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Much has happened in the six months between the Nov. 3 presidential election and now, as contractors for Arizona Senate Republicans audit election results in Maricopa County.

As the hand count of the more than 2 million ballots cast in the county continues, many questions have been raised about who is involved, who is paying for it, how the Senate plans to keep ballots and voter information secure and who is allowed to observe in person.

© Patrick Breen/The Republic Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (left) takes custody of a pallet of ballots before an audit of the 2.1 million election ballots at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 22, 2021.

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Why is Arizona auditing election results nearly 6 months after the election?

That’s a complicated question. But, basically, Republican state senators still have questions about the validity of the general election results in Maricopa County.

Their questions remain after multiple lawsuits from the Trump campaign, the Arizona Republican Party and others claiming widespread fraud were dismissed and after multiple audits of Maricopa County results showed that votes were counted accurately and machines were not tampered with.

Senators wanted to do their own audit. Specifically, they wanted to do a full hand count of ballots. Senate Republicans filed subpoenas demanding all of the county’s 2.1 million ballots, voting machines and voter information.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors fought in court to try to stop the subpoenas, raising concerns that included the security of ballots, but a judge ultimately told them to hand over the materials.

© Patrick Breen/The Republic Boxes containing election ballots to be audited are seen at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 22, 2021.

Did the county do a hand count of election results before this?

Yes. The county hand counted a statistically significant sampling of ballots and conducted two logic and accuracy tests of voting machines.

Representatives from all major political parties did a hand count of county ballots after the election. It looked at all votes cast for five races on 8,802 ballots — a statistically significant number of ballots, as state law requires. The audit showed that the county counted votes with 100% accuracy. The county would have expanded the audit if problems were found.

And, despite rumors saying otherwise, the county did in fact do an in-depth independent audit of its voting machines that looked at whether the machines were connected to the internet, tampered with or malfunctioned. The audits all came back showing that votes were counted accurately.

What is the goal of this audit? What are auditors looking for?

This audit involves recounting ballots, and examining the ballots, the county’s voting machines, and the county’s voter information data.

Cyber Ninjas, the contractor the Senate hired to do the work, has said this is meant to find out whether votes were counted correctly, whether fraudulent ballots were cast in the election, and whether ineligible voters cast ballots.

Senate President Karen Fann has said the results will not be used to attempt to overturn the election results. Fann said she believes this audit will uncover whether the county’s election system is sound and whether voting laws in the state need to change.

Some election experts believe that the results from this audit may be used by Republican lawmakers across the country to push for changes to their state’s election laws.

© Patrick Breen/The Republic Stations are prepped before an audit of the 2.1 million election ballots at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 22, 2021.

Who is doing the audit?

The Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based technology company, to run the audit and pay subcontractors to do the work.

The Senate has relinquished its control over the procedures to Cyber Ninjas and its contractors.

Wake Technology Services Inc. is doing the hand count. Wake recently performed a hand count audit in Fulton County, Pennsylvania.

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan has refused to share the names of all who are involved in the audit.

What do you know about Cyber Ninjas?

Cyber Ninjas founder Doug Logan posted a litany of unsubstantiated allegations about fraud in the general election to a Twitter account, which is now deleted.

“I’m tired of hearing people say there was no fraud. It happened, it’s real, and people better get wise fast,” said one post he shared from another Twitter user around the end of 2020.

Logan was also involved in efforts to try to prove there was election fraud in Antrim County, Michigan, according to an Antrim County court document.

He was part of a team that examined the county’s voting machines and claimed in a report that they found errors designed to create fraud. State and county officials said the report was biased and identified a slew of problems with the team’s analysis.

Cyber Ninjas does not have any known experience performing election audits. 

The company’s ninja-themed website says it specializes in “all areas of application security, ranging from your traditional web application to mobile or thick client applications.” That includes ethical hacking, training and general consulting.

Cyber Ninjas’ LinkedIn page says it was founded in 2013 and employs between two and 10 people.

Who is paying for the audit? How much is it costing? Are taxpayers paying for this?

The Senate is paying Cyber Ninjas $150,000 with taxpayer money.

Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, said it will cost more than that. He has so far refused to say who is paying him or what it will cost.

One America News Network and Sidney Powell, who helped lead many of the post-election lawsuits that were dismissed, announced they are fundraising for the effort.

What voter data do the auditors have? Is my private information secure?

The auditors have all voter data that is considered public record. That includes the voters’ name, address, a phone number if the voter provided them when they registered to vote, party affiliation, and what elections the voter has voted in.

The auditors do not have access to information that would show who voters voted for. The county did not hand over private information. 

How is it going?

It’s hard to know. The auditors have not provided any updates to the media since the recount began.

A Republic reporter gained access Friday by volunteering as an observer. The auditors knew that she was a reporter when she signed up and approved her participation. She observed procedures that were not following Arizona election law, and procedures were being finalized on the fly.

What access does the public have to the audit?

Very little.

The Senate’s contractors accepted applications for volunteer observers, but that has been shut down. Little is known about the qualifications that were used to evaluate whether observers could serve.

The media has been banned from the coliseum, and the auditors have asked a court to keep their procedures private.  

The public can watch from a livestream on azaudit.org.

Is there bipartisan representation in that room?

Logan said he could not guarantee equal representation from all political parties for the observers.

He also said he could not guarantee that each team of three people reviewing ballots would be from multiple political parties.

What am I looking at on the livestream?

The Republic wrote a story about what is visible from the livestream.

There are still many questions about how the ballots are being examined, including what kind of light the auditors are using to inspect them and what they are looking for.

How long is the audit expected to take?

Cyber Ninjas has agreed to produce final reports within 60 days. Logan said he expects counting of ballots to last 16 days, with more than 250 people working in two shifts.

Nonpartisan election auditing experts from across the country have told The Republic that counting 2.1 million ballots will take much longer than that.

The Senate has rented the coliseum until May 14. The coliseum has numerous graduations booked starting a few days later.

Reach the reporter at jen.fifield@azcentral.com or at 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Answers to your questions about the Arizona Senate’s audit of 2020 election results in Maricopa County

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