The Discredited GOP Election Review In Arizona's Largest County Also Finds Biden Won03:26

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan (center) is flanked by Ben Cotton (left), founder of digital security firm CyFIR, and Randy Pullen, former chair of the Arizona Republican Party, before the Arizona Senate Republicans' hearing Friday on the review of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan (center) is flanked by Ben Cotton (left), founder of digital security firm CyFIR, and Randy Pullen, former chair of the Arizona Republican Party, before the Arizona Senate Republicans' hearing Friday on the review of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Updated September 24, 2021 at 7:16 PM ET

A widely discredited GOP-led review of the 2020 election in Arizona's largest county has concluded that President Biden did indeed receive more votes there than former President Donald Trump.

"That is a true statement," Republican state Senate President Karen Fann said Friday as she opened a presentation to detail the results of the Maricopa County review.

The probe found that a hand recount of the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the county hewed closely to the official canvass of the results that county leaders approved.

In fact, the hand recount for Biden exceeded the county's tally by 99 votes, while Trump received 261 fewer votes than the official results.

The numbers detailed Friday matched a draft version of the findings NPR member station KJZZ obtained on Thursday evening.

KJZZ obtained the draft copy from a source familiar with the review less than 24 hours before the scheduled presentation in the Arizona state Senate.

At that exhibition Friday, the contractors that Fann and other Republicans hired to conduct the review explained their findings, ticking through what they called significant "anomalies" they said they found in the election process.

At the same time, Maricopa County's official Twitter account was following along, debunking on the platform what the officials viewed as spurious claims.

"Election integrity" claims

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (right) smiles as she is joined by state Sen. Warren Petersen, a fellow Republican, prior to Friday's presentation on the Maricopa County election review. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Trump and his allies have latched on to the so-called Arizona audit as evidence of their wide-ranging and baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

And despite the review's topline finding, Trump claimed vindication in a series of statements Friday.

Republicans in other states visited the election review in Maricopa County and have since initiated similar investigations in their states, despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud or other issues with last year's election.

But the Maricopa report throws cold water on the grandest claims of fraud.

"What has been found is both encouraging and alarming," it says. "On the positive side there were no substantial differences between the hand count of the ballots provided and the official canvass results for the county."

However, the reviewers raised concerns about the county's elections systems and record-keeping and accused Maricopa County officials of stonewalling.

"Had Maricopa County chosen to cooperate with the audit, the majority of these obstacles would have easily been overcome," the report says.

"This has never been about overturning an election," Fann said in her opening remarks Friday. "This has never been about anything other than election integrity."

Toward the end of their presentation Friday, contractors led by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan detailed their recommendations for state leaders, including that they create an election audit department to conduct audits in various counties on a rotating basis.


Blistering critiques

Fann and state Sen. Warren Petersen, both Republicans, issued subpoenas to the county to obtain the ballots and voting materials needed for the investigation.

Maricopa County supervisors refused to aid the contractors hired by Fann, accusing them of bias and inexperience after errant claims were made about the election.

"The contractors hired by the Senate president are not auditors, and they are not certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission," Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Jack Sellers, a Republican, said in May. "It's clearer by the day: The people hired by the Senate are in way over their heads. This is not funny; this is dangerous."

County officials responded on Twitter to the release of the draft copy of the report, writing that while it affirmed the results, "the report is also littered with errors & faulty conclusions about how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 General Election."

But Stephen Richer, a Republican who's the top Maricopa election official, said he hopes the results send a message — at least to Republicans inclined to believe the report.

"It certainly seems that some people put stock in what the Cyber Ninjas have to say; I am not one of them," he said. "But I am hopeful that this will accomplish some of what the Senate purported to want from all this, which was to build voter confidence."

The county's criticism of the reviewers is a sentiment shared by election experts across the country who've warned that any findings by Cyber Ninjas — a Florida-based cybersecurity firm that had no prior experience in elections and is led by a CEO who has embraced conspiracies of election fraud — can't be trusted. The same goes for subcontractors conducting other aspects of the Senate's review, they said.

"This partisan effort in Arizona appears to be ending the same as it [began] — highly biased, incompetent individuals running the process, delay after delay after delay, and very importantly, completely un-transparent," David Becker, founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, said Thursday.

The contractors involved in the review and Arizona state Senate Republicans have drawn the scrutiny of the U.S. Justice Department, made errant claims about illegitimate votes that were promptly debunked, and disclosed that prominent Trump supporters engaged in efforts to delegitimize the former president's defeat provided millions of dollars to fund the process.

Copyright NPR 2021.