SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
A widely criticized review of the 2020 election in Arizona's largest county has finally wrapped up. And while its findings would have been scrutinized whatever they were, this Republican-backed effort largely matched the certified results, showing, once again, Joe Biden won Maricopa County and, indeed, Arizona. Joined now by Ben Giles of member station KJZZ in Phoenix. Ben, thanks for being with us.
BEN GILES, BYLINE: Of course.
SIMON: The review began all the way back in late April. Yesterday was the big reveal. What did we learn?
GILES: Well, as you said, the big topline finding is that this partisan review match the certified tally. Doug Logan - that's the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the firm that ran the effort for state Senate Republicans. This company had never reviewed an election before, and Logan had a history of sharing conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and worked with Trump allies even before he was hired. And yet here he was yesterday, conceding on the accuracy of the hand recount he led compared to the official canvass.
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DOUG LOGAN: Two-point-one million ballots - these are very small discrepancies. So we can say that the ballots that were provided to us to count in the Coliseum very accurately correlate with the official canvass numbers.
GILES: But apart from that, Logan another spent three hours ticking through what they called anomalies in the county's election process and IT security but often stopped short of definitively saying something went wrong with the election. And as that was happening, there was a very odd split screen on your computers of county officials debunking what they called baseless or uninformed claims in real time.
SIMON: Can you give us an example?
GILES: So one of the claims had to do with something Logan said was alarming about the county's signature verification process. If you vote early by mail in Arizona, you sign your early ballot envelope. That acts as your ID, proof that you are the person whose vote is in that envelope. But if there's something wrong with your signature, that's not the end of it. You've got five days after the Election Day to cure that signature, to prove you are who you say you are to election officials and get your vote counted. So when the presenters yesterday said it's concerning that more strange, scribbly signatures are verified in the days after the election than prior to Election Day, there's an explanation for that. That's when most ballot curing happens. The chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said those are the kinds of claims that show Logan's inexperience and his misuse and misunderstanding of data.
SIMON: Now that the review is done and the findings are in, is there a next chapter?
GILES: Well, Karen Fann, the head of Senate Republicans here in Arizona who ordered this review, maintained yesterday that this was not about overturning an election. It was about crafting policies to respond to constituents' lack of confidence in the election. And yet, despite the forceful pushback from the county and elections experts, Fann said she's asking the attorney general here to open a formal investigation of the report. And she made clear she hopes this is not the last so-called audit. In fact, one of the Cyber Ninjas' recommendations for state legislators was for the state to create an election audit department to conduct these on a rotating basis.
Despite this rebuke of claims of fraud, former President Trump and his allies expressed vindication yesterday. We've seen more of these Republican election reviews sprout up across the country. But experts hope that since the Arizona review failed to prove the fraud Trump claimed it would, maybe Republicans in other states will have second thoughts.
SIMON: Ben Giles of member station KJZZ, thanks so much for being with us.
GILES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.