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Today, American Oversight released initial findings from its open records investigation of the Arizona Senate’s partisan “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 presidential election. Drawing from the hundreds of pages of documents and emails uncovered by American Oversight, as well as public reporting, the report identifies key issues that undermine the credibility of the audit effort.

A link to the full report is available here: https://www.americanoversight.org/how-the-arizona-election-audit-has-already-been-compromised 

Investigation Background: Despite a pledge of transparency, leaders of the Arizona audit have kept many details hidden from the public — refusing to release basic information about the audit’s funding, methods, or management. 

American Oversight has submitted over two dozen requests under Arizona’s public records law seeking the release of documents, including:

  • Communications between former Secretary of State Ken Bennett and any party engaged in planning or executing the audit. 
  • Contracts between the Senate, Cyber Ninjas, and third-party vendors. 
  • Records reflecting the audit’s budget and any external funding it may have received. 
  • Plans detailing the audit’s operations including security measures; chains of custody; organization charts; and investigation techniques. 
  • Plans and training materials for direct voter contact. 

While the Arizona Senate has continued to withhold many of the requested records — arguing in court that documents in the possession of audit contractor Cyber Ninjas should be exempt from release — American Oversight has already obtained more than fourteen-hundred pages of records, including emails of Senate President Karen Fann and audit spokesperson Randy Pullen, among others.

Drawing from those initial records and public reporting, American Oversight has identified three primary categories of issues that compromise the credibility of the audit and cast doubt on the legitimacy of potential findings that audit leaders may release. 

  • Predetermined conclusions. Emails obtained by American Oversight suggest that top audit officials, including Fann, began the process with a predetermined objective of questioning President Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Arizona and finding evidence to support that conclusion. 
  • Involvement of conspiracy theorists. Records show that election conspiracy theorists supporting former President Donald Trump’s false claim of a stolen election, including Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, have been in contact with senior audit leaders. 
  • Problematic canvassing operations. While plans for door-to-door canvassing of Maricopa County voters had been initially dropped after election watchdogs raised concerns about voter intimidation, emails show that audit officials were aware of in-person canvassing efforts run by political allies. 

This is a preliminary report, and more records are expected to be released. On July 15, an Arizona court ruled that records in the possession of Cyber Ninjas are not exempt from the state’s public records law. American Oversight has asked the Arizona Senate to immediately release those documents to the public. 

Those documents, along with others obtained through American Oversight’s investigation, will be made available online here.  

American Oversight is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit ethics watchdog that uses public records requests backed by litigation to expose official misconduct, threats to democracy, and abuses of power at all levels of government. Documents obtained by American Oversight have supported investigative work by journalists, congressional committees, and independent watchdogs, and have been featured in hundreds of news reports across the country. Follow us at @weareoversight and learn more at http://www.americanoversight.org.