Maricopa County Election Update, End of May 2021 “Bill Gates”

Posted by: on May 24, 2021
Image of Bill Gates

Bill Gates (Republican Party) is a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Arizona, representing District 3. Gates assumed office in 2017. Gates’ current term ends on January 1, 2025.

“We don’t do what is easy, we do what is right,” said Bill Gates

Gates (Republican Party) ran for re-election to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to represent District 3 in Arizona. Gates won in the general election on November 3, 2020.

Gates was the District 3 member of the Phoenix City Council. He was first appointed to the position in 2009 to serve a partial term. He was elected to a full term in 2011. Gates served until his resignation on May 31, 2016, to seek the position on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Gates also served as vice-mayor of Phoenix from 2013 to 2014.

Ballot counting has resumed at Veterans Memorial Coliseum after a week-plus-long hiatus due to high school graduation ceremonies.

Ballot counting has resumed at Veterans Memorial Coliseum after a week-plus-long hiatus due to high school graduation ceremonies

Slide 1 of 160: Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are returned to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum to be examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona senate in Phoenix on May 23, 2021. The ballots had been moved offsite for more than a week to allow for planned high school graduations inside the facility. Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are returned to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum to be examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona senate in Phoenix on May 23, 2021. The ballots had been moved offsite for more than a week to allow for planned high school graduations inside the facility.

Before they paused, the effort had made it through about 500,000 of the 2.1 million ballots cast by Maricopa County voters. The counters now have about six weeks to finish the rest before their lease expires at the end of June.

The floor of the coliseum now has 44 tables set up for counting and 32 for ballot inspection, though just half of those were in use Monday morning. The effort will have to pick up considerable steam to complete the work over the next month.

Florida-based technology firm Cyber Ninjas is overseeing a subcontractor conducting the hand recount and a ballot inspection process that may be inspecting ballots for watermarks or bamboo fibers, which election officials have dismissed as conspiracy theories. They also are looking for folds in the ballots and other aspects of gauging a ballot’s authenticity, according to Ken Bennett, the Arizona Senate’s audit liaison. 

Recount tables: 26 of 44 tables staffed.

Paper evaluation tables: 10 of 32 tables operating.

Number of observers: 13 volunteer observers on the coliseum floor and no observers from the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.

Latest estimate of ballots recounted: 500,000 ballots recounted, Bennett estimated when counting stopped May 13. 

The chatter

As counting resumes, the rifts over the effort among Republicans in Arizona continues to grow.

Leading the GOP criticism of the effort are the members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors — four Republicans and one Democrat — and the other elected county officials, most of whom also are Republicans.

“We don’t do what is easy, we do what is right,” said Bill Gates, a GOP member of the board. Gates said some of his fellow party members who publicly support the audit don’t really believe what they’re saying about it.

4 key details being kept secret
The Republic has asked for or filed public record requests on these items. These are highlights, not a comprehensive list, of the unknowns we seek answers to for the public.

Who is paying for this audit? The Arizona Senate put $150,000 toward the audit, although election experts told The Republic the cost would be far more. Private groups are collecting donations to pay for the audit, which means the public doesn’t know who is fronting the money.
How are the people recounting ballots recruited and screened? Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan said people recounting ballots were screened to ensure “there was nothing on their social media or other details that showed strong opinions one way or another.” But seeing former state Rep. Anthony Kern — a “Stop the Steal” backer — recounting ballots cast that in doubt. The Republic found that a few recruiters have far-right ties and are reaching out to traditionally conservative groups. Also, a nonprofit run by an ardent Trump supporter who also is raising money for the audit is helping to vet the counters.
What private contractors have access to ballots and voting machines? A complete list has not been publicly disclosed. Cyber Ninjas is overseeing the audit and Pennsylvania-based Wake Technology Inc. is in charge of the hand recount, while Virginia-based CyFIR is analyzing voting machines. Cyber Ninjas said in its original scope of work that the machine analysis would be done by Cyber Ninjas, CyFIR and “a number of additional analysts, the identities and qualifications of whom shall be made available to (the Senate) upon request.”
Who is verifying the voter information? Cyber Ninjas has refused to say who is involved in the review of voter information. Beyond recounting ballots, the audit planned to verify voter information and voting history, although Cyber Ninjas’ CEO has refused to provide details on who would do this. Liz Harris, a Republican who has called the audit a fight between “good and evil,” has been canvassing in search of widespread voter fraud in Arizona. Harris initially said her group of volunteers was helping with the audit, but she wouldn’t say on what part because of a nondisclosure agreement. She later said she doesn’t know what her involvement may be. State Senate President Karen Fann, in a May 7 response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s concerns that this aspect of the audit could illegally intimidate voters, said plans to knock on voters door had been dropped for now.

5 key details we know
Independence and transparency of audit questioned. Election experts say the audit is biased, lacks transparency and is impossible to complete in a short timeframe. “I don’t think there is any good end to this,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser of elections at Democracy Fund.
Audit leader pushed unfounded election fraud claims. The Arizona Senate hired Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan to lead the audit. A deleted Twitter account that appears to belong to Logan pushed unfounded election fraud claims, including sharing this post in late 2020: “I’m tired of hearing people say there was no fraud. It happened, it’s real, and people better get wise fast.”
Audit wasn’t finished by original deadline. Auditors initially said they would be done by May 14, but that was extended through June because of the slow pace of counting.
Feds have raised concerns. The U.S. Department of Justice questioned how ballots are being kept secure and how auditors would avoid voter intimidation if they go knocking on their doors. Arizona Senate President Karen Fann responded that the Senate would “indefinitely defer” knocking on doors as part of the audit.
Not a bipartisan recount. Recruitment of people to recount the ballots has extended into right-wing circles with no guarantee those doing the recount are bipartisan.

Republican Senator Says He Hasn't Seen the Marjorie Taylor Greene Scandal  Because of Bad Weather | Vanity Fair

Timeline: Catch up on audit
Dec. 15: Arizona Senate Republicans send their first subpoenas to Maricopa County for all ballots cast in the November 2020 election, voting machines, voter rolls and more information for “forensic analysis.”

Dec. 18: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors files suit to fight the subpoenas, saying it’s too broad and would violate voters’ privacy.

Jan. 12: Senate Republicans file new subpoenas to the county to replace the original ones, because a new Legislature had been sworn in and the county had argued that made the original subpoenas invalid. The new subpoenas asked for similar, if not the same, information.

Jan. 15 and Jan. 21: Maricopa County responds to the subpoenas, in part, by providing public voter information, election logs, detailed reporting of election results, and various other information to Senate Republicans. The county refuses to provide ballots, voting machines and private voter information.

Jan. 27: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors votes to conduct an audit to try to put election integrity concerns to rest. “I really want to alleviate their concerns and their issues with whatever it is we are doing and convince them that this was in fact truly an honest election with good integrity,” board Chairman Jack Sellers said.

Jan. 29: Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, says the county’s audit doesn’t go far enough and that the state Senate “has hired an independent, qualified, forensic auditing firm to analyze 2020 election results in Maricopa County.” She refused to name the company and would later say she hadn’t yet hired anyone.

Feb. 8: The possible arrest of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors over failing to fully respond to the subpoenas is averted when a lone Republican senator, Paul Boyer, votes against holding the board in contempt for not turning over ballots and other election materials the Senate seeks through subpoena. “My vote is about patience,” Boyer says, hopeful the two sides can come to agreement.

Feb. 17: The audit that Maricopa County commissioned in an effort to alleviate election concerns is underway with accredited auditors, which election experts say is critical. One of those experts, Ben Ptashnik, compared giving a random company access to the voting systems to “giving the keys to your house to someone who you don’t know.”

Feb. 23: The county-commissioned audit shows its general election ballots were counted correctly. The county hired the independent auditors to verify that voting machines were not hacked, were not connected to the internet and counted votes properly during the 2020 general election.

Feb. 26: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason rules the state Senate’s subpoenas for county election data and machines are valid. Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers responds by saying the county “will immediately start working to provide the Arizona Senate with the ballots and other materials.”

March 31: Senate President Karen Fann announces that Senate Republicans have hired private firm Cyber Ninjas to lead the audit and hire subcontractors. The Republic finds that the CEO of the firm touted widespread election fraud on social media.

April 7: The Republic reports that election consultants around the country say the state Senate’s audit lacks transparency, bipartisanship and that it’s probably not doable in the proposed timeframe and for the $150,000 the Senate put aside to pay for it.

April 22: Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the five-member board, file a lawsuit seeking to stop the audit because of security and other concerns.

April 22 and 23: Maricopa County delivers the ballots, voting machines, private voter information and other requested materials to Bennett, who Fann appointed as the state Senate’s liaison, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

April 23: Recount begins with one reporter in the coliseum who signed up to work a six-hour shift as a volunteer observer. The Republic’s Jen Fifield questions Cyber Ninjas’ CEO about blue pens she spots on the recount tables. Voting machines can read black and blue ink, which is why recounts should use red ink. After checking, Logan has blue pens removed and replaced with green pens before any real ballots are taken out of the boxes.

April 23: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury, concerned by uncertainties about the audit procedures, orders the Arizona Senate to “pause” its recount if the state Democratic Party, which asked for the halt, posts a $1 million bond to cover any costs from the delay. The Democratic Party does not post the bond and the audit continues.

April 27: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin raises concerns about the rights of voters, but allows the audit to go forward.

April 27: Local media obtains limited access to coliseum during the recount.

April 29: Private contractor for audit releases documents outlining the audit’s policies and procedures as ordered by a judge.

April 29: Crazy Times Carnival kicks off at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, which is also home to the coliseum where the recount is happening.

April 30: Republic reporter Ryan Randazzo is removed from the coliseum and told his press privileges are revoked after posting a photo showing a former Republican legislator at a ballot-counting table. The photo shows a ballot, with no markings discernible, on a vertical stand in front of former state Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale. The Senate later reversed its revocation of Randazzo’s access.

May 1: Bennett acknowledges the recount likely won’t be completed by May 14 as he’d said it would just days earlier. There was “no deadline,” he says.

May 5: The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division asks questions of Arizona Senate about the audit’s security and potential for voter intimidation. Additionally, the state Democratic Party and other critics of the audit settle their lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, with the auditors agreeing to ballot security measures and voter privacy protections, among other things.

May 6: Efforts to recruit people to recount ballots appears targeted in part at traditionally conservative groups — and some of the recruiters themselves have far-right political ties.

May 7: Arizona Senate President Karen Fann’s response to the U.S. Department of Justice says state Senate is dropping, for now, a controversial plan to go door-to-door to ask local residents about their voting history as part of its audit.

May 7: Maricopa County officials speak out against the Arizona Senate’s push to access county computer routers and administrative passwords to voting machines. Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone calls the demand for routers “mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible,” saying it could compromise law enforcement data.

May 11: The Republic shares insights from election security and IT consultants, who explain what could be at risk if the county provides access to its computer routers as the election auditors seek.

May 12: The Arizona Senate extends its lease at the coliseum so the recount can continue through June 30, with a one-week pause for high school graduations previously scheduled at the Phoenix venue.

May 12: Senate President Fann sends a letter to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sellers that asks him and county officials to meet May 18 to answer questions about the county’s failure to fully respond to the Senate’s initial subpoenas and the county’s election practices. The letter about “serious issues” says she wants to “constructively resolve these issues and questions without recourse to additional subpoenas or other compulsory process.” On social media, the audit’s Twitter account, accuses the county of deleting election databases and spoiling evidence.

May 13: County Board Chairman Sellers responds to Fann with a call for her to retract the statement about the county deleting files spread by audit officials on social media. “That would be a crime — and it is not true,” he said in a statement. “It is dangerous to spout accusations of this magnitude via a tweet.” Rather than agree to meet with Fann on Tuesday, Sellers says the county will hold a public meeting on Monday to lay out the facts.

May 15: Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican elected in November, castigates former President Donald Trump for alleging, among other things, “The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!” and calling it an “election crime.” Richer responds on Twitter: “Wow. This is unhinged. I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now.”

May 18: County Board Chairman Sellers blasts state Senate President Fann for trying to legitimize “a grift disguised as an audit.” As for the files Fann said were missing, the county says contractors likely failed to properly download or search the county’s databases, which made it so database and directories appeared to be missing. “We wouldn’t be asked to do this on-the-job training if qualified auditors had been hired to do this work,” Sellers says at the county meeting.

May 19: Senate President Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen meet with their contractors, who say they found the missing files. Ben Cotton, founder of CyFir, tells them: “I have been able to recover all of those deleted files and I have access to that data.” He says the county didn’t explain how the system was structured, making it hard to know what settings and configurations to use to make a copy of the county’s databases, and to search the databases. A day earlier, the county had provided the auditors an explanation of their system in response to Fann’s letter.

May 20: Arizona’s top election official, Katie Hobbs, says she may not allow the county to reuse hundreds of vote-counting machines provided, after a subpoena, to Fann’s contractors. Replacing the machines could cost millions.

May 22: An email obtained by The Republic shows a nonprofit started by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne will handle background checks, non-disclosure agreements and volunteer agreements of audit workers. Byrne’s non profit, Fund the Audit by The America Project, also is raising money to pay for the effort. The email also states that ballot counters were sought as volunteers instead of being paid, as was the case when the counting began.

May 24: Ballot counting and inspection resumes at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.