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Democrats won't pay bond that would pause Arizona election audit

Ballot
Posted at 6:56 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 11:50:02-04

PHOENIX — An Arizona judge's order halting an audit of 2020 election results from the state’s largest county won't be enforced because the state Democratic Party won't pay a bond that was set at $1 million.

The party would only have to pay 10% of the bond that would be $100,000.

But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury on Friday ordered that the Republican-led state Senate and its private auditors must follow ballot secrecy.

The audit includes a hand recount of 2.1 million ballots. The Senate hired a cybersecurity firm run by a man who has shared unfounded allegations of election fraud. A lawyer for the Democrats says the bond was too risky.

A lawsuit, filed Thursday, alleges Republican Senate President Karen Fann pledged to a judge that the Senate would protect ballot and voter privacy before he ruled the Senate could access 2.1 million voted ballots and the tabulation machines.

Instead, they said she is outsourcing the recount to a biased third party and putting election integrity at risk.

Fann has said the ballots are secure and protected, but reports Thursday and Friday from "audit volunteers" and others at the Coliseum indicated there were inconsistencies in who was being allowed in, as well as some of the security measures and processes in place.

Other state officials on Friday weighed in on the process, including Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

In a tweet Friday morning, Hobbs called for Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate the audit process, saying, "reporting yesterday made it clear that @FannKfann and her Cyber Ninjas have not implemented sufficient security to protect the integrity of election equipment and ballots."

Election leaders from across the state also sent Senate President Fann a letter Thursday demanding transparency in the audit process.

"Election observation and transparency is a core tenet of American elections. While observers from political parties seek to ensure that election administration does not disadvantage their campaigns, nonpartisan observers are interested in promoting integrity, transparency, and efficiency in the electoral process. Observers focus on checking compliance with election administration regulations and procedures," the letter reads in part. "These procedures, such as the method of hand-counting and the forms used to collect, report, and aggregate vote totals, will impact the accuracy and integrity of the audit."

Arizona Democratic Party Chair, Raquel Terán also released a statement:

“Today’s hearing showed how unprepared Senate President Karen Fann and her ‘audit’ team, Cyber Ninjas, truly are. We heard the Cyber Ninjas’ own attorney admit that blue pens, which, unlike red pens, are capable of making machine-readable marks that permanently alter already cast ballots, were distributed to volunteers and staff in violation of Arizona law*.

The revelation of the blue pens was pointed out by local reporter Jen Fifield. This kind of discovery is exactly why reporters should be allowed to have free access to every step of this process, as is usually the case during legitimate audits.

Today’s temporary restraining order required that the Cyber Ninjas turn over all documents regarding their internal procedures, which should have been made immediately available to the public if this were a transparent or credible process. We are looking forward to the first actual explanation of their procedures and we sincerely hope that these documents are in keeping with best practices as have been demanded by the Arizona Secretary of State.

Finally, the lack of transparency from President Fann and the Cyber Ninjas as to the actual cost of the audit makes the question of posting a $1 million bond laughable. The Arizona Democratic Party will not risk our supporters' hard-earned dollars to pay off the Cyber Ninjas for a procedure they are billing Arizona taxpayers to the tune of $150,000 and fundraising on OAN with the help of Lin Wood, an election conspiracy theorist who called for the execution of former Vice President Mike Pence. The fact of the matter is that no one knows the actual cost of this sham audit and President Fann and the Cyber Ninjas have not once made this figure public.

We are calling on Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich to put an end to this madness and protect our election systems from conspiracy theorists.

*EPM chapter 11, section VIII (p. 225): “Hand count board members shall not bring cellular phones, other electronic devices, or pens with black or blue ink into the official hand counting area.”