Madhouse on McDowell: An Unabashedly Premature Oral History of the Election Recount

Stephen LemonsJuly 7, 2021
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A complete but grotesquely premature oral history of the Maricopa County 2020 election recount. 

Artwork by STEVE BENSON

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Bamboo-tainted ballots flown in from Asia. Secret watermarks hidden by Donald Trump that can only be detected by UV light. Election machines rigged in favor of  Joe Biden. Ballots shredded and fed to chickens at Hickman’s Family Farms before the farm itself was set ablaze.

These are just a few of the conspiracy theories driving the Senate Republicans’ now-infamous audit of Maricopa County ballots. For this task, Senate President Karen Fann tapped Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas, which is doing a hand recount at  Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds – formerly known as the “Madhouse on McDowell” when the Phoenix Suns played there.

The ex-president is an audit fan, and according to some sources, believes that Arizona’s recount will restore him to the White House come August – like the French emperor Napoleon returning to the throne after his exile on Elba. 

Despite criticism of the recount by many moderate conservatives and even some prominent non-moderate ones, Arizona Senate Republicans seem dead set on seeing it through. GOP officials from several other states that Biden won have paid a visit to watch the yellow-red-and-blue-clad Cyber Ninjas hand-count 2.1 million ballots. And nearly every news outlet and news comedy show in the country has sent correspondents to poke fun at the amateurish vote verifiers.

Where will it all end? Apparently, with an audit report to be released sometime in the future that many already have prejudged to be fatally flawed.

As the whole shambolic shindig is ongoing, PHOENIX has assembled the following in an attempt to explain just how our ballots ended up in the hands of a company with a name reminiscent of a mid-’80s video game and a reputation to match.

JUNE 2020

Even as a candidate prior to his election in 2016, President Trump had a well-documented history of presaging voter fraud and calling into question the legitimacy of elections that hadn’t happened yet. 2020 was no different. 

“RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”

— President Donald Trump, Twitter, June 22, 2020

“We’re gonna win this election. The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”

  Trump, Day 1 of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 24, 2020

“We went into this election with our eyes wide open. There’s been enhanced security, certain concerns around foreign interference in our elections since the 2016 election, both on the cyber security side, but on the misinformation side as well… Turns out that misinformation was coming directly from the White House instead.”

  Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs to PHOENIX

NOVEMBER 3, 2020

ELECTION DAY

Biden won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes by 10,457 votes, or .3 percent of the electorate. Republicans expected Trump to take the traditionally red state, but Biden established an early lead that Trump was not able to overcome, as county officials counted ballots for more than a week after election day.

Fox News’ early call of Arizona for Biden stoked fears of a stolen election, as did an early conspiracy theory dubbed “Sharpiegate.” The claim? Maricopa County poll workers were handing out Sharpies to voters so the ink would bleed through their ballots, spoiling their votes. County officials pointed out that Sharpies are preferred because they dry quickly. And the ballots are “offset” so a bleed-through does not affect a vote on the opposite side.

“The Fox News decision desk is calling Arizona for Joe Biden. That is a big get for the Biden campaign. It also signals that it’s a good night for Mark Kelly. Biden picking up Arizona changes the math…”

  Brett Baier, Fox News, 11:20 p.m. EST, November 3, 2020

“[Fox News] is a complete outlier in calling Arizona, and other media outlets should not follow suit. There are still 1M+ Election Day votes out there waiting to be counted – we pushed our people to vote on Election Day, but now Fox News is trying to invalidate their votes!”

  Jason Miller, chief strategist of the Trump campaign, via Twitter, November 3, 2020

“Fox News calling it as early as they did. I think that was the initial sort of shock to the system… that caused a lot of people who already have a lot of distrust in the media to question why that would happen.”

  ABC 15’s elections “Data Guru” Garrett Archer to PHOENIX

“We have received hundreds of complaints regarding the use of Sharpie brand markers… Voters are concerned that the use of Sharpies may have caused ballots to be rejected, spoiled or canceled.” 

  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a letter to the Maricopa County Elections Department, November 4, 2020

“Based on correspondence and conversations with Maricopa County officials, we are now confident that the use of Sharpie markers did not result in disenfranchisement for Arizona voters.”

  Brnovich via Twitter, November 5, 2020 

“Sharpiegate was fuel on the fire. It definitely helped to create momentum for doubt about the election.”

Archer to PHOENIX

“What would have helped is for our elected leaders who know better to say that there’s no there, there, and… to try to nip these things in the bud right away. Maybe the political consequences wouldn’t have been as severe as they are turning out to be now.”

  Hobbs to Phoenix about Brnovich’s “investigation” of Sharpiegate

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NOVEMBER 4, 2020

Angry and armed, Trump supporters gathered in the parking lot of the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) in Phoenix, chanting and demanding entry to the building. Other Stop the Steal rallies popped off in Phoenix and across the state, often with incendiary rhetoric.

“When we come for them, they will be hiding, they will pay, they will be destroyed, because America is rising.”

Conspiracy monger Alex Jones to a crowd of Trump supporters outside MCTEC, November 6, 2020

“So there were protesters outside of MCTEC sort of disrupting the county process. And I was frustrated with them because I wanted to see them keep counting and keep releasing these results. Cause I was like, ‘Hey guys, with each new batch that comes out, the Republican boat rises’ … It was a blue blood bath on Tuesday night, and then slowly Republican candidates crept back.”

Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer to PHOENIX. He was losing to Democratic incumbent Adrian Fontes on Election Day, but he prevailed after all votes were counted.

“When you are done with this event, you need to go home, look at yourself in the mirror and say what are you willing to do to make sure your children do not live in communism… I can tell you now, I’m willing to do anything. Give me liberty or give me death, mark my words.”

  failed U.S. Senate candidate Daniel McCarthy at a pro-Trump rally at the Arizona state capitol

“The Fox News decision desk can now project that Vice President Joe Biden will win Pennsylvania and Nevada, putting him over the 270 electoral votes he needs to become the 46th president of the United States.”

  Brett Baier, Fox News, November 7, 2020

“I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”

  Trump via Twitter, November 7, 2020

“In Arizona, there was a prediction that the Legislature would flip. It didn’t. There were some congressional districts that supposedly leaned Democrat. They didn’t flip. The county recorder here who oversees elections went from Democrat to Republican. The county attorney remained Republican… It does appear that Joe Biden will win Arizona. There is no evidence, there are no facts that would lead anyone to believe that the election results will change.”

Brnovich to Neil Cavuto, Fox Business, November 11, 2020

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history… There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

statement issued by U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), November 12, 2020

NOVEMBER 13, 2020

A flurry of lawsuits in Maricopa County and around the country were brought by Trump’s lawyers challenging the president’s loss. All failed. Locally, one Trump lawyer made a surprising admission during a hearing in state court. Protesters chant “We are watching you” outside Hobbs’ townhouse, and Hobbs reveals that she, her family and her office have been inundated with threats of violence.

“We are not alleging fraud in this lawsuit. We are not alleging that anyone is stealing the election.”

Kory Langhofer, a Phoenix attorney representing Trump, as reported by Olivia Munson/Cronkite News,
November 13, 2020

“[Biden] won because the Election was Rigged. NO VOTE WATCHERS OR OBSERVERS allowed, vote tabulated by a Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion, with a bad reputation & bum equipment that couldn’t even qualify for Texas (which I won by a lot!), the Fake & Silent Media, & more!”

Trump, via Twitter, November 15, 2020

“The truth is, I was prepared for these threats of violence and vitriol… Their continued intimidation tactics will not prevent me from performing the duties I swore an oath to do.”

Hobbs, from a press release, November 18, 2020

“They came back the next night and I was home. So we decided to go to a hotel. We didn’t have to, but you feel trapped in your house, and they want you to feel that way. I saw a posting saying that, and that these are people that are armed.”

Hobbs to PHOENIX

NOVEMBER 30, 2020

Conspiracy peddlers target Dominion Voting Systems, the Denver-based company that provides ballot tabulation machines to Maricopa County. Rudy Giuliani, a Trump attorney and former New York mayor, holds an “election integrity hearing” at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix, with pro-Trump members of the Arizona Legislature present. Shiva Ayyadurai, a one-time U.S. Senate candidate in Massachusetts, gives a presentation that suggests the tabulation of ballots in Maricopa County may have been weighted to Biden’s advantage. That same day, Hobbs certified the vote with Governor Doug Ducey and Brnovich present.

“This election was subject of a conspiracy that goes back before the election. A conspiracy that was hatched by the crooked leaders of the Democratic Party.”

Rudy Giuliani,  November 30, 2020

“Another possibility is that Mr. Biden’s actual votes were multiplied by 1.3, which is 130 percent. Meaning each single vote Biden actually received became 1.3 reported votes.”

Shiva Ayyadurai, via Zoom, on one hypothetical scenario that he says would explain Biden’s win in Maricopa County, November 30, 2020

“Every single vote in the cast vote record [the electronic record of the vote] has a corresponding voter registration
record… Everything was tied to a voter.”

— Archer to PHOENIX.

“There is no secret ‘vote flipping’ algorithm… Dominion is never able to affect the outcome of an election.”

  John Poulos, CEO of Dominion Voting Systems, The Wall Street Journal op-ed, November 30, 2020

“We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong, and that’s why I bragged on it so much.”

Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona Capitol, November 30, 2020

“We have a company that’s very suspect. Its name is Dominion. With the turn of a dial or the change of a chip, you could press a button for Trump, and the vote goes to Biden. What kind of system is this?”

  Trump, White House speech, December 2, 2020

“I have spoken with Mayor Giuliani at least 6 times over the past two weeks. Then [House Speaker Rusty] Bowers and myself and a few members of our teams had a private 2-hour private meeting yesterday morning here at the Senate… we are trying very hard to find a legal path forward to resolve these allegations.”

  Arizona State Senator Karen Fann, email to constituent, December 2, 2020,

“The legislature cannot change the 2020 election results through changing the statutory selection process for presidential electors.”

  Ken Behringer, general counsel of the Arizona Legislative Counsel to Fann, undated, pasted into Fann’s email above

DECEMBER 14, 2020

Arizona’s 11 electors meet to cast their votes for Biden. But Fann and Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward are undaunted by this development. Fann empowers Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth to issue subpoenas to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, demanding that the county cough up the 2.1 million ballots and all election equipment so the Senate can do its own audit. Ward announces that the state GOP has picked its own slate of electors who voted for Trump.

“The county’s tabulation equipment is not connected to the internet. The hand-count audit [of a sample of 47,000 ballots] that we are statutorily required to conduct showed 100 percent accuracy of the tabulation equipment. And this hand-count audit was performed by members of each of the political parties.”

  Clint Hickman, Republican Maricopa County Supervisor, District 14, at hearing before the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee, December 14, 2020

“We’ve had four different superior court judges, and seven Arizona Supreme Court Justices, and one federal district court judge who’ve all looked at these claims. Every single one of them have found the pleadings, the errors on the part of Maricopa County, to be lacking.”

Tom Liddy, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, former Maricopa County GOP chairman, before the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee, December 14, 2020

“I’m very concerned with the lack of integrity of the system itself… nothing electronic is going to be secure.”

Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli, Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee, December 14, 2020

“It is therefore my intent… with the full support of the senate president, to issue subpoenas in an effort to audit the equipment, software and ballots.”

Eddie Farnsworth, Senate Judiciary Committee chair, December 14, 2020

“The true electors for the presidency met yesterday. Yes, the Republican electors gathered together. We took a vote for President Trump and for Mike Pence for president and vice president. We have transmitted those results to the proper entities in Washington, D.C.”

  Kelli Ward, Arizona GOP Chairwoman, via Twitter video, December 15, 2020

“If state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s Republican Party was a person, I’d guess it might rate its own entry right about now in the [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders]… something in the denial category…”

  Columnist Laurie Roberts, The Arizona Republic, December 16, 2020

“I have been in numerous conversations with Rudy Giuliani over the past weeks trying to get this done. I have the full support of him and a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud.”

  State Senate President Karen Fann, in a December 28, 2020, email to a constituent

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JANUARY 6, 2021

Those subpoenas spawn a vicious Republican-on-Republican fight between Senate Republicans and the GOP-controlled Board of Supervisors, with the Supervisors fighting to keep control of the ballots and the Dominion voting machines. A judge found the initial subpoenas to be faulty, but Senate Republicans soon issued new subpoenas, and the court battle lasts till late February, when Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason orders the county to comply.

In the midst of this donnybrook came a larger one, the January 6 insurrection, in which an enraged mob of Trump supporters, egged on by the president himself, laid siege to the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt the counting of electoral votes during a joint session of Congress, overseen by Vice President Mike Pence. At least four lives were lost as a result, and the American public was inundated with images of self-described “patriots” invading the House, the Senate and even the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, often fighting with Capitol police along the way.

A number of Arizonans participate, including that shirtless, spear-totin’, horn-hatted conspiracy nut known far and wide as the “QAnon Shaman,” aka Jake Angeli, aka Jacob Chansley, who became the unofficial mascot of the uprising.

Two Arizona lawmakers attend Trump’s pre-riot “Save America” rally, State Representatives Anthony Kern and Mark Finchem. The latter chaired Giuliani’s election integrity hearing. Both Kern and Finchem have denied entering the Capitol.

“Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Trump via Twitter, December 19, 2020

“If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency. Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!”

  Trump via Twitter, January 6, 2021, 1 AM EST.

“We will never give up, we will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”

  Trump to his followers, “Save America Rally,” January 6

“We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

  Trump, “Save America Rally,” January 6

“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

Trump, “Save America Rally,” January 6

“Hang Mike Pence!”

  chanted as pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol, January 6

“I’m gonna take a seat in this chair, because Mike Pence is a fucking traitor.”

Jacob Chansley, January 6, before sitting in Pence’s chair atop the Senate’s dais, according to The New Yorker

“What happens when the People feel they have been ignored and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud. #stopthesteal”

  Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem, posting a photo of the mob on the steps of the Capitol, January 6

“Today’s events in Washington, D.C., are, unfortunately, the natural conclusion to months of conspiracy theories and outright lies.”

  SOS Hobbs via Twitter, January 6

“OK. I said let’s do an audit. Let’s not get carried away here. I don’t want anyone hurt. We are protesting the violation of our laws. We are builders not destroyers. BLM burns and loots. We build. If anyone on the ground reads this and is beyond the line come back.”

  Congressman Paul Gosar, Twitter, January 6

“Americans are upset.”

Gosar, posting a photo of protesters climbing walls at the Capitol building to the right-wing site, Parler, January 6

“You know what could have prevented this? #ElectionIntegrity and full transparent investigations into 2020 fraud. Audits, eyes on paper ballots, full audit of ALL digitally adjudicated and all duplicated ballots, full evaluation of Dominion machines. Remember: Democrats refused.”

Ward, January 6

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FEBRUARY 3, 2021

In the wake of the January 6 riot, more than 500 persons would be arrested and charged for a range of crimes, such as trespassing, obstructing Congress and assaulting a police officer. In Arizona, the struggle over the ballots continued. A Senate vote to hold the Board of Supervisors in contempt for not complying with the chamber’s subpoenas failed by one vote.

After Judge Thomason ordered the county to comply, the Senate was unprepared to take possession of the ballots. Fann hired the Florida-based cyber security outfit, Cyber Ninjas, to do the audit.

“Be it resolved by the Senate of the State of Arizona: That Jack Sellers, Steve Chucri, Bill Gates, Clint Hickman and Steve Gallardo, members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, are in contempt of the Arizona Senate for failing to comply with a subpoena executed by the President of the Arizona Senate…”

Senate Resolution 1005

“When it comes to obstruction, lies and deception, the Maricopa County [Board of Supervisors] gets an A-plus… The bottom line is we have a request, we’ve issued a subpoena and they have given us the finger.”

Republican State Senator Warren Petersen, explaining his yes vote on SR 1005, February 8, 2021

“I’ve always said as long as there’s hope for both sides to work with one another that I want to do all I can in my power to have us work amicably together.”

— Republican State Senator Paul Boyer, explaining his no vote on SR 1005, February 8

“Needless to say, I would not have put this up on the board, had I not been under the impression and was told that we had 16 solid votes.”

Fann, explaining her yes vote on SR 1005, February 8

“We respect his legal opinion and will immediately start working to provide the Arizona Senate with the ballots and other materials.”

  New Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers in a statement responding to Thomason’s judgment that the BOS must comply with Senate subpoenas, February 26

“Maricopa County Board skeds ‘emergency special meeting’ at 2pm today. County has 2.1 million ballots in 2,800 boxes ready to ship to Senate Republicans for audit but nowhere to send them, I am told. #12News”

Channel 12 reporter Brahm Resnick via Twitter, March 2

“Arizona Senate leadership today announced it has hired a team of independent auditors to complete a comprehensive, full forensic audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, including a hand recount of all ballots… The team will be led by Cyber Ninjas, a cyber security company with a focus on application security, working across financial services and government sectors.”

Arizona Senate Republicans, press release, March 31, 2021

APRIL 22, 2021

The same day the Senate announced its hire of Cyber Ninjas, the, Arizona Mirror discovered that Cyber Ninjas’ owner Doug Logan was a supporter both of Trump and the “Stop the Steal” movement, citing a string of deleted tweets and retweets. One message retweeted by Logan reads, “I’m tired of hearing people say there was no fraud. It happened, it’s real, and people better get wise fast.”

On April 21-22, Maricopa County delivered all subpoenaed material to Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Logan subsequently held a press conference at the Coliseum with former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the liaison to Senate Republicans, and John Brakey, a Democrat and founder of the non-profit group AUDIT USA, there as an advisor to Bennett.

Controversy dogged the Cyber Ninjas from the jump, with Logan unwilling to say who was funding the audit, beyond the initial $150,000 being paid to him by the Arizona Senate. Logan walked through how auditors would use lazy Susans to hand-count the paper ballots, photographing all of the ballots as well. He refused to answer questions about his deleted tweets concerning Trump and election fraud.

“We have some digital tallying as well that’s going to be separate from the hand count. We thought it was really important for us to do a hand count because it’s something that every American can understand.”

Doug Logan, Cyber Ninjas CEO, Cyber Ninjas press conference, April 22, 2021

“How can we trust an audit if we don’t know who’s paying for it?”

Unnamed reporter, Cyber Ninjas press conference, April 22

“I have purposely made it so other individuals are arranging that. So I don’t know.”

Logan, when asked by a reporter for the source of the audit’s funding, April 22

“It is hard for me to take seriously somebody who thinks we should hand-count 2.1 million ballots… That’s just absurd. You might as well destroy the machines to stop the industrial revolution at that point… Look, when you’re going through that many ballots and you’re going through them quickly, humans get sleepy, humans get tired, humans get hungry, humans get bored.”

Richer to PHOENIX

“We are hand-counting all the ballots, which is inherently a less accurate process than probably the machines were in the first place, which is why I so strongly support… taking the images from Dominion and running it through an independent tabulation other than Dominion.”

  Bennett to PHOENIX

“I am not going to sit here and say that Doug Logan is not a good cyber security analyst. He probably is. I’ve seen some of his work… These are experts in their fields, but their fields are not elections.”

Archer to PHOENIX

“The Cyber Ninjas website looks like the invitation to my ninth birthday party. We must not judge audit companies by their splash page.”

Jordan Klepper, The Daily Show, “Arizona’s Shady Recount”

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APRIL 23, 2021

Bennett initially told reporters that they could only be present in the Coliseum if they signed up for a six hour shift as an observer. Regardless, journalists began to expose issues with the count. One reporter caught workers using blue pens on the first day of the count – a huge no-no, as they could potentially spoil ballots.

Another reporter spotted now-former Republican state Rep. Anthony Kern – who had been at the Capitol on January 6 – participating as a ballot examiner. He was later removed.

Workers studied ballots for signs of bamboo, following up on a rumor that illicit ballots had been shipped over from China. They also used UV light to look for secret watermarks that, according to one conspiracy theory, Trump had hidden there to expose fraud.

Pro-Trump One America News Network (OANN) was live-streaming the count. Meanwhile, OANN correspondent Christina Bobb raised money to help pay for the audit.

“Yesterday, we found a side door propped open at the AZ Coliseum, entered the facility and made our way to the Maricopa County ballots… It was the 4th day we did this.”

  CBS 5 reporter Morgan Loew via Twitter, April 23, 2021

“I noticed the counters had blue pens. Supposed to only have red when you’re around ballots since ballots can read black and blue ink. Those blue pens the counters have could potentially be used to mark the ballots. I pointed this out to Doug Logan with Cyber Ninjas… Doug is running this audit. He told me that his understanding was that blue ink was fine – that the ballots only read black ink. Then he came back and said actually it seems I am correct. But he still seemed unsure. He said that they would work on this.”

  Arizona Republic reporter Jen Fifield via Twitter, April 23, 2021

“Looks like we have former AZ lawmaker Anthony Kern reviewing ballots #azauditpool”

  Arizona Republic reporter
Ryan Randazzo, tweeting a photo of Kern examining ballots on a blue lazy Susan, April 30, 9:20 AM

“Well, a man in a cowboy hat and a badge that said Wake TSI just came over, asked if I tweeted the picture of Anthony Kern, and when I said yes he escorted me out of the building and said my press privileges were ‘revoked.’”

  Randazzo, via Twitter, April 30, 11:27 AM

“The things that they’re doing incorrectly? First and foremost, they are entertaining the conspiracy theories… Like, why are you checking for [bamboo] fibers? Why don’t you just talk to [the printer]? Why do you have to go through every single one? UV rays? They were putting each ballot into UV rays looking for watermarks, and they stopped doing that. They didn’t find anything.”

— Archer to PHOENIX

“We have to go into these stories and prove to you that they were bullshit. So, we are looking for bamboo. We are looking for folds on ballots… I mean, they got a microscopic camera looking at them.”

  Brakey to PHOENIX

“This is my favorite story… Ostensibly, we shredded ballots for an election I didn’t run, to cover up for, I guess, my political opponent… then we fed them to 165,000 chickens at Hickman’s Family’s Farm. Then Clint Hickman, who’s a supervisor on the board, had the foresight to incinerate the chickens so that the evidence would truly be covered.”

  Richer on one of the most outlandish conspiracy theories, to PHOENIX, which he laughingly pointed out was untrue

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MAY 12, 2021

The audit became even more chaotic in May, when Fann sent a letter to Maricopa BOS chairman Jack Sellers, accusing the county of deleting an entire database of voter information, which would be a crime. The letter leaked and was amplified by Trump on his website. Sellers returned fire a few days later during a press conference in which he lambasted the recount as a “circus,” a “sham” and “a grift disguised as an audit.”

This latest dust-up came hard on the heels of a poll released May 6 by the Republican consulting firm HighGround Public Affairs, showing that while 78.3 percent of Republicans believed there had been significant voter fraud in the presidential election, 54.8 percent of all Arizona voters did not. A potential disaster in the making for Republicans in the 2022 elections.

Opposition to the audit was growing, even among traditionally conservative voices.

“The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED! This is illegal and the Arizona State Senate, who is leading the Forensic Audit, is up in arms.”

  Trump in a statement posted to his website, May 15, 2021

“Wow. This is unhinged. I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now. We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5…”

  Richer, responding to Trump’s claims above, May 15, 2021

“You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’ while shining purple lights for effect. None of these things are done in a serious audit. The result is that the Arizona Senate is held up to ridicule in every corner of the globe and our democracy is imperiled.”

  Maricopa County BOS letter to Fann, May 17

“I want to be clear that I believe that Joe Biden won the election . . . But now it is time to say, ‘enough is enough.’ It is time to push back on the big lie. We must do this . . . Otherwise, we are not going to be able to move forward and have an election in 2022 [where] we can all believe the results, whatever they may be.”

— BOS Vice-Chairman Bill Gates, press conference, May 17

“All of this may be a moot point because subsequently, I have been able to recover all of those deleted files and I have access to that data.”

  Ben Cotton, founder of CyFir, a subcontractor for Cyber Ninjas, in a televised Senate hearing before Fann,
May 18, 2021

“Biden won. 45 percent of all Arizona voters thinks there is a problem with the election system. The audit is to disprove those theories or find ways to improve the system.”

— Fann, May 21, 2021 in an email to a constituent

“Cyber Ninjas? I’m not going to believe a darn thing they say. And I’m a Republican who voted for Trump.”

— Richer, in a May 28, 2021 opinion column for National Review

“You’re turning this into the clown show that you’ve been accused of… You’re turning this into the sideshow at the state fair.”

  Conservative talk radio host Mike Broomhead of KTAR, talking about the politicians behind the audit, Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2021

“Would I’ve chosen Cyber Ninjas? Probably not, but I have actually been very impressed, with some minor exceptions, with what they’re doing. They shouldn’t have had blue pens out here on day one.”

  Bennett to PHOENIX

JUNE 2021

In June, Republican officials from other states that Biden won in 2020 stopped by to check out the Cyber Ninjas in action. Embattled U.S. Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also visit the state to attend an America First fundraiser in Mesa.

Later in the month, data from Maricopa County’s voting system was trucked up to Montana by a subcontractor for unknown reasons. And CNN reported Cyber Ninjas’ business address in The Sunshine State now sits empty, and the address for its legal department is a UPS Store in Sarasota, Florida.

In the interim, a termed-out Brnovich announced his candidacy to challenge Sen. Mark Kelly in the upcoming 2022 election, and makes statements seemingly designed to woo primary voters. Despite earlier acknowledging Biden’s presidential victory, he wrote a defiant letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, warning Biden’s newly appointed Attorney General Merrick Garland that he will not “tolerate any effort to undermine or interfere with our State Senate’s audit.”

Mike Noble, founder of the Arizona polling firm OH Predictive Insights, tells PHOENIX the audit is “already very much tainted,” no matter what the final Cyber Ninjas report states. And “perception-wise,” the audit hurts Republicans with independents, which is one-third of the state’s voters and the fastest growing segment of same.

“It’s killing them with the general electorate. It’s killing them with the folks in the middle… They lost two U.S. Senate seats [in 2018 and 2020]. So apparently they want to give the governor’s seat away, too.”

— Noble, to PHOENIX

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