/ Modified sep 24, 2021 5:25 p.m.

Arizona Senate's election recount found Biden won Maricopa County

Controversial election review leads to push for changing election laws.

Senate election audit The Arizona Senate's contractors count ballots from Maricopa County inside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum during May 2021.
Andrew Oxford/pool photo

A controversial review of Maricopa County ballots by the state Senate found "no substantial differences" with the 2020 election results, according to a report released Friday.

Instead, the Senate’s recount found President Joe Biden won Maricopa County by a slightly larger margin than he did in official election results.

The report also said "there is no reliable evidence that the paper ballots were altered to any material degree."

"The ballots that were provided for us to count in the coliseum very accurately correlate with the official canvass numbers," said Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the previously obscure Florida company that the Senate hired to oversee the recount at the state fairgrounds.

While the report is months behind schedule, it is still unlikely to bring an end to a political battle that has fractured the Republican Party, sparked rounds of litigation and fueled similar efforts around the country.

Though the results of the recount do not seem to differ sharply from the official election results, the report still seeks to cast doubt on the election process, detailing a series of alleged discrepancies.

For example, the report said "none of the various systems related to elections had numbers that would balance and agree with each other."

But Cyber Ninjas, which does not have experience auditing elections, faulted Maricopa County officials for not helping with the process. Referring to discrepancies in the vote tally, the report said that "had Maricopa County chosen to cooperate with the audit, the majority of these obstacles would have easily been overcome."

Meanwhile, election officials — Republicans and Democrats alike — have argued the results of the Senate's recount were likely to be inaccurate because Cyber Ninjas' procedures differed so sharply from best practices and Arizona's own policies for election audits.

The report also charged that Maricopa County purged a computer database with information about the 2020 election. The county has denied intentionally deleting any data and maintained that the Senate's contractors never asked for backup copies of the data.

Some critics of the recount in Maricopa County argue this was the best opportunity for backers of former President Donald Trump to substantiate his claims of fraud in the last election.

The recount has unfolded over the course of months with the support of Republican state senators who used the Legislature's subpoena power to obtain the 2.1 million ballots Maricopa County voters cast in the general election and procure space at the state fairgrounds to review pallets of election materials. In turn, Cyber Ninjas said it raised $5.7 million from several groups, including organizations run by former Trump administration officials, to fund the undertaking.

“If Trump and his supporters can't prove it here with the process they designed, they can't prove it anywhere,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer.

Still, the report Friday is likely to be the end of the process.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said his office would review the findings.

And state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, called for an audit of Pima County's election results.

The report released Friday also recommends a series of changes to the state’s election laws, such as requiring more identification from voters casting a ballot by mail.

On Friday, Logan said he would personally prefer to end voting by mail.

Democrats have accused Republicans of using the election review in Maricopa County to justify tighter restrictions on voting.

"This sham election review may never end because the Arizona GOP and its backers have no interest in the results," Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, told reporters ahead of the report's release. "They only care about pushing misinformation and creating distrust of our fundamental democratic institutions, like our elections and the press."

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