With the anticipated release of the draft report of the Maricopa County forensic audit to the Senate team on Monday, two high profile Arizona officials have publicly submitted their "pre-rebuttals." Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer hope to convince the public that "nobody stole Maricopa County's election."
"Despite the overwhelming evidence of a secure election and a complete lack of evidence to support claims of systemic fraud, there are those at the national, state, and local levels who dismiss the validity of these tests and refuse to accept the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Instead, they offer outlandish, unsubstantiated theories of fraud, perpetuating disinformation that continues to simultaneously undermine the results of a free and fair election and erode public confidence in the democratic process.
Embracing these conspiracy theories, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann pursued further review of the election in Maricopa County. Despite frequent references to this review as an audit, the exercise undertaken by the Arizona Senate’s Florida-based contractor, Cyber Ninjas, fails to meet industry standards for any credible audit, much less for an election audit. The Senate’s contractors demonstrated a lack of understanding of election processes and procedures both at a state and county level. This exercise is more accurately described as a partisan review of the 2020 General Election ballots in Maricopa County, the results of which are invalid and unreliable for a number of reasons, which are outlined in this report."
Hobbs then goes on to "prove" that the state's "multiple checks, reviews, and audits of the election confirmed the security and integrity of the process, as well as the accuracy of the results."
Pre-election logic and accuracy testing, statistical post-election reviews, a post-election hand count "of ballots from 2% of the Election Day vote centers and 5,000 early ballots," and additional post-election logic and accuracy as well as additional post-election audits "comprised of three separate audits" in February of the ballot tabulation equipment used in the 2020 election.
"Maricopa County officials concluded: 'The combination of these findings, along with the pre- and post-election logic and accuracy tests performed by election officials, the post-election hand count performed by the political parties, and the many security protocols implemented by the Elections Department, confirm that Maricopa County’s Elections Department’s configuration and setup of the voting equipment and election management system provided an accurate counting of ballots and reporting of results,'” Hobbs wrote.
Hobbs then proceeded to disparage the Senate Republicans further, stating in a bolded heading that their "review" was "secretive and disorganized." Under that heading, Hobbs supports the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors' failure to respond to subpoenas. The board is under investigation by Attorney General Mark Brnovich at the request of Senate Whip Sonny Borelli. She also criticizes the auditors, led by Cyber Ninjas, for its lack of access and transparency—even though they have appeared several times in front of the Senate to discuss the audit—have encouraged bi-partisan participation in the audit, and plastered the arena with cameras that documented every step of the process taking place over the months the audit was housed in the Coliseum.
Hobbs also alleges lack of compliance with federal law stating, "the Senate, and its agents, including the contractors, failed to comply with the custodial duties to protect and maintain federal election materials"—all patently untrue.
Interestingly, the Maricopa Board of Supervisors (BOS) required that the auditors move all the materials to the coliseum despite Senate President Karen Fann wanting the machines and ballots to stay at the County's facilities so that chain of custody issues would never come into question.
Hobbs' letter dismantles every single step of the forensic audit process with painstaking detail, presumably to discredit any data that runs contrary to her beliefs about the results of the election. Richer's 38-page open letter, addressing the Arizona Republicans, asks them to "build confidence" and "move forward." He then proceeds to cite numerous Republicans and past Trump administration people who disagree with the premise that there was widespread fraud. In many places, he seems to parrot Hobbs' list of election integrity measures. He also concludes that the data shows that "Trump’s loss was built on disaffected Republican voters."
Richer also endeavors to prove that he is no RINO (Republican In Name Only), Communist, or Traitor, as "many in the Arizona Republican Party have called me." He then continues to reminisce about his ninth-grade essay where he was asked "to write in support or opposition of public funding for the arts" and was the lone student to see how "stupid it was for the government to subsidize any private entertainment activity—after all, the government didn’t pay me to play Starcraft." He continued, recounting how, "in college, [he] wore a black armband for a week when noted conservative economist and philosopher Milton Friedman died."
He included text messages between himself and Fann arguing over who "put out" what tweet. Richer concluded that he is "driven by facts and logic, and the Stop the Steal movement has neither." He decried the Cyber Ninjas team throughout, "highlighting the inappropriateness of the Ninjas' audit."
An appeals court on Thursday rejected the wishes of the Arizona Senate to keep its records secret. NBC News reported, acting presiding Judge Maria Elena Cruz wrote for the three-judge panel,
"Allowing the legislature to disregard the clear mandate of the (public records law) would undermine the integrity of the legislative process and discourage transparency, which contradicts the purpose of both the immunity doctrine and the (law)."
And in other Arizona news, Governor Ducey blocked federal money to schools mandating masks in the state on Friday. He also advocated earlier in the week for a parent's right to "exercise choice when it comes to their child's education and COVID-19 mitigation strategies." The $163 million in grant funding "aims to boost per-pupil spending" for all "district and charter schools following all state laws and remaining open for in-person learning."
On Wednesday, Ducey signed an Executive Order stipulating limitations on the government's ability to require vaccinations for school attendance under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), reaffirming individual rights in the state.
A letter sent to governors all over the country by Secretary of Education Miguel Cordona prompted Ducey to say publicly that "the letter was weak and pathetic. Just like the Biden administration is weak and pathetic on the border, weak and pathetic on Afghanistan, weak and pathetic on the COVID response, and weak and pathetic on the attack on the Phoenix Police Department and Chief Jeri Williams." The letter advocates for school districts' rights to "voluntarily [adopt[ science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."