audit in Arizona are in: President Joe Biden won the state's largest county, and now-former President Donald Trump received fewer votes than were originally counted.
But Trump has other thoughts about the audit results.
"The Fake News is lying about the Arizona audit report!" he said in a Sept. 24 statement. "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."
Social media posts parroting Trump's claim, as well as articles from conservative websites like the Gateway Pundit, accumulated thousands of interactions within a few days, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool. Some sites spun the audit results to say Trump actually won the state.
In the spring, the Republican-dominated Arizona Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, a Florida cybersecurity firm with no prior election auditing experience, to review the 2020 election results in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located. The audit has repeatedly been the subject of misinformation online, despite the fact that previous recounts in the state found no wrongdoing.
Cyber Ninjas' review, backed by Trump-friendly Republicans and presented to the state Senate on Sept. 24, suggested there were problems with voter rolls in Maricopa County, where Biden won by more than 45,000 votes. But the audit did not surface evidence that widespread voter fraud affected the election outcome. Several independent fact-checking organizations have debunked those claims.
"We noticed the auditors buried this fact: their ballot recount was nearly identical to the county’s count, and the official results stand," Jack Sellers, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in a Sept. 24 statement. "The Cyber Ninjas’ opinions come from a misuse and misunderstanding of the data provided by the county and are twisted to fit the narrative that something went wrong."
Audit doesn't prove fraud
In his statement, Trump cited several numbers from a draft version of the Cyber Ninjas report to claim that voter fraud affected Arizona's election outcome. Liz Harrington, a Trump spokesperson, reiterated that claim in an email to USA TODAY.
"The audit results clearly show the election in Arizona as counted should never have been certified," she said.
But the findings aren't evidence of fraud – and Cyber Ninjas did not say they were. Let's go through a few of the figures Trump cited in his statement.
Trump said the report found "23,344 mail-in ballots, despite the person no longer living at that address." He called them "phantom voters."
But Maricopa County said on Twitter that's not evidence of voter fraud; in some cases, it's legal for someone to cast a mail-in ballot from another address. As examples, the county cited voters in the military and overseas, as well as those who had recently moved.
"For the November General Election Maricopa County had 20,933 one-time temporary address requests," the county wrote on Twitter. "In addition, snowbirds and college students tend to have forwarding addresses when they are out of the county."
Trump also said in his statement that "voters who voted in multiple counties totaled 10,342, and 2,382 ballots came from people who no longer lived in Maricopa County." But the county said that's unlikely.
"There are more than 7 million people in Arizona and, yes, some of them share names & birth years," the county wrote on Twitter. "Example: if you search for Maria Garcia born in 1980, you’ll get 7 active voters in Maricopa County and 12 statewide. And that’s just one name."
Maricopa County also wrote that, in the case of in-person voters who had moved out of the county, it could not find any discrepancies in its voter registration system. The county said it did not find any voters who had cast more than one ballot.
Finally, Trump said in his statement that there were "2,592 'more duplicate ballots than original ballots.'" But Maricopa County has said it's confident its duplication process was accurate, particularly because it was confirmed in a court case on this issue.
"At no point were illegitimate ballots duplicated or inserted into the duplication process," the county says on its website.
No evidence of widespread voter fraud in Maricopa County
The Cyber Ninjas report affirms vote totals showing Biden won Maricopa County in the 2020 election.
"That is a true statement," Karen Fann, the Republican president of the Arizona Senate, said during the Sept. 24 presentation of Cyber Ninjas' findings. "Truth is truth, numbers are numbers ... and those numbers were close – within a few hundred."
There's no evidence widespread voter fraud affected that outcome.
Multiple hand counts confirmed the election results in Maricopa County. A forensic audit of voting machines found no malfeasance. Lawsuits challenging Arizona's election outcome, which Congress certified in January, were dismissed and rejected.
"As we've said before, we stand behind the results we canvassed," Jason Berry, a spokesperson for Maricopa County, said in an email.
In mid-July, the Associated Press reported that, of the more than 3 million ballots cast in Arizona, elections officials had found fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud.
"The Senate president and the Cyber Ninjas dragged our state and country through months of partisan political theater, culminating in a report that reinforces what election experts have been saying all along – that this exercise was a scam," Katie Hobbs, Arizona's Democratic secretary of state, said in a Sept. 24 statement.
USA TODAY reached out to Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, for comment.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that an audit "conclusively shows" voter fraud affected Arizona's election outcome. Cyber Ninjas' review affirmed the fact that Biden won Maricopa County in the 2020 election. The audit did not offer evidence that widespread voter fraud affected that outcome. Other hand counts have confirmed Maricopa County's election results.
Our fact-check sources:
Arizona State Legislature, Sept. 24, Presentation of the Maricopa County Election Audit
Jason Berry, Sept. 24, Email exchange with USA TODAY
CrowdTangle, accessed Sept. 28
Arizona Republic, Sept. 24, Arizona Senate leaders confirm Biden win but call for further review of election procedures
Arizona Republic, Sept. 23, Hand count in audit affirms Biden beat Trump, as Maricopa County said in November
Arizona Republic, Sept. 24, How we got here: An Arizona audit timeline
Associated Press, Sept. 24, AP FACT CHECK: Pro-Trump auditors spin election falsehoods
USA TODAY, July 29, Fact check: Arizona audit hasn't found 275,000 fraudulent votes
USA TODAY, July 23, Fact check: Arizona early votes falsely cited as evidence of voter fraud
Arizona Republic, Aug. 31, Arizona Senate releases texts, emails offering glimpse of audit, but thousands of documents remain withheld
Maricopa County, Sept. 24, Chairman Jack Sellers' Statement about the Senate Audit Hearing
Cyber Ninjas, Sept. 23, Draft Maricopa County Forensic Audit Volume I: Executive Summary & Recommendations, Sept. 23
Maricopa County, Sept. 24, Twitter thread
Maricopa County, Sept. 24, Twitter thread
Arizona Republic, Sept. 25, 'Irresponsible and dangerous': Maricopa County responds to questions raised in Arizona audit
Jen Fifield, Sept. 27, Tweet
Maricopa County Elections Department, accessed Sept. 28, Just the Facts
USA TODAY, Nov. 30 2020, 2020 Arizona Election Results
Arizona Secretary of State, Nov. 17, 2020, Summary of Hand Count Audits - 2020 General Election
Maricopa County, accessed Sept. 28, AUDITING ELECTIONS EQUIPMENT IN MARICOPA COUNTY
Associated Press, July 16, AP: Few AZ voter fraud cases, discrediting Trump’s claims
National Archives, April 16, 2020 Electoral College Results
Lead Stories, Sept. 27, Fact Check: Cyber Ninjas Report For Arizona Audit Does NOT Show Thousands Of Illegal Ballots
Liz Harrington, Sept. 28, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Sophia Solis, Sept. 24, Email exchange with USA TODAY
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Arizona audit affirms Biden win, doesn't prove voter fraud