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Forensic News Roundup: Audits and Redistricting

September 28, 2021 8:06 am By

Republican Audits

Arizona “Audit”

After months of delay, the Arizona ‘fraudit’ conducted by the Cyber Ninjas has finally concluded with the release of a “draft” report finding that Biden, in fact, won Maricopa County – by a larger margin than the official count. The final tally, according to Cyber Ninjas’ opaque and questionable methodology, resulted in Biden gaining 99 votes and Trump losing 261 votes. It’s important to note that the so-called “audit” wasn’t needed to confirm Biden’s win. Nor was it about a legitimate counting of votes; the goal was and always has been undermining a Democratic victory⁠—any Democratic victory.

Thus, the group’s presentation before the state Senate glossed over their reinforcement of Biden’s win, choosing instead to focus on unfounded and hypothetical claims that fraud nevertheless occurred in the 2020 Presidential election.

Officials with the review claimed that duplicate ballots might have been counted, that signatures on ballot envelopes were suspect, that 23,344 mail-in ballots might have come from wrong addresses and that 10,342 voters might have voted in multiple counties. They said (pdf) thousands of voters might have moved out of the county or the state, that mail ballots never sent to voters might have been counted and that 282 voters might have been dead.

Maricopa County election officials took to Twitter to live fact check these false claims during the hearing. The full threads can be read here and here.

CLAIM: 23,344 mail-in ballots voted from a prior address.

BOTTOM LINE: Cyber Ninjas still don’t understand this is legal under federal election law. To label it a “critical” concern is either intentionally misleading or staggeringly ignorant. AZ senators should know this too.

EXPLANATION: 1) Military and overseas voters can cast a “federal only ballot” despite living outside the U.S. The address tied to their ballot would be their prior address in AZ. 2) People are allowed to move from one house to another (or even one state to another) in October and November of an election year (yes, shocking!). If the driver’s license address matches the voter registration address, they are still allowed to vote. 3) For the November General Election Maricopa County had 20,933 one-time temporary address requests. In addition, snowbirds and college students tend to have forwarding addresses when they are out of the county. 4) Mail-in ballots are not forwarded to another address.

CLAIM: 10,342 potential voters that voted in multiple counties

BOTTOM LINE: There are more than 7 million people in Arizona and, yes, some of them share names & birth years. To identify this as a critical issue is laughable.

EXPLANATION: 10,000+ votes in multiple counties is unlikely. More likely: different people, same name. Example: if you search for Maria Garcia born in 1980, you’ll get 7 active voters in Maricopa County and 12 statewide. And that’s just one name. If Cyber Ninjas understood data analysis, they would have performed standard processes to rule out situations that lead to faulty conclusions.

The House Oversight Committee is requesting Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan testify before the panel about his company’s role in the Maricopa County “audit” at a hearing on October 7. The Committee, led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), has not subpoenaed Logan despite his continued refusal to comply with document requests.

We are writing to request your testimony at a hearing on October 7, 2021, regarding Cyber Ninjas’ role in an “audit” of nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, Arizona, in the 2020 election. This request follows your repeated refusal to produce documents requested by the Committee regarding this largely privately funded audit. As a result of your obstruction, your participation in a Committee hearing is necessary for the Committee to advance the investigation of the questionable audit your company performed and to examine whether this audit is interfering with Americans’ right to vote free from partisan interference…

On July 14, 2021, we sent a letter to Cyber Ninjas detailing the Committee’s concerns about Cyber Ninjas’ role in the highly unusual audit…Rather than producing the requested documents, Cyber Ninjas sent a letter on August 9, 2021, raising spurious objections to all nine of our requests and providing 336 pages of publicly available material to the Committee, including public legal filings.

Trump and his supporters ignored the report’s conclusion that Biden did indeed win Arizona, instead trying to spin it as more evidence of a fraudulent election. “The Fake News Media is already trying to ‘call it’ again for Biden before actually looking at the facts⁠—just like they did in November,” Trump said in a statement on Friday. His spokesperson Liz Harrington followed it up with a call for a “full forensic audit of [the] entire state,” declaring that “Arizona is only the beginning!”

Others, like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), went further to ludicrously suggest there will be a new Presidential election in the next few months (clip):

Undercover reporter: So what’s next?

Gosar: My suggestion was, is that we actually have some hearings and look over this batch and set a new election for Biden and Trump before the end of the year.

Undercover reporter: A new election before the end of the year?!

Gosar: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what I would say. Yup, yup.

Undercover reporter: What do you think about though, just like, President Trump won the first time!

Gosar: Well, he did. There’s no way that he didn’t. There’s no way. No way.

Gosar, later in the clip: And if it were up to me, we’d say, “there was a fraudulent election and as far as the President goes, we should let ‘em do it again.

Texas “audit”

Just hours after Trump called for an Arizona-like “audit” of the 2020 election results in Texas, the Secretary of State’s office announced in a two-sentence press release that it is complying with the former president’s request. In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday, the day before the Cyber Ninja report, Trump asserted that “voting fraud occurred” in the “2020 Presidential Election Scam,” urging the state to initiate an audit:

Despite my big win in Texas, I hear Texans want an election audit! You know your fellow Texans have big questions about the November 2020 Election…Paper ballots in your state are only kept for 22 months after the election. Your citizens don’t trust the election system, and they want your leadership on the issue, which is the number one thing they care about. It is their most important issue—one that will affect 2022 and 2024.

Governor Abbott, we need a “Forensic Audit of the 2020 Election” added to the call. We’re quickly running out of time and it must be done this week. Texans know voting fraud occurred in some of their counties. Let’s get to the bottom of the 2020 Election Scam!

In their announcement, the Secretary of State’s office used the exact same language Trump used:

Under existing Texas laws, the Secretary of State has the authority to conduct a full and comprehensive forensic audit of any election and has already begun the process in Texas’ two largest Democrat counties and two largest Republican counties—Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Collin—for the 2020 election. We anticipate the Legislature will provide funds for this purpose.

Those 56 words are all the information available on the so-called “audit.” Even officials in the four targeted counties say they are in the dark and have not received any requests from the state for materials that would be used in a post-election audit.

Gov. Abbott appeared on Fox News yesterday to defend auditing the 2020 Presidential election despite Trump winning the state by a large margin (clip):

Chris Wallace: Isn’t it just a terrible waste of taxpayer money to have an audit in a state that everybody says went fine and that President Trump won by 600,000 votes, and aren’t you contributing to this undermining confidence in our election process?

Abbott: There are audits of every aspect of government. We have a state auditor, there’s a federal auditor for the way that government operations work. Businesses that are public companies are subject to an annual audit. Why do we audit everything in this world but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections, which is fundamental to our democracy?

Colorado password leak

MAGA fanatics are infiltrating local offices, hoping to pursue their far right agenda. The impact of this influx is perhaps best represented by Mesa County (Colorado) Clerk Tina Peters. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold accused Peters of leaking election hard drive images and passwords to Qanon leader and 8chan administrator Ron Watkins. Watkins then “posted images [that] depict the BIOS passwords specific to the individual hardware stations of Mesa County’s voting system. These passwords can only be used physically at a voting system at the Mesa County Clerk’s Office,” according to Griswold.

During a scheduled upgrade of Dominion election equipment in May, Peters ordered the security cameras turned off. She then used her employee card to gain entry into a secure room, allowing two unauthorized individuals inside. The group copied data from the computer system, apparently hoping to prove that the Dominion equipment was somehow compromised by compromising it themselves.

Peters denies taking part in the breach but went into hiding when the investigation began. Oddly enough, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell claimed to be harboring Peters in a safe house, just days after she appeared at one of his events to call for support from the MAGA conspiracy crowd (video):

“Some powerful people don’t want us to look at the facts. In fact, they’re trying to remove me as the Mesa County clerk and recorder just for doing my job,” she said. “It’s places like Mesa County that can be the catalyst to take back our country, and we need your help, and it starts today.”

“I need your voices. I need your support. I need your prayers. And I need your financial contributions to ensure that our legal rights will continue,” she said.

There are now three investigations into Peters, conducted by Secretary of State Griswold, the Mesa County District Attorney’s office, and the FBI. In the meantime, Griswold filed a lawsuit (pdf) to keep Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley from managing future elections:

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley jeopardized the security of Mesa County’s 2021 election. They deliberately violated the Secretary of State’s Election Rules and supervisory directives issued pursuant to the Election Code that were designed to ensure the county’s voting machines are secure. They also made material misrepresentations to the Secretary of State’s staff to conceal their violation of Colorado law. Their cavalier and wrongful acts led directly to confidential information about Mesa County’s voting system being posted on the Internet, resulting in 41 voting system components being decommissioned and replaced by the Mesa County Board of County Commissioners

Background: During her first year in office, Peters failed to count over 570 ballots in the 2019 local elections and lost an unknown number of ballots less than a year later. More than two dozen Mesa County election staff quit during that time period, including one who was fired after trying to help solve ballot handling issues:

In May 2020, [former elections director Amanda] Polson formally began an effort to recall Peters. The campaign took issue with Peters’ handling of the lost ballots, as well as her staff turnover, a series of controversial business expenses (including more than $3,000 in food), and her decision not to oversee a pair of town-level elections. (The towns were forced to oversee their own elections, costing them two to three times the typical cost of a county-run vote.)

 


Redistricting Maps

 

Texas’ map

Texas Republicans, who control the redistricting process, released a draft proposal for a new congressional map (pdf) that would add two new congressional seats to the state’s delegation. The suggested boundaries eliminate the most competitive districts and protect incumbents. The effect would be keeping the status quo in which Republicans hold a 10-seat advantage over Democrats, with approximately 24 districts likely to be won by a Republican and 14 seats by a Democrat.

Takeaways:

  • Safe Republican seats would double from 11 to 22. Districts that Trump won in 2020 would increase from 22 to 25.
  • Safe Democratic seats would increase from eight to 12. Districts that voted for Biden would shrink from 14 to 13.
  • Toss-up seats would be reduced from 12 to one. This single competitive seat (with a margin between Biden and Trump voters of less than five points), Congressional District 15 held by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez Jr. (D), would go from being narrowly Democratic to narrowly Republican.
  • Black and Hispanic populations were divided across the board, diluting their vote in safely Republican districts. This is particularly significant because people of color accounted for 95% of the state’s growth over the last decade. In the proposed map, here’s one less Hispanic majority district and zero districts with a Black majority.
    • “This map is clearly gerrymandered by politicians to protect incumbents and totally discriminate against Hispanic voters,” Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens said. “LULAC has filed suit against the state of Texas every 10 years since 1970 and we’ve prevailed every 10 years. Unless there’s new maps drawn, we expect we will wind up in federal court again.”

Georgia’s map

Georgia’s Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan (R) and Senator John F. Kennedy (R-District 18) released their proposed map of the Georgia Congressional Districts (pdf), likely to be the first of many versions. Their suggested boundaries for Georgia’s 14 districts is a weaker gerrymander than many anticipated (source and source). The final map will likely be chosen during the state legislature’s special session set to start in November.

Takeaways:

  • Republicans currently hold eight seats. The proposed map creates eight safe Republican seats.
  • Democrats currently hold six seats. The proposed map reduces creates four safe Democratic seats.
  • Two seats are deemed competitive: District 2 would have a 7-point Democratic lean and District 6 would have a 6-point Republican lean.
  • The biggest change targets Atlanta’s 6th District, held by Lucy McBath—a Democrat who upended decades of Republican incumbency by defeating Rep. Karen Handel in 2018. Under the proposed map, McBath’s district would become more Republican: from Biden +11 to Trump +6.
  • Strangely, the map draws Andrew Clyde (R-District 9) into a reconfigured 10th Congressional District for no obvious reason. This is another reason experts doubt the final map will resemble Duncan and Kennedy’s proposal.

Oregon’s map

Oregon became the first state in the nation to pass its new congressional and legislative district maps, with Gov. Kate Brown (D) signing the bills Monday just hours before the midnight deadline. The new congressional district plan (image) was created after Republicans boycotted the legislative session in protest of the original map, which was drawn to heavily benefit Democrats. In order to lure Republicans back to the chamber—to obtain a quorum—Democrats created a more balanced map.

Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, said many Republicans were motivated to show up and vote for a congressional district map they abhor by fear that Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a left leaning Democrat seen by some as particularly partisan, would draw legislative districts more beneficial to her party than the fairly representative Legislature-drawn maps. “Many of us (Republicans) are only here because we don’t trust the secretary of state to draw these maps,” Weber said.

The final map includes four seats that are likely to be won by Democrats, one safe Republican seat, and one toss-up district. In comparison, the initial proposal would have guaranteed Democrats five of the state’s six seats.

Democrats’ state House and Senate district plans would likely give Democrats a good chance of maintaining their supermajority in the House and expanding it in the Senate, while giving most current state representatives and senators a good chance to win reelection, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive’s analysis. Additionally, the nonpartisan group PlanScore, which is affiliated with the Campaign Legal Center, found in its statistical analyses of the Democrats’ legislative maps that they would result in relatively representative districts with a slightly disproportionate benefit for Republicans in the House and a slightly disproportionate benefit for Democrats in the Senate.



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