The debate over Arizona's 2020 general election, in which Joe Biden's victory helped send him to the White House, has continued nearly nonstop for almost a year.
Protests and lawsuits were immediate. The state Senate-ordered review of Maricopa County's election, which wrapped up with reports delivered Friday, took longer to get going. And to wrap up.
The review began April 23 after months of legal wrangling to obtain the county's ballots, voting machines and other election materials.
Here's a look back on how we got here.
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Nov. 3: Election night tallies show Biden defeating President Donald Trump in Arizona, although the race remains tight with many votes left to count. Late that night, Trump says he plans to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent states from counting outstanding ballots late into the night, which he calls a “fraud.” However, in Arizona, Trump says there are many votes left to count and that he shouldn't be discounted yet.
Nov. 4: Protests and election lawsuits begin. Some 100 people rally at the state Capitol. Republican State Rep. Kelly Townsend urges them to sign affidavits about their voting experience and to contact Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward. An election lawsuit related to the use of Sharpies is filed, despite election officials across Arizona saying the use of the felt-tip pen to fill out ballots is not a problem. The case is dropped three days later.
Toward evening, more people gather outside the Maricopa County election center as votes continue to be counted.
Republican Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the board's only Democrat, issue a bipartisan request for patience, saying an accurate vote count takes time. "It's possible the results you see now may change after all the votes are counted. This is evidence of democracy, not fraud."
Nov. 5: Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones rallies people outside the county elections center in Phoenix. “The world is watching the example of Arizona, the president is watching the example, you’re not gonna let ‘em steal this," Jones tells the crowd.
Nov. 7: Arizona continues counting ballots, but Biden is projected to win Pennsylvania, which pushes him across the 270 electoral college threshold. Meanwhile, a pressure campaign on county leaders by the state GOP chair begins. Text messages and voicemails reveal multipronged attempts by Ward to halt Trump’s impending loss in Arizona.
Nov. 13: Maricopa County completes its final count, showing Biden beat Trump. Hours later, Ward texts Hickman: “POTUS will probably be calling you.” Hickman later tells The Republic that the call didn't come until New Year's Eve, and he let the White House switchboard go to voicemail.
Nov. 30: Trump's attorney Rudy > Giuliani and others gather in a downtown Phoenix hotel presenting election fraud theories
> Giuliani and others gather in a downtown Phoenix hotel presenting election fraud theories. The goal seems to be to persuade Arizona's Legislature to intercede with the state's election results. At the Capitol, state officials officially certify the results showing Trump lost. Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who campaigned with Trump, expresses confidence in the process. "We do elections well here in Arizona," he says.
Dec. 15: Arizona Senate Republican leaders send subpoenas to Maricopa County for all ballots cast in last month's 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. 27: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors votes to conduct an audit to try to put election integrity concerns to rest, but state Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott says it doesn't go far enough.
Feb. 5: Fann communicates with Doug Logan, who owns a small cybersecurity firm in Florida called Cyber Ninjas. This early communication would become publicly known months later in response to a public records request. Logan, at this point, already was working with Trump allies to uncover election fraud.
Feb. 8: A lone Republican senator, Paul Boyer, averts the potential arrest of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors when he votes against holding the board in contempt for not fully responding to the subpoenas.
Feb. 23: Auditors hired by the county found no malicious hardware on voting machines, the machines were not connected to the internet, and the machines were programmed to tabulate ballots accurately.
Feb. 26: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason rules the legislative subpoenas, which were refiled when the new legislative session opened in January, are valid. County officials say they will work to provide the materials.
March 31: Fann announces Cyber Ninjas will lead the senate's audit. The firm has no election auditing experience, but Logan has touted widespread election fraud claims on social media. Election experts say the $150,000 price tag is too low and raises concerns about partisanship, the timeframe and the lack of transparency.
April 22: The Arizona Democratic Party and county Supervisor Gallardo sue to stop the audit because of security and other concerns. The lawsuit is filed the same day the county begins delivering the ballots, voting machines and other requested materials to Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which is leased for the hand recount.
April 23: Journalists initially are denied entry to observe the audit unless they sign up as a volunteer observer. The 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 an alternative color. After checking, Logan has blue pens removed and replaced with green pens before any real ballots are taken out of the boxes.
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: Local journalists obtain limited access to coliseum during the recount.
April 28: A judge requires Cyber Ninjas to provide the audit procedures it fought to keep secret.
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 reverses its revocation of Randazzo's access.
May 5: The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division sends a letter questioning the Arizona Senate about the audit’s security and potential for voter intimidation.
May 6: The Republic reports that efforts to recruit people to recount ballots appear targeted in part at traditionally conservative groups — and some of the recruiters have far-right political ties.
May 7: Fann drops a controversial plan to go door-to-door to ask local residents about their voting history as part of its audit. The decision to halt the canvassing portion of the audit is in response to the DOJ's inquiry.
May 7: Maricopa County officials refuse to provide access to its computer routers. Sheriff Paul Penzone calls the demand "mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible," saying it could compromise law enforcement data.
May 12: Fann asks county officials to meet to answer questions, saying she wants to "constructively resolve these issues and questions without recourse to additional subpoenas or other compulsory process." The audit's Twitter account strikes a different tone, accusing the county of deleting election databases and spoliation of evidence.
May 14: The original deadline to complete the hand recount comes and goes. The Senate has extended its coliseum lease through June 30.
May 15: Trump alleges, among other things, "The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!" and calls it an "election crime." Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican elected in November, responds on Twitter: "Wow. This is unhinged. I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now."
May 17: Maricopa Board Chairman Jack Sellers blasts 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. The Senate's contractors would later tell Fann that they found the files in question.
May 20: Arizona's top election official, Democrat 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 nonprofit also is raising money for the audit. Byrne wrote "The Deep Rig," a book turned movie claiming election fraud.
May 24: Scottsdale-based technology company StratTech Solutions takes over running the hand count when Pennsylvania-based Wake TSI doesn't renew its contract past May 14.
June 2: The audit is a boon to the Arizona Republican Party, which has raised far more money this year than it did at this point last year, The Republic reports. Leaders in other states are paying attention. Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican, visits the coliseum with colleagues and says he wants an Arizona-style audit in his state. Others from states such as Alaska, Wisconsin and Georgia follow.
June 3: Maricopa County election data is in a "secure lab" in Montana, or maybe a log cabin in the woods. The Republic reports that a contractor hired by the Arizona Senate is reviewing the election data from an undisclosed location in Montana, with no oversight from state or county officials.
June 26: The CEO of the company leading the audit appears in a new movie called "The Deep Rig" that asserts the election was stolen from Trump. "If we don’t fix our election integrity now, we may no longer have a democracy," Logan says in the film that premiered in Phoenix. The film is based on a book by Byrne and features former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
June 28: Maricopa County will not reuse voting machines that were in the custody of the Senate's contractors. The county Board of Supervisors sends a letter to the secretary of state that the board shares her concerns about whether the hundreds of vote-counting machines that they had to give the Senate's contractors are safe to use, in part considering the contractors are not certified to handle election equipment in the U.S.
June 30: The Republic files a special action in Maricopa County Superior Court seeking financial records and communications about the audit from the Senate and lead contractor Cyber Ninjas.
July 1: The county's ballots and voting machines are moved out of the coliseum as the Senate's lease ends and into a swamp-cooled building at the state fairgrounds.
July 8: Fann says the Senate will conduct its own recount of the total number of county ballots cast in the general election. The Senate purchased two paper-counting machines to serve as a check on the work done by its contractor and county elections officials. But the attorney hired by the Cyber Ninjas to help run its audit is now helping the Senate with its check, raising questions about its independence.
July 14: County supervisors vote to spend $2.8 million to buy new voting equipment to replace the machines that were in custody of the Senate's contractors during the review.
July 15: Logan meets with Fann and Senate Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen in a public hearing to share some of his findings and what he needs to complete the review, including the county's routers.
July 23: A thunderstorm leads to a leaky roof at the state fairgrounds building where the review continues. Workers quickly move ballot boxes away from the leaks and cover boxes with tarps. "No ballots are at risk," an audit spokesperson says.
July 23: Ken Bennett, who state Senate leaders put in charge as their liaison to the election review, is banned from the building where the work is happening and weighs stepping down. The decision to block Bennett came after learning he secretly shared initial results from a new ballot count with an outside group, according to Randy Pullen, another Senate spokesperson and former chairman of the state GOP. Bennett eventually regains access and continues in his role.
July 26: GOP Senate leaders file another subpoena for the county's routers and other election items. They also issue a subpoena to Dominion Voting Systems for usernames, passwords, tokens and pins to their machines.
July 29: Workers at the state fairgrounds load nearly 2.1 million ballots onto trucks and return them to the county, marking a close to more than three-month process of reviewing ballots and other election equipment. And Cyber Ninjas release long-sought details on who funded the audit, which was far pricier than the $150,000 paid by the state Senate. A handful of nonprofits whose leaders have pushed the election fraud narrative poured more than $5.6 million into the audit so far. Among the leaders were Byrne, Flynn, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell and far-right One America News Network correspondent Christina Bobb.
Aug. 2: County supervisors and Dominion Voting Systems refuse to produce election materials in response to the Senate's new subpoenas. "The board has real work to do and little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land," Sellers said.
Aug. 5: Fann and other Republicans in her caucus are fighting to keep secret the records of the audit despite a judge's order that they "immediately" hand over all communications related to the effort.
Aug. 18: County supervisors lodge a notice of claim with the Arizona Senate for more than $2.8 million it spent replacing vote-counting machines that were potentially compromised as a result of the election review.
Aug. 23: The Cyber Ninjas' draft report is expected today, but instead, Fann announces Logan and several members of his team are sick with COVID-19.
Aug. 26: Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich says the county could lose millions in state-shared funding if it doesn't turn over routers the state Senate subpoenaed.
Aug. 30: Fann had put canvassing on hold as part of the audit, but a local group continues its efforts to go door to door to learn more about voters. Chandler real estate agent Liz Harris has led a canvassing effort known as the “Voter Integrity Project” since December, mobilizing thousands of volunteers, The Republic reports.
Aug. 31: The Arizona Senate releases texts and emails that offer glimpses into the audit but withholds thousands of more documents. Two judges had ordered the Senate to turn over the records. The documents show Cleta Mitchell, a prominent Republican attorney who advised Trump as he tried to overturn the 2020 election, helped set up an escrow account to funnel money to companies working on the audit. The documents also show the state Senate hired Shiva Ayyadurai, a conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine activist, to review voter signatures on the county's mail-in ballot envelopes.
Sept. 3: The Republic reports Arizona taxpayers have footed nearly $425,000 for the costs of the audit Senate Republicans are conducting, with thousands of dollars more in bills yet to come. The largest expense is for $223,000 in legal fees paid through July, followed by $68,100 for security costs at the state fairgrounds in May, state records show.
Sept. 15: Fann directs the CEO of Cyber Ninjas to turn over all communications related to the election audit after the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a lower court's order for the Senate to make the Cyber Ninjas' documents public as part of a public-record lawsuit. The Republic and a left-leaning watchdog group called American Oversight both sued the Senate when Fann and the other members did not grant requests for emails, texts and other communications concerning the audit.
Sept. 16: Fann says the Arizona Senate will receive the audit report at 1 p.m. Sept. 24.
Sept. 17: County supervisors and state Senate leaders strike a settlement related to reviewing the county's routers as part of the election audit. The county raised security concerns about giving the Senate's contractors access to the routers. Under the deal, the contractors will not have access to the routers, but the county will hire former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg to answer the Senate's questions about the routers. The county also agrees to no longer seek Senate repayment for potentially compromised voting machines.
Sept. 22: County Supervisor Steve Chucri announces he will resign after recordings surface of him talking about the 2020 election and his county colleagues. In the leaked recordings, Chucri bashed the other supervisors for their lack of support of the Senate's audit and indicated he thought there were fraudulent votes cast in the election. Chucri, in announcing his resignation, said the comments were made at a "very turbulent time" and that "the election was not stolen. (Joe) Biden won."
Sept. 23: An early version of the Cyber Ninjas' report obtained by The Republic shows that the hand recount confirmed what was announced in November: Biden won. The draft reports reviewed by The Republic minimize the ballot counts and instead focus on issues that raise questions about the election process and voter integrity. Meanwhile, American Oversight asks a judge to find the Arizona Senate in contempt of a court order for not turning over Cyber Ninjas' emails and other records from the election audit.
Sept. 24: Results of the election review are presented to the Arizona Senate Republicans who ordered it. Election conspiracists loyal to Trump had believed a thorough review would show county elections officials didn't get it right, but Fann dashes their hopes. She confirms in her opening remarks the hand recount of ballots show Biden won the election in Maricopa County, cementing his win in Arizona. “That is a true statement," Fann says as a packed audience in the Senate gallery listens quietly. She adds, though, that she believes there were "broken statutes" and flawed election procedures — issues she will turn over to the attorney general to investigate.
Source : https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2021/09/24/arizona-audit-timeline-how-we-got-here/8238674002/5025