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The Hill 25 September, 2021 - 10:07pm 46 views

Pennsylvania now stands to become ground zero in the movement to “audit” the election after former President Donald Trump’s efforts to discredit the 2020 election results appear to have failed in Arizona.

A months-long partisan review in Arizona affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory there, according to reports made public last week of the so-called “forensic audit” of the election results in Maricopa County, a linchpin county. That review had been widely criticized by experts for failing to follow best practices and was led by a company called Cyber Ninjas that had no previous experience with elections.

It remains to be seen how Pennsylvania Republicans will respond to the findings in Arizona. Lawmakers in Harrisburg have insisted their “forensic investigation” is different from Arizona’s. But the Republican leading the Pennsylvania probe, state Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, traveled to Phoenix in June to tour the facility where the Cyber Ninjas team counted ballots and inspected machines.

Elections experts said the developments in Arizona should serve as a warning to other states pursuing their own partisan reviews.

“It’s an unfortunate fact that after this abject failure in Arizona, after the embarrassment this biased and untransparent effort brought to the members of the Arizona Senate {who] pursued it, there are elected leaders in states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and now Texas, who are seeking to import this chaos to their states,” said David Becker, founder of the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research.

Ben Ginsberg, a veteran GOP elections lawyer who served as counsel to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, said the Arizona review “was a designed process that gave the Trump forces everything they wanted” to investigate the election results.

“That means that if the Cyber Ninja report doesn’t produce solid, smoking gun, irrefutable evidence of a fraudulent election with evidence that stands up to scrutiny, [it] means Trump and his allies fail,” Ginsberg told reporters Thursday. “...If Trump and his supporters can’t prove it here with the process they designed, then they can’t prove it anywhere.”

Mr. Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, almost double the margin by which Mr. Trump carried the state in 2016. Extensive litigation and post-election audits turned up no evidence of widespread fraud.

Still, Pennsylvania Senate Republicans voted this month to subpoena records from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, including all 9 million registered voters’ nonpublic personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. They say they want to verify who cast ballots in the 2020 election and whether they were properly registered or fraudulent.

Senate Democrats and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, have sued to block the subpoena and the investigation.

Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about the Pennsylvania review.

Elections are complex and never perfect, and audits are one way officials verify the legitimacy of the results, identify issues, and improve the electoral system. Generally speaking, election audits focus on one of two things: Checking the results to confirm whether votes were tallied accurately, or reviewing how the election was run, including what policies and procedures were followed.

A recount, for example, can be considered a type of audit, checking the accuracy of the vote count.

“The reason why you perform an audit in the first place is you want to have confidence in the outcome,” said Trey Grayson, a Republican and Kentucky’s former top elections official.

Professional election experts sometimes conduct such reviews to make sure voting systems work as they should. For example, shortly after the 2020 election, a county board of supervisors in Arizona hired auditors to ensure voting machines weren’t infected with malicious software and that tabulators weren’t connected to the internet.

But the phrase “forensic audit” really took off after the Arizona Senate launched yet another probe in late 2020 and hired a contractor with no previous experience auditing elections to review all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County and inspect machines. That review was widely discredited by professionals, but it became a rallying cry for Trump supporters.

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, says he’s not an expert on what constitutes a “forensic” review.

“That’s somehow become a political term. I’m not sure what forensic — I’m not an expert,” he said in September. “What we’re going to do is an investigation, right? Perception is reality. ... You know, there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of Pennsylvanians that have had concerns about the way the last election went.”

A lot is still unknown about the review, including what, exactly, it will entail or how it will work. That’s in part because of its sudden speed and the lack of general agreement about what the goals and processes are.

Details so far have largely become known as they’re decided in real time. We know there will be hearings, and Republicans issued a subpoena for voter information from the state.

Republicans say they’ll follow best practices in areas such as preserving the security of sensitive materials, but it’s not clear yet how they would do so.

Best practices for post-election audits include that they are routine and happen shortly after elections, using specified procedures, said Mark Lindeman, a director at Verified Voting, a nonprofit that focuses on the role of technology in election administration.

“What’s extraordinary about what’s increasingly happening around the country — and the sort of bandwagon that Pennsylvania seems to be climbing on — is it’s not routine, there are no defined procedures, and even the objectives, beyond airing grievances and paranoid fantasies about the 2020 election, are radically unclear,” he said.

Mr. Dush traveled to Arizona in June to get a firsthand look at the partisan “audit” there — a trip Mr. Trump praised.

Mr. Corman has said he has spoken with the leaders of the Arizona Senate.

He told The Inquirer the review in Harrisburg is “Pennsylvania-specific.”

“I’m not looking to Arizona,” he said. “If we learn some things after they’re completed, that might be helpful, we’ll certainly find out.”

The Arizona Senate focused exclusively on Maricopa County, the state’s largest county and home to Phoenix. It subpoenaed all 2.1 million ballots and voting machines, which the county says it is replacing because of security risks posed by the access granted to a third-party contractor.

The Senate hired a Florida-based cybersecurity company called Cyber Ninjas, which had no previous experience auditing elections and whose CEO had promoted Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election.

Yes. State law requires Pennsylvania counties to review a random sample of at least 2% of all ballots or 2,000 ballots, whichever is fewer, to check whether they were tallied correctly. Those audits were completed last year before the Pennsylvania secretary of state certified Mr. Biden’s victory, and they were accessible to the public.

In addition, 63 of the state’s 67 counties participated in what’s known as a “risk-limiting” audit, a gold-standard method in which election workers hand recount a random sample of ballots and compare the tabulations to the overall vote count recorded by machines.

The audit of more than 45,000 randomly selected ballots was completed in February. The sample matched the certified results within a fraction of 1 percentage point, further confirming the election’s accuracy.

Mr. Grayson said it’s too late to conduct a new audit.

“One of the most important things is to do it at the right time,” he said. “The election has been certified. There’s really nothing that can be done right now.”

They say their constituents have concerns about the election. Mr. Trump and his supporters have also publicly pressured GOP leaders to undertake an Arizona-style “forensic investigation.”

“My constituents, I say this all the time, have been outraged. ...Their questions have gone unanswered,” state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, said in September. “They want us to look at the process. It is paramount to our democratic process. We must restore their trust and the trust of all Pennsylvanians.”

But Republican voters’ concerns about the election have largely been fueled by Trump claims about it being somehow rigged or otherwise illegitimate. And his supporters are a potent political force on the right, turning election conspiracy theories into mainstream political issues.

Republicans say they are performing their legislative oversight function and want to find out if anything went wrong, improve state law, and restore voters’ confidence in the process.

“One of two things will happen,” Mr. Corman said during a September hearing. “Either we will find things where we can better improve our laws, or we will find nothing, and that will then dispel a lot of people’s concerns, and we all can be more confident in our system moving forward.”

First Published September 25, 2021, 9:58pm

Read full article at The Hill

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All eyes turn to Pennsylvania after Arizona's 'audit' affirmed Biden's presidential victory

Fox News 25 September, 2021 - 04:58pm

Pennsylvania now stands to become ground zero in the movement to “audit” the election after former President Donald Trump’s efforts to discredit the 2020 election results appear to have failed in Arizona.

A months-long partisan review in Arizona affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory there, according to reports made public last week of the so-called “forensic audit” of the election results in Maricopa County, a linchpin county. That review had been widely criticized by experts for failing to follow best practices and was led by a company called Cyber Ninjas that had no previous experience with elections.

It remains to be seen how Pennsylvania Republicans will respond to the findings in Arizona. Lawmakers in Harrisburg have insisted their “forensic investigation” is different from Arizona’s. But the Republican leading the Pennsylvania probe, state Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, traveled to Phoenix in June to tour the facility where the Cyber Ninjas team counted ballots and inspected machines.

Elections experts said the developments in Arizona should serve as a warning to other states pursuing their own partisan reviews.

“It’s an unfortunate fact that after this abject failure in Arizona, after the embarrassment this biased and untransparent effort brought to the members of the Arizona Senate {who] pursued it, there are elected leaders in states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and now Texas, who are seeking to import this chaos to their states,” said David Becker, founder of the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research.

Ben Ginsberg, a veteran GOP elections lawyer who served as counsel to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, said the Arizona review “was a designed process that gave the Trump forces everything they wanted” to investigate the election results.

“That means that if the Cyber Ninja report doesn’t produce solid, smoking gun, irrefutable evidence of a fraudulent election with evidence that stands up to scrutiny, [it] means Trump and his allies fail,” Ginsberg told reporters Thursday. “...If Trump and his supporters can’t prove it here with the process they designed, then they can’t prove it anywhere.”

Mr. Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, almost double the margin by which Mr. Trump carried the state in 2016. Extensive litigation and post-election audits turned up no evidence of widespread fraud.

Still, Pennsylvania Senate Republicans voted this month to subpoena records from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, including all 9 million registered voters’ nonpublic personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. They say they want to verify who cast ballots in the 2020 election and whether they were properly registered or fraudulent.

Senate Democrats and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, have sued to block the subpoena and the investigation.

Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about the Pennsylvania review.

Elections are complex and never perfect, and audits are one way officials verify the legitimacy of the results, identify issues, and improve the electoral system. Generally speaking, election audits focus on one of two things: Checking the results to confirm whether votes were tallied accurately, or reviewing how the election was run, including what policies and procedures were followed.

A recount, for example, can be considered a type of audit, checking the accuracy of the vote count.

“The reason why you perform an audit in the first place is you want to have confidence in the outcome,” said Trey Grayson, a Republican and Kentucky’s former top elections official.

Professional election experts sometimes conduct such reviews to make sure voting systems work as they should. For example, shortly after the 2020 election, a county board of supervisors in Arizona hired auditors to ensure voting machines weren’t infected with malicious software and that tabulators weren’t connected to the internet.

But the phrase “forensic audit” really took off after the Arizona Senate launched yet another probe in late 2020 and hired a contractor with no previous experience auditing elections to review all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County and inspect machines. That review was widely discredited by professionals, but it became a rallying cry for Trump supporters.

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, says he’s not an expert on what constitutes a “forensic” review.

“That’s somehow become a political term. I’m not sure what forensic — I’m not an expert,” he said in September. “What we’re going to do is an investigation, right? Perception is reality. ... You know, there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of Pennsylvanians that have had concerns about the way the last election went.”

A lot is still unknown about the review, including what, exactly, it will entail or how it will work. That’s in part because of its sudden speed and the lack of general agreement about what the goals and processes are.

Details so far have largely become known as they’re decided in real time. We know there will be hearings, and Republicans issued a subpoena for voter information from the state.

Republicans say they’ll follow best practices in areas such as preserving the security of sensitive materials, but it’s not clear yet how they would do so.

Best practices for post-election audits include that they are routine and happen shortly after elections, using specified procedures, said Mark Lindeman, a director at Verified Voting, a nonprofit that focuses on the role of technology in election administration.

“What’s extraordinary about what’s increasingly happening around the country — and the sort of bandwagon that Pennsylvania seems to be climbing on — is it’s not routine, there are no defined procedures, and even the objectives, beyond airing grievances and paranoid fantasies about the 2020 election, are radically unclear,” he said.

Mr. Dush traveled to Arizona in June to get a firsthand look at the partisan “audit” there — a trip Mr. Trump praised.

Mr. Corman has said he has spoken with the leaders of the Arizona Senate.

He told The Inquirer the review in Harrisburg is “Pennsylvania-specific.”

“I’m not looking to Arizona,” he said. “If we learn some things after they’re completed, that might be helpful, we’ll certainly find out.”

The Arizona Senate focused exclusively on Maricopa County, the state’s largest county and home to Phoenix. It subpoenaed all 2.1 million ballots and voting machines, which the county says it is replacing because of security risks posed by the access granted to a third-party contractor.

The Senate hired a Florida-based cybersecurity company called Cyber Ninjas, which had no previous experience auditing elections and whose CEO had promoted Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election.

Yes. State law requires Pennsylvania counties to review a random sample of at least 2% of all ballots or 2,000 ballots, whichever is fewer, to check whether they were tallied correctly. Those audits were completed last year before the Pennsylvania secretary of state certified Mr. Biden’s victory, and they were accessible to the public.

In addition, 63 of the state’s 67 counties participated in what’s known as a “risk-limiting” audit, a gold-standard method in which election workers hand recount a random sample of ballots and compare the tabulations to the overall vote count recorded by machines.

The audit of more than 45,000 randomly selected ballots was completed in February. The sample matched the certified results within a fraction of 1 percentage point, further confirming the election’s accuracy.

Mr. Grayson said it’s too late to conduct a new audit.

“One of the most important things is to do it at the right time,” he said. “The election has been certified. There’s really nothing that can be done right now.”

They say their constituents have concerns about the election. Mr. Trump and his supporters have also publicly pressured GOP leaders to undertake an Arizona-style “forensic investigation.”

“My constituents, I say this all the time, have been outraged. ...Their questions have gone unanswered,” state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, said in September. “They want us to look at the process. It is paramount to our democratic process. We must restore their trust and the trust of all Pennsylvanians.”

But Republican voters’ concerns about the election have largely been fueled by Trump claims about it being somehow rigged or otherwise illegitimate. And his supporters are a potent political force on the right, turning election conspiracy theories into mainstream political issues.

Republicans say they are performing their legislative oversight function and want to find out if anything went wrong, improve state law, and restore voters’ confidence in the process.

“One of two things will happen,” Mr. Corman said during a September hearing. “Either we will find things where we can better improve our laws, or we will find nothing, and that will then dispel a lot of people’s concerns, and we all can be more confident in our system moving forward.”

First Published September 25, 2021, 9:58pm

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