Maricopa Co. releases new report on 2020 election, deems many claims misleading; here's what you need to know

Election officials in Arizona have presented a point-by-point rebuttal of a controversial review of the 2020 election that former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters have used to promote the myth that Trump lost because of fraud.

The report, titled ‘Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senate Inquiry,' was released on Jan. 5, and officials say it is the final word to the inquiry on the county's administration of the November 2020 election.

Election administrators and the mostly Republican leaders of Maricopa County have always maintained that the review, conducted by Trump supporters on behalf of state Senate Republicans, was flawed.

Here's what you need to know about the report.

Who authorized the review?

The review was authorized by the Republican-controlled state Senate, which subpoenaed the election records from Maricopa County and selected the inexperienced, pro-Trump auditors.

Related: Election conspiracies live on with audit by Arizona GOP

"The audit will validate every area of the voting process to ensure the integrity of the vote," read a portion of a statement released by Senate Republicans in March 2021.

The review began with a sweeping subpoena issued by Senate Republican leaders in late 2020 as Trump and his allies searched in vain for evidence to support his claim the election was stolen. The subpoena demanded access to all 2.1 million ballots, the machines that counted them and troves of digital election data from Maricopa County, home to the Phoenix metro area and 60% of Arizona voters.

To lead the review, Republican lawmakers hired Cyber Ninjas, a small cybersecurity consultancy with no experience in elections and led by a Trump supporter who shared conspiracy theories about the election on a Twitter account that he later deleted.

What was the result of the review?

The review ended in September 2021 without producing proof to support former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election.

The Cyber Ninjas report confirmed Biden’s narrow victory in Maricopa County but claimed a number of shortcomings in election procedures and suggested the final tally still could not be relied upon. Trump has repeatedly pointed to those claims in his rallies and public statements.

Cyber Ninjas and other contractors alleged that election computers were connected to the internet, that there were tens of thousands of potentially illegally cast ballots and that the county purged computer files that could contain evidence of fraud. 

What did Maricopa County officials say in their rebuttal?

The detailed response presented in a public meeting of the county Board of Supervisors on Jan. 5 rebutted virtually all the claims made by contractors hired by the state Senate to review its election procedures, equipment, voter registration rolls and ballot tabulation.

The report said that after "an in-depth analysis and review of the reports and presentations issued by the Senate’s contractors, we determined that nearly every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions, and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws."

Specifically, Maricopa County officials say of the claims made by the various entities connected to the audit:

  • 22 were found to be misleading. "The claims lead the reader to assume a conclusion that is not supported by the evidence," a portion of the statement read.
  • 41 were found to be inaccurate. "The claims include flawed or misstated analysis," a portion of the statement read.
  • 13 were found to be false. "The claims are demonstrably false and can be proven false using materials provided to the Senate," a portion of the statement read.

"If you are biased or not using an objective process, you’re likely to come to a faulty conclusion," said Scott Jarrett, director of the county Elections Department.

Did the county find issues when they analyzed the State Senate report?

The county experts did find some issues when they analyzed claims in the Senate report. The county review validated only a handful of the 33,000 ballots that the Senate report said could have been illegally cast because voters had moved prior to the election.

Five voters were identified as having voted in more than one county, and six people may have voted twice in Maricopa County. The county report also found 27 cases where ballots were counted that were cast by people who died before they were returned in the mail; those were referred to the state attorney general for more investigation and possible prosecution.

The county is reviewing another 100 cases involving people who died close to the election but still cast ballots. The Senate report had identified 298 voters who had potentially cast a ballot but died before the election.

In all, the county found 38 instances were a ballot may have been illegally cast, and all have been sent to the attorney general’s office.

The county report also said that election workers had inadvertently double counted a batch of 50 ballots.

Could the findings affect the 2020 election results?

The number of vote counting errors and potential illegal votes would not have affected the outcome of the election. President Joe Biden won Maricopa County by about 45,000 votes, key to his 10,500-vote win of Arizona. Previous reviews of the 2.1 million county ballots by nonpartisan professionals that followed state law have found no significant problem with the vote count in the county, which includes metro Phoenix.

Did the county conduct its own audit?

Yes, according to officials.

"After the November 2020 General Election, the County hired two federally certified Voting System Test Laboratories to conduct an audit of the tabulation equipment used to count ballots for all five of the elections administered in 2020," read a portion of the report.

According to the report, both labs found no anomalies in the tabulation equipment. They also found that:

  • Certified software were used for all tested software, systems and equipment
  • No malware or malicious hardware were installed
  • No evidence of internet connectivity was found

One of the two labs also found the 2020 General Election program and tabulation equipment was accurate, according to county officials. The test was only done by one of that two labs.

Where can the report be found?

The report has been uploaded to the Maricopa County Recorder's Office website, and can be read here.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump is scheduled to host a rally Jan. 15 outside Florence, his second in Arizona since his election loss.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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