AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, FIle In this May 6, 2021, file photo Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. Maricopa County officials on Friday, May 21, directed the Arizona Senate and the auditors it hired to review the county's 2020 election count to preserve documents for a possible lawsuit.
AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, FIle

“The Ninja audit is an abomination that has so far eroded election confidence and defamed good people.”

As the final report from the GOP-led audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results is expected to be released in the coming days, election experts from both sides of the political aisle in Arizona—and across the country—are cautioning the public about the unreliable findings.

The audit was commissioned earlier this year by the state’s Republican-controlled Senate to “ensure transparency and integrity” in the election, but it has been plagued by concerns of mismanagement, lack of transparency, and lapses in security

The audit is being overseen by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida cybersecurity company whose CEO has promoted conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Now, nearly 10 months after the election, a draft report of the audit’s findings is being prepared to be presented to the Senate. 

But on Thursday, ahead of the report’s release, several election experts and officials, including Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, highlighted the problems plaguing the audit process.

Multiple Reports, Election Experts Highlight Concerns

Richer, a Republican who unseated former Democratic Recorder Adrian Fontes in last November’s election, has been outspoken in recent months about the audit and the accusations made against him and his office.

In a 38-page letter addressed to Arizona Republicans—with dozens of references to news articles, tweets, and the works of Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde—Richer outlined a litany of concerns with how the audit process had unfolded.

“At this point, I hope my principal motivation for speaking out is abundantly clear: the Ninja audit is an abomination that has so far eroded election confidence and defamed good people,” he wrote in the letter.

RELATED: ‘Findings That Should Not Be Trusted’: Report Outlines Flaws With Arizona’s Audit of 2020 Election Results

A report issued earlier this summer by the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan group that advocates for secure elections, identified seven core defects that undermined the audit’s credibility.

They included uncompetitive contracting, a lack of impartiality, a faulty ballot review process, inconsistency in procedures, an unacceptably high level of error built into the process, insufficient security, and false public allegations made by Cyber Ninjas about the audit.

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates speaks during a press conference with other county officials during a press conference at the Maricopa County Elections Department on Monday, May 17.
Lorraine Longhi

Hobbs also issued a report outlining problems that have plagued the audit process, including the lack of transparency, impartiality, and absence of quality control procedures.

“It is clear that any ‘outcomes’ or ‘conclusions’ that are reported from the Senate’s review, by the Cyber Ninjas or any of their subcontractors or partners, are unreliable,” Hobbs wrote.

Several election experts from around the country also gathered Thursday to contextualize the findings ahead of the final report.

David Becker, the executive director and founder of the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research, called into question the “ecosystem of grifters” that have surrounded Trump in an attempt to relitigate the election.

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The audit, ordered by the Arizona Senate, has the U.S. Department of Justice saying it is concerned about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results.
AP Photo/Matt York, Pool

Despite repeated insistences from the former president’s supporters that the election was stolen, elections officials across the country on both sides of the political aisle found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. 

Maricopa County also conducted two independent audits of the 2020 election results, including a hand count of a “statistically significant” number of ballots that were found to have been counted with 100% accuracy.

RELATED: ‘Grifters and Con-Artists’: Maricopa County Republican Officials Slam the Senate’s Audit of 2020 Election Results

But despite the county going “above and beyond” to confirm that the election was secure, Becker said the Senate still chose to move forward with a “half-baked effort” by Cyber Ninjas, who were unequipped to do election work.

Richer, who has echoed similar sentiments in recent months, reaffirmed them on Thursday.

In his report, Richer referenced data that showed Trump’s loss in Maricopa County was ultimately due to disaffected Republican voters, who cast a ballot for a majority of the Republicans on the ballot but did not vote for Trump.

“We lost, and that’s okay,” Richer said on the call Thursday. “What is not okay is to destroy democracy over one loss.”