Recent IRS filings revealed that Arizona received nearly $5.17 million during the 2020 election from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), pumped with over $350 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to funnel into election offices nationwide. The Zuckerberg funds were intended to provide COVID-19 relief; in large part, they funded controversial election methods like ballot drop-boxes. The Capital Research Center (CRC) first announced the CTCL IRS filings.
The CTCL numbers concurred with AZ Free News reporting earlier this year on CRC data, which reported that CTCL spent just over $5 million in Arizona. In fact, the CRC estimate turned out to be slightly lower.
According to the IRS filings, CTCL’s biggest grant was Maricopa County at over $1.84 million. The runner-up grant amounted to over $950,400 awarded to Pima County. Several counties received slightly under or over half a million each: Navajo County received over $593,700, Apache County received nearly $589,700, Coconino County received over $524,500, and Pinal County received over $472,500.
Yuma County still received a six-figure grant: over $180,700. La Paz County was the odd man out with a $17,500 grant.
President Joe Biden won the following counties funded by CTCL grants: Maricopa (50.3 percent), Apache (66.2 percent), Coconino (60.9 percent), Pima (58.6 percent). Biden also won Santa Cruz (67.2 percent), which had no CTCL grants.
Pima County Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against certifying the 2020 election over the Zuckerberg grants, as Miller explained in an opinion piece published in the Arizona Daily Independent last month. The supervisors didn’t believe the grant money was helping to secure the election.
Of those counties he won, Biden flipped Maricopa from the 2016 election — which Hillary Clinton lost by over four points. He also earned about four percent more of the votes than Clinton in the counties they both won.
Biden lost the following counties funded by CTCL grants: Navajo (45.2 percent), Pinal (40.6 percent), and La Paz (30 percent). However, he lost by a smaller margin than Clinton did, gaining an average of two more points in both counties.
CRC’s reported grants varied slightly from those given in the filings: they reported learning of nearly $3 million to Maricopa County, over $806,000 to Pinal County, nearly $614,700 to Coconino County, and over $593,200 to Apache County. Their estimate of La Paz County’s grant was accurate. CRC didn’t have data on the grants awarded to Navajo, Yuma, or Pima counties.
AZ Free News reached out to Maricopa County about the grant total discrepancy. They didn’t respond by press time.
On Thursday, the Arizona Senate held a hearing on the election audit as it heads into its final days of work. Election auditors testified that they discovered a sweeping variety of discrepancies within the election proceedings, including: ballot numbers and quality, voter rolls, cybersecurity, and signature matching processes. Additionally, the auditors reported that they were still lacking the chain of custody logs and routers, which were included within the Senate’s subpoena. The three audit officials testifying were Senate Liaison Ken Bennett, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, and CyFIR founder Ben Cotton.
Among their findings from over 80,000 hours of work, the auditors testified that they discovered a surplus of over 74,000 mail-in ballots received and counted than were mailed out, 4,000 individuals were registered to vote after the October 15 deadline, over 11,000 voters disappeared from the rolls after the election but reappeared a month later, over 17,000 voters were removed from the voter rolls after the election, thousands of duplicate ballots lacked a serial number, most ballots were vulnerable to over-voting or unintended voting due to being printed out of calibration, election security systems on the machines weren’t updated after 2019, and a sizeable number of ballots were discovered with bleed-throughs.
Notably, only 52 out of around 1,700 boxes of election materials were reportedly secured with tamper-evident tape. The remainder were secured with regular packing tape. Logan assured the Senate that they would return these boxes numbered with new seals of tamper-evident tape.
Cotton explained that system updates on election machines are crucial for cybersecurity. Without updates, any system may grow increasingly vulnerable to hackers. Since the machines weren’t updated after 2019, hackers had several years to breach the system. This may explain the 38,000 inquiries for blank passwords that the auditors reported discovering.
At least one incident of hacking likely occurred with the Maricopa County election systems in the 2020 election. Federal agents raided the home of an individual named Elliot Kerwin on November 5 over intelligence indicating that he’d breached the systems sometime from October up through Election Day.
Maricopa County claimed that it used ballot paper thick enough to prevent bleed-throughs. However, the auditors said that they discovered the opposite was true. Logan said that anything from ballpoint pens to Sharpies could cause bleed-through.
The SharpieGate debacle concerned this very issue. Although several court cases were filed after voters were unsure whether their Sharpied ballots counted, but ultimately that case was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) reminded viewers and the floor that this audit was devoid of political agenda or allegiance to previous President Donald Trump.
When Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) asked the three men what more they would need to finalize their report. Logan responded that they would need the routers, splunk logs, portable media and external drives, chain of custody documents, the network diagram, election management data backups, records of all papers sent to vote centers, the total of all ballots sent to eligible voters, and a full backup copy of the voter rolls.
He added that they would also need copies of the election policies and procedures, including information on ballot adjudication processes. While those documents are available in part to the public, Logan explained that there were more detailed documents given to election officials and workers that they required.
A day before the hearing, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform submitted a letter to Logan requesting information about their audit process, leadership, interactions, and findings. The request letter listed a number of grievances against Cyber Ninjas’ conduct of the audit, citing multiple times their “lack of election audit experience.”
Congress further cited reporting on the audit to bolster their claims of mismanagement. One citation included a reporter’s indication that blue pens were used during the audit in violation of Arizona election law. That reporter later retracted her claim in part, noting that those pens were during training and cleared from the floor before any live ballots were brought out.
Fann offered a parting thought on the resistance by Maricopa County, as well as Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, to this audit.
“I do not know why Maricopa County has fought this so hard,” remarked Fann.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
A bill proposing to strengthen election integrity was withdrawn from a Senate committee this week, after passage in the House. It was introduced by State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek).
The bill would have prohibited any government officials from changing election-related dates, on the threat of a class 6 felony. Specifically, no state officers or agents, political subdivisions, or agencies could modify deadlines, filing dates, submission dates, or any other statutory election dates.
Class 6 felonies are the least harsh of all felonies, and may entail a year’s prison time.
The bill passed the House in a close, party-line vote 31-29.
An amendment to the bill would provide an exception to the proposed bill if a court ruling were to come into play. However, it would prohibit election officials from agreeing to modify deadlines and other election-related dates as part of a settlement agreement.
Last year, the state saw a spike of over 52,000 voters added to the rolls after an 18-day extension for voter registration. The initiative was cut short after a federal appeals court ordered the extension to end over a week early. Even with the order, the court allowed citizens a two day grace period to continue registering.
The challenge to the extension largely arose from the additional burdens that such an extension caused to local election officials. The extension would have allowed voters to register up to a little more than one week out from Election Day. In the past, election officials had nearly a month before the election to process registrants.
Currently, the state is pending an audit for the 2020 election. The audit would focus on Maricopa County, where The Senate hired four companies to review around 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots. Last November, the Senate issued subpoenas for all county ballots and voting machines for another audit. A federal judge ruled that the county didn’t have to comply with that request, since the Senate had improperly filed it.
Once the Senate refiled, legislators and county officials engaged in a heated battle over transparency. The judge quickly ruled on the side of the Senate.
It is unclear the reason for the bill’s withdrawal. Following the 2020 election, Hoffman was banned from Twitter and Facebook.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to email@example.com.