Nearly 11 months after Joe Biden was elected president, the GOP-led review of Arizona's Maricopa County ballots has found no substantial deviation from the vote count reported by the county that helped clinch the win for Biden.
The review's count was within a "few hundred" of the county's total, according to Republican Senate President Karen Fann. Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan reported that former President Donald Trump had 261 fewer votes than the county’s official canvass gave him, while Biden had 99 more.
"That is a true statement. They were close. I find it ironic that our secretary of state, and a few others have called this a sham audit -- that you can't trust, that you can't believe it. Well the interesting fact is: Truth is truth, numbers are numbers and we said that from day one," Fann said. "And those numbers were close. Within a few hundred."
"This has never been about overturning the election. It's never been about decertifying," she said.
Despite mandated post-election reviews and two private audits of the county’s results that showed no anomalies or election integrity issues, Republicans still forged ahead with court cases seeking to prove fraud in Maricopa County.
When those failed, the state Senate contracted a private company to conduct a review of its own, which has now ultimately found similar results to the vote counts reported by Maricopa County, officials said during their presentation.
Democrats disavowed the process in a statement Friday afternoon.
"This fake audit, which has cost Arizona taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, was never about increasing voter trust. It was about overturning the will of the voters, waging war against a fair and secure election and encouraging conspiracy theories to destabilize American democracy. The facts are this: Maricopa County performed multiple real audits of the election as required under state law," Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios said. "At the end of the day, the American people elected Joe Biden in a free and fair election and Cyber Ninjas and Arizona Republicans can’t change that."
Biden flipped the state blue with a 10,457-vote lead. Sen. Mark Kelly also ousted former Republican Sen. Martha McSally -- winning that race by 78,806 votes. Former President Donald Trump, who has perpetuated some of the conspiracies that drove the audit, released a statement lauding the report's findings.
Despite the Senate result showing similar numbers to the county's official canvass, Trump falsely claimed the audit showed "incomprehensible Fraud at an Election Changing level."
Maricopa County Chairman Jack Sellers, a Republican who was critical of the partisan review process, said after a draft report began circulating Thursday night that the results were not surprising.
"You don’t have to dig deep into the draft copy of the Arizona Senate/Cyber Ninja audit report to confirm what I already knew – the candidates certified by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General – did, in fact, win," Sellers said in a statement.
Despite the fact that the review reaffirmed Biden's win, critics say it still contained misrepresentations about election procedures.
The process was also criticized for a lack of transparency. While the review was being conducted, it was difficult to discern who exactly was in charge. Far-right media outlets were typically given increased access to the review and its officials, according to local media.
Fann chose Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity firm with no experience working in elections, to conduct the review. She agreed to cover $150,000 of the cost with taxpayer money and approximately $6 million was donated by private groups, according to records released in response to a court order.
Only Fann and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee heard the presentation on Friday. There was no public comment or question period expected. Democrats are not allowed to participate in the presentation and were not expected to be able to ask questions, according to a spokesperson for Senate Democrats, who said the party had been "out of the loop."
Since the beginning of the review, election experts have warned that the process was flawed and results would not be trustworthy given the unscientific manner the review was conducted. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who took office in January, wrote a 38-page report to debunk common conspiracy theories and lies about the election results.
"I spent November and December willing to wait for a meritorious lawsuit, a scientific claim, or convincing data. But it never came because it didn’t exist. What is there, is data showing that Trump’s loss was built on disaffected Republican voters," Richer wrote in his report. "And the maps of presidential votes in 2020 almost exactly match the Arizona map of 2016, except that it shifted slightly in favor of the Democrat."
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor who fought to allow official election observers in to watch the review process, wrote a prebuttal of her own, saying the partisan review does not meet the standard definition of an "audit."
"Moreover, it failed to satisfy the basic standards for election auditing. Because of these failures, any findings or report issued by Cyber Ninjas, or the state senate, based on the information collected using these faulty and inconsistently applied procedures and processes, should not be considered trustworthy or accurate," she said.