The recount of 2020 presidential election ballots in Arizona’s largest county continues as state and federal officials express concerns of ballot and recount integrity during the Republican-led audit.

The audit of Arizona’s Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots is the result of Republican state senators’ efforts to recount votes there because of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud made by former President Donald Trump. The Republican senators hired Cyber Ninjas — a Florida-based private technology company — to do the audit.

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“Either do it right, or don’t do it at all,” wrote Arizona’s top election official, secretary of state and Democrat Katie Hobbs, in a letter to the state Senate Republican’s audit liaison Ken Bennett, according to Phoenix NBC affiliated KPNX 12.

  • In the secretary of state’s six-page letter to Bennett — also a former Arizona secretary of state — Hobbs wrote that observers from her office had seen a string of concerning practices at the private audit and that Cyber Ninjas’ procedures do not match ballot counting best practices accepted across the country.
  • “A partial list of incidents observed includes ballots left unattended on tables, ballots being tallied using scrap paper rather than official tally sheets, errors being corrected in the same color pen, counters receiving training on the fly at counting tables, table leads correcting the tally sheets of counters, table assistants intermixing ballots from separate stacks, forensics team computers left unlocked and unattended, the use of cell phones on the counting floor,” Hobbs’ wrote in a long list of observed concerns.
  • “Under terms of a lawsuit settlement filed Tuesday, the defendants in the case — Bennett, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and the lead auditor, Florida-based Cyber Ninjas — now have 48 hours to respond to the concerns in Hobbs’ letter,” KPNX 12 reported, or the secretary of state could take Bennet back to court.

Also, the recount is not expected to be completed by May 14, when Cyber Ninjas’ contract with the Veterans Memorial Coliseum ends, according to Phoenix’s Fox 10.

  • “Bennett said the plan was to move the ballots and other materials into a secure area of the Coliseum to allow the events (high school graduations), then restart counting and continue until that is completed,” reported Fox 10.

Regardless of the outcome of the recount, Arizona’s Republican-led Senate does not have power to change the election results, The Associated Press reported.

  • Maricopa County was narrowly won by then-candidate Joe Biden, who received 49.4% of the Phoenix vote to Trump’s 49.1%, Politico reported.

Federal justice department expressed their own concern

The U.S. Department of Justice said this week it had its own concerns about whether Arizona’s recount broke federal election laws.

  • The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a letter to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann that the Republican audit may have “run afoul of federal law requiring ballots to remain in the control of elections officials for 22 months,” Politico reported.

Also, Cyber Ninjas’ plan to contact voters directly could be considered illegal voter intimidation, said Principle Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan, according to Politico.

  • “Past experience with similar investigative efforts around the country has raised concerns that they can be directed at minority voters, which potentially can implicate the anti-intimidation prohibitions of the Voting Rights Act,” wrote Karlan, reported Politico. “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”

Legal challenges of Arizona recount is not a new issue

The audit, which began in late April, has been met with legal challenges and criticism since its inception.

  • Cyber Ninjas was ordered by a judge on April 23 to “turn over its plans and procedures amid concerns about the security of the county’s ballots and voter privacy,” the Arizona Republic reported.
  • The out-of-state tech company’s legal team argued that its auditing procedures were trade secrets and are protected by “legislative privilege, as it is working on behalf of the state Senate,” according to the Arizona Republic.

The judge disagreed and Cyber Ninjas was forced to release its procedures.