Arizona’s largest newspaper sues Cyber Ninjas, state senate over controversial 2020 election ‘audit’

Maricopa county cyber ninjas
Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud. Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images
  • The partisan review ended in June, but results could still be months away.
  • Critics have complained that the process has lacked transparency.
  • President Joe Biden won Maricopa County by more than 45,000 votes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The largest newspaper in Arizona announced Thursday that it has filed lawsuit to obtain financial records and communications from the Republican-led state Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the private firm that has overseen a highly irregular recount of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

“Arizona law entitles the public to know how this audit is being conducted and funded,” David Bodney, an attorney for The Arizona Republic, said in a statement.

In a June 30 complaint, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, the newspaper argues that it is entitled to the records under the state’s public records law. The lawsuit comes after the parties denied a request to hand the documents over voluntarily.

Neither Cyber Ninjas nor state Senate President Karen Fann, who led the push for the controversial review of the Maricopa County results, responded to requests for comment.

Last month, Ken Bennett, a former elected Republican who is serving as spokesperson for the “audit,” said workers had finished counting the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the county, which President Joe Biden won by more than 45,000 votes. But he said a final report could be months away.

The partisan review, which began in late April, has been mired in controversy from the start. For one, it comes after Maricopa County’s Republican-led Recorder’s office already conducted a professional review of the 2020 vote that disproved allegations of widespread fraud.

Cyber Ninjas, by contrast, has no experience auditing election results. It also does not appear to be impartial: Before being awarded the $150,000 contract to review the vote, founder Doug Logan promoted pro-Trump conspiracy theories on social media – and recorded the narration for a web documentary claiming the election was stolen. The effort has also been backed by the far-right One America News Network, and a OANN reporter raised money for the campaign and enjoyed the status of being its official media partner.

The actual process has also raised eyebrows. In a departure from norms, the Cyber Ninjas audit process allows for vote tallies to be certified even when there is disagreement among workers on the final count.

Conspiracy theories have also been a prominent feature: volunteers were observed scanning ballots with ultraviolet lights in part, organizers said, to look for signs of bamboo, believing that would show they were fraudulent votes manufactured in China. And leaders of the effort falsely accused Maricopa County’s Republican-led Board of Supervisors of deleting election data they were supposed to hand over, a claim amplified by the former president walked back after workers discovered it on another hard drive.

Earlier this week, officials in Maricopa County announced that they would be discarding any voting equipment that been handled by Cyber Ninjas. The state’s top elections official, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, had previously said that any equipment handled by a third party could potentially be tampered with and should no longer be used in elections.

A recent expert review of Cyber Ninjas’ work, meanwhile, determined that – because of its departure from professional standards and the partisan leanings of those taking part – the final product “should not be trusted.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: [email protected]