It’s pretty rich. The Maricopa County Elections Department screws up big-time, and Bill Gates, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, states, “We’re not doing anything wrong at all.”
He then goes on TV to reprimand us for spreading misinformation, blah, blah, blah. Not only that, he pretends we’re attacking his hard-working staff of public servants who are, you know, working 12- to 18-hour days.
No, Bill, we aren’t criticizing your staff: We are criticizing you and other election administrators, such as County Recorder Stephen Richer. You are the ones who make the decisions for the hapless Elections Department.
Perhaps readers will think I am angry about the 20 to 27 percent of voting machines that failed on Election Day. Many people are mad about that, but I am not. After all, mistakes happen — even big ones.
Rather, I am angry about the arrogance and incompetence of the Maricopa gang, and the waste they have caused. More importantly, I am upset because potential election fraud and irregularities, shoved right under their noses, have been ignored.
Obstruction of the Senate’s 2020 audit
Let’s start with the county’s behavior during the Arizona Senate’s 2020 election audit. In every way imaginable, the county refused to cooperate with the Senate’s designated auditors, the Cyber Ninjas. That obstruction can be put into two categories:
1) Legal roadblocks to prevent or delay the audit
Bill Gates and Co. repeatedly fought the Arizona Legislature in court. After the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed audit records on Dec. 15, 2020, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors wasted no time in filing a lawsuit to block the subpoenas. The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 18, 2020, and it led to several months of wasted time and the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In its lawsuit, the county asserted, disingenuously, that it had the “authority to conduct elections… not the Legislature” (p. 13). I say disingenuously because the Legislature was not trying to conduct an election — rather, it was attempting to audit the county’s election procedures to determine if election laws were working correctly or in need of revision. Auditing does not equal conducting.
Fortunately, the judge recognized the weakness of the county’s argument. A few months and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Judge Timothy Thomson ruled, “There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue subpoenas.”
That wasn’t the last wasteful lawsuit that would be filed in the effort to block the audit, but let’s move on to another area of county resistance and obstruction.
2) Noncooperation with the auditors
The auditors made reasonable requests that were resisted. The county forced the Cyber Ninjas (and the Senate) to spend millions of dollars and a great deal of time moving equipment and ballots to new facilities. Why? Who knows! The county refused to turn over access codes. It blocked access to routers because, supposedly, that could impede law enforcement. (Are you kidding?)
County officials refused to answer basic questions, except via snarky tweets. Source information was not shared. Later, the county criticized the auditors for not using the high-quality source materials used by the county — the same materials it kept under lock and key.
Failure to earnestly address irregularities
Obstruction of the audit was damaging, but I am more concerned by the county’s failure to recognize, investigate and resolve irregularities. Two examples are noted below.
1) Signature problems
On paper, the Elections Department has very high standards for matching signatures received with ballots to signatures in registration records. However, during the Cyber Ninjas audit, the Senate liaison to the county election audit, Ken Bennett, claimed that the official 27-point comparison requirement was dropped. Here is the statement made by Bennett:
We’ve literally been told by people who worked in that process for Maricopa County that the standard at the beginning was quite reasonable and high. But they got so far behind, we’ve been told that they went to the people on that team, 40-some people, and said, “OK, reduce it to 10” and then to five and then one [point of comparison]. And then we’re told — and I can hardly believe that this might have been the case, but it needs to be verified — we’re told they finally told them, “Let everything go through, including blank signature boxes.” If that happened, that is a terrible failure.
This lax effort to review signatures was manifested in totally unrealistic results. Out of about 1,900,000 mail-in ballots, the county found only 587 bad signatures (p. 87) — an absurdly low number.
In response to this criticism, the department provided a mumbo jumbo answer indicating that some of the ballots had been “cured” by contacting the voter via text or telephone. The county also asserted that “people’s signatures degrade or mature over time, even to a point of being a scribble” (p. 79).
The Cyber Ninjas were prevented (in a lawsuit) from directly reviewing any signatures. However, months later, the Senate retained Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai to conduct a test of a scientifically selected sample of 499 signatures from Maricopa County. A panel of six individuals (including three forensic document examiners) examined the signatures and found, unanimously, a 12 percent error rate.
When that rate is applied to all mail-in ballots in the county, it suggests that there may have been over 200,000 highly questionable (or phony) signatures in the election — not 587.
Let’s play devil’s advocate. Maricopa County could claim that most of the 200,000 questionable ballots might be cured. However, that would be subterfuge.
Here is the standard curing process in Maricopa: “If the voter returns our [text] messages and confirms the ballot and signature is valid … it would be rescanned and sent to ballot processing and tabulation” (p. 78). And where does the county send the text message requesting confirmation? It goes to the cellphone number put on the ballot application by the voter — or the fraudster. Wow!
The county should not have ignored the findings of Ayyadurai. If Gates and Co. questioned his methods (and they have not, to my knowledge) then they should have performed their own test of signatures.
2) Ridiculous voting results from overseas military
At an Arizona Senate Committee hearing on Jan. 24, we learned that President Joe Biden received 95 percent of the overseas military vote in Maricopa County. That might make sense in Washington, D.C., but it is an amazing percentage in Maricopa, where the countywide vote was split fairly evenly between Biden and Donald Trump.
Overseas votes are subject to the Uniform Overseas Civilian Absentee Voting Act. That act applies to:
- U.S. uniformed service personnel
- Their families
- U.S. citizens living abroad
The findings were presented by Paul Harris, a corporate executive who had been asked to conduct the review during the Maricopa County Cyber Ninjas audit. Harris appeared to be almost angry as he noted that all of the ballots were simply print-outs of (presumably) emails or faxes on standard copy paper, and there were other unusual aspects to the ballots:
- There was no source documentation and no way to identify where any of the “ballots” (sheets of paper) came from.
- There were no chain-of-custody documents. Harris couldn’t determine who processed the ballots and when.
- The number of ballots was surprising. Harris said that in the 2016 election there were only 1,600 UOCAVA ballots, but in 2020 that number jumped to 9,600.
- Harris personally tabulated the votes, and 95 percent went for one candidate. He estimated that they added at least 8,000 net votes to the winning candidate, who had (ostensibly) won the state by only a bit over 10,000 votes.
It would have been simple for Maricopa to email confirmation requests to a sample of UOCAVA voters, but this matter was ignored, as were the previously mentioned signature irregularities.
Election officials always have a right to push back if they feel auditors are making unreasonable demands. However, the Maricopa County Elections Department should have invited the Cyber Ninjas into county facilities, where they could have worked side by side, shared information, and answered questions quickly and efficiently. And, upon the discovery of serious irregularities, such as signature mismatching and unrealistic UOCAVA voting, the county should have investigated, resolved and reported those findings and resolutions.
If Bill Gates really thinks that the Maricopa Elections Department is “not doing anything wrong at all,” it is time for him to move on… perhaps to a job at MSNBC.
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