Cyber Ninjas, the questionably ninja-like company that failed to prove Donald Trump’s bullshit claims that he lost the state of Arizona during the 2020 elections thanks to voter fraud in Maricopa County, may have consigned itself to the dustbin of history for now. But before you forget about it entirely, the county’s election officials released a lengthy report this week savaging the firm for its breathtaking incompetence.
For those whose memory needs a jog, the Cyber Ninjas situation was thus: Republicans in the Arizona Senate, eager to win favor from Trump, commissioned an “audit” of the state’s vote over the opposition of Maricopa County election officials who had already verified the integrity of the vote (and who themselves are mostly Republicans). As there was no legitimate reason to suspect any kind of mass voter fraud in the county—but voters there were critical to Joe Biden’s victory in the state—it was clear from the start that said audit would be little more than an exercise in delegitimizing the outcome. Notably, the 2020 vote had already been certified by state officials, meaning it couldn’t be retroactively changed under any circumstances.
Senate Republicans didn’t do themselves any favors by contracting Cyber Ninjas, a little-known political firm run by QAnon aficionado Doug Logan, to pull off the audit. Cyber Ninjas initially tried to keep their process for the audit secret, and it was very apparent why: It involved major security lapses, use of untrained and partisan volunteers to scan for nonexistent UV watermarks, racist boogeymen like allegedly bamboo-tainted ballots from China, invocation of questionable science about “kinematic markers” on ballots, and both bitter bouts with local election officials and internal infighting. After months of wasting everyone’s time and blowing a reported $9 million in funds, Cyber Ninjas eventually released a report basically affirming the outcome of the vote. (However, it continued to fight in court to withhold records on the process used to write it.)
The 93-page Maricopa County rebuttal makes clear that Cyber Ninjas’s final findings remained riddled with flaws. According to CNN, in the presentation to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, local election officials said that the audit had revealed one genuine screwup: Some 50 ballots had been double-counted by a temp worker. But Cyber Ninjas advanced some 76 other claims in the report—among other things, finding that roughly 53,000 ballots out of 2.1 million cast were suspect in some manner, including over 23,000 ballots the firm said were from people who had changed addresses.
Of those 76 other claims, the report by Maricopa County election officials states, 22 were misleading, 41 were inaccurate, and 13 were “demonstrably false and can be proven false using materials provided to the Senate.” For example, to come up with the 23,000 figure, officials said that Cyber Ninjas simply ignored that some residents of Arizona have the same name and birth date.
“The County reviewed voters from these seven data sets and found that the methodologies and claims were inaccurate” using additional information like social security numbers, the rebuttal reads. “The analysis that Cyber Ninjas performed relied on the use of a third-party commercial database. The combination of the use of this commercial database and the soft matching techniques are likely a key reason Cyber Ninjas made incorrect conclusions.”
Election officials wrote that Cyber Ninja’s analysis relied on “faulty conclusions about voters who moved, early voting files, certified results, voter registration information, the County’s ballot duplication processes, and ballots for military and overseas voters. At the heart of these inaccuracies is a basic misunderstanding or ignorance of election laws and procedures.”
Later, the report attacks methodology introduced by Shiva Ayyadurai, a self-proclaimed election fraud expert who has launched lawsuits (including one against former Gizmodo parent company Gawker Media that was settled for $750,000 in 2016, and a failed one against TechDirt) against those who question his claim to be the original inventor of email. Ayyadurai has run for Congress twice, according to the Daily Beast, which reported his campaigns involved cozying up to white nationalists and false claims of destroyed ballots. The Cyber Ninjas audit team quietly enlisted his firm, EchoMail, to help with the effort.
“EchoMail’s analysis of the early ballot affidavit images is misleading at best,” local election officials wrote. “The ‘anomalies’ EchoMail uncovered are due to a flawed understanding of signature verification laws and practices.”
“EchoMail’s analysis did not consider the signature curing process, which is when a voter corrects a signature issue by contacting the Elections Department,” the report continued. “The thousands of ‘duplicate’ early ballot envelope images that EchoMail claimed were ‘anomalies’ have a simple answer. As voters cure signature issues, the Elections Department takes another image of the envelope. Only one ballot was counted for each envelope.”
Election officials added that EchoMail’s findings included “misleading claims” about the way county officials verify signatures on ballots, “which has been proven accurate in court,” and are based on misunderstandings of Arizona election laws.
“It’s been debunked and it was written by people who are not experts in the field,” Bill Gates, the chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, told CNN. “We’re done. This is the end of the 2020 election. We have addressed the issues; we have debunked them.”
CNN wrote that representatives for Doug Logan did not respond to their request for comment, while a communications director for Arizona Senate president and key audit backer Karen Fann said she hadn’t yet watched the presentation.
While this should serve as a huge embarrassment to all parties involved, Republican legislators in Arizona probably aren’t sweating it much. According to the Phoenix New Times, redrawn state electoral maps for the next decade have the GOP set to dominate the state legislature and U.S. House of Representatives delegation, drawing accusations of gerrymandering.