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Republicans From Alaska, Georgia Tour Controversial Audit In Maricopa County

By Ben Giles
Published: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - 6:25pm
Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - 1:00pm

Ballot audit
Ben Giles/KJZZ
The audit site at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 22, 2021.

Republicans from a growing number of states are traveling to Maricopa County to witness a controversial election review ordered by GOP leaders in the state Senate.

Last week, three Pennsylvania legislators toured Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where a hand recount and audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County has been underway since late April.

On Monday, officials with the Nevada Republican Party toured the recount and met with Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity firm critics warn is unqualified to review the election and is run by a CEO who’s spread conspiracies of election fraud.

A day later, two Republican state senators from Georgia took a similar tour alongside a state representative from Alaska. So did David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia GOP.

Randy Pullen, a former chair of the Arizona Republican Party serving as a spokesman for the audit, said lawmakers from Wisconsin and Virginia may take their own tours later this week.

Most of the GOP visitors have expressed an interest in replicating what’s happening in Arizona in their home states. Pennsylvania Sen. Cris Dush told reporters he “absolutely” wants an Arizona-style audit conducted on his own turf, “without question.” A key Republican committee chair in the Pennsylvania General Assembly said it’s possible the state Senate could take up a resolution to commission their own audit.

Conservative radio host John Fredericks, whose tweet served as an announcement of a visit by Georgia state Sens. Burt Jones and Brandon Beach, said the lawmakers would “meet with Arizona audit leaders and state senators to get a blueprint for a statewide forensic audit in Georgia.”

Jones did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Michael McDonald, the chair of the Nevada GOP who conducted an interview with a different conservative personality outside the Arizona Capitol on Monday afternoon.

A full roster of Republicans visiting the coliseum is hard to come by. Pullen, the spokesman, has only been able to confirm basic details about which states Republicans have traveled from, not the names of lawmakers and other officials making the trip.

A spokesman for Cyber Ninjas did not respond to questions about who’s coordinating the visits. But in court filings, the firm’s attorneys have argued they expect their work in Maricopa County to be the first of many “similar business opportunities” for other governments around the country.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, a Prescott Republican responsible for ordering the election review and hiring the firms conducting it, told CNN the process will be the “gold standard” for auditing elections.  And In May, Fann boasted she’s heard from lawmakers in other states keeping a close watch on the Senate’s review.

Critics, including election experts observing the recount on behalf of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, say the review is anything but a “gold standard.” 

Hobbs recently published a list of issues her observers have noted from the coliseum floor — including frequent changes to processes and procedures, and violations of rules implemented by the private firms running the operation. Those firms, particularly Cyber Ninjas, have been criticized as biased and inexperienced. Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan spread conspiracy theories of election fraud before his company began its work in Maricopa County.

The end of the review may finally be in sight, though still weeks, if not months away.

Ken Bennett, a liaison to the firms appointed by Fann, told reporters on Tuesday the hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots should be finished by the end of the week. But it’ll take three to four weeks more to conduct what Bennett described as a paper evaluation of the ballots, and weeks after that for firms to publish a final report for Arizona Senate Republicans.

The paper evaluation will review “anything to do with the authenticity of the ballot,” Bennett said.