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‘We’re done. This is the end of the 2020 election’: Maricopa County officials rebut error-plagued review

By Eric Bradner, CNN

Maricopa County officials on Wednesday undercut nearly every claim that cast doubt on the validity of ballots in an error-plagued report that Arizona Senate Republicans had commissioned of the 2020 election.

The officials issued a 93-page rebuttal to the claims made by Cyber Ninjas, the company that state Senate Republicans had hired to conduct the election review, and its subcontractors.

“The truth is the Maricopa County 2020 election was not stolen from Donald Trump,” said County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican elected in 2020 who has defended the integrity of an elections office that was overseen by the Democrat he defeated.

Presenting the rebuttal to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in a four-hour meeting Wednesday, county elections officials said that 76 of the 77 claims made in the Cyber Ninjas report were false or misleading.

They confirmed one error that Cyber Ninjas had identified: Fifty ballots had been double-counted. They were scanned and tabulated twice by a temporary employee who was among many hired to help with the election, said Scott Jarrett, the county’s co-director of elections. He said the double-counted ballots did not change the outcome of any election.

County officials said they had identified 37 additional ballots that could merit further investigation and had forwarded those to the Arizona attorney general.

“We actually went and researched every single voter. And if, in the very rare instance, there was anything that was potentially unlawful, it was referred to the attorney general,” Richer said.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, who commissioned the Cyber Ninjas’ review, had not yet watched the Maricopa County officials’ presentation and did not have a comment, communications director Kim Quintero said.

Representatives for Doug Logan, the head of Cyber Ninjas, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Bill Gates, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said he hopes Arizona lawmakers ignore the Cyber Ninjas report as they consider overhauling elections laws.

“It’s been debunked and it was written by people who are not experts in the field,” Gates said. “We’re done. This is the end of the 2020 election. We have addressed the issues; we have debunked them.”

The Cyber Ninjas’ report, presented in September 2021, showed that its hand count of ballots virtually matched what the county had reported. However, the report also cast doubt on more than 53,000 ballots out of the 2.1 million cast in Maricopa County, the largest county in a state where President Joe Biden defeated Trump by 10,457 votes.

The Cyber Ninjas report was based on a review that used tactics that elections experts in both parties had said for months were certain to produce inaccurate results. And many of its conclusions were disproven by county officials, journalists and elections experts in real time.

Still, Trump and his allies seized on those elements of the report, citing them to support the former President’s lies that voter fraud was responsible for his 2020 loss.

The largest batch of ballots that Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors had called into question were 23,344 mail-in ballots that they claimed had come from people who had moved. They had drawn that conclusion after analyzing names and years of birth, with the help of a third-party commercial database.

County officials said those methods were faulty, in part because they ignored the reality that some people with the same name will be born in the same year in the most populous county in Arizona.

Reviewing Cyber Ninjas’ data, county officials used more data, including full names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, state-issued IDs, presidential election voting histories, signatures and, in some cases, parents’ last names and voters’ occupations.

“The County reviewed voters from these seven data sets and found that the methodologies and claims were inaccurate,” the rebuttal said. “The analysis that Cyber Ninjas performed relied on the use of a third-party commercial database. The combination of the use of this commercial database and the soft matching techniques are likely a key reason Cyber Ninjas made incorrect conclusions.”

The report also delves into scathing detail on the tactics used by Shiva Ayyadurai, an elections conspiracy theorist who Cyber Ninjas had tapped to review mail-in ballot envelopes. His false claims, based on a lack of understanding of Arizona’s early-voting laws and how ballot envelopes had been scanned, had already been widely debunked, but they have been cited by Trump and his allies in order to cast doubt on tens of thousands more ballots.

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