PHOENIX -- Contractors hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to oversee a partisan review of the 2020 election said Thursday that they don't have enough information to complete their report, and urged legislators to subpoena more records and survey voters at home.
Leaders of the GOP audit described a wide variety of reasons their review is taking months longer than the 60 days initially planned, including confusion about damaged ballots and a lack of access to certain data. They described the delays during a meeting livestreamed Thursday at the Capitol and watched by thousands of people.
As the audit drags on, some Republicans worry that the spectacle of widely discredited operations will drive away voters in next year's elections. Yet as long as it continues, it provides fodder for former President Donald Trump and other Republicans making false claims of fraud and vague allegations about ballot problems.
A hand count of a statistical sample of ballots matched the machine count and two post-election audits found no manipulation of the machines. Trump lost Arizona by 10,457 votes. Trump issued a statement after the hearing highlighting several misleading claims.
Senate President Karen Fann told reporters after the meeting that she was still considering new procedures as part of the audit, which is focused on the vote count in Maricopa County, Arizona's most populous county.
Senate Republicans had planned to canvass homes and ask people about their voting patterns, but in May dropped the idea under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, which warned that the effort could violate laws against voter intimidation. Fann said Thursday that she would consult with lawyers before deciding whether to proceed.
Fann and Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen used the Senate's subpoena power to take control of Maricopa County's voting machines and ballots after Trump claimed that the 2020 election was rigged against him in Arizona and other battleground states.
The Senate hired Cyber Ninjas to oversee an audit. The small cybersecurity consulting firm is led by a Trump supporter who has spread conspiracy theories backing Trump's claims of fraud.
The review calls for hand-counting 2.1 million ballots and forensically evaluating voting machines, servers and other data. The firm had no experience in elections, and experts in election administration say it's not following reliable procedures.
The auditors began the hearing trying to rehabilitate their image after election experts pointed to a litany of procedural flaws and security lapses. They showed a highly produced video describing their security and documentation processes and went into detail about work to preserve the data integrity.
Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and two others -- Ben Cotton, head of the data forensics firm CyFIR and former Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who is serving as a liaison between the Senate and the auditors -- raised a number of issues, many misleading or wrong, that they said could be resolved with more data or cooperation from Maricopa County.
The county's Republican-controlled board of supervisors has called the auditors incompetent and refused to cooperate.
"That's been one of the more difficult things with this audit, is not having that feedback loop," Logan said.
Jack Sellers, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County board of supervisors, said in a statement that the auditors are "portraying as suspicious what is actually normal and well known to people who work in elections."
"What we heard today represents an alternate reality that has veered out of control since the November General Election," Sellers wrote.
Fann has said repeatedly that no audit findings will be released until a full report is completed. But Logan and Cotton made several claims in their plea for more information.
Among the records they're seeking are images of mail-in ballot envelopes, security keys for administrator-level access to voting machines, copies of internet routers, a diagram of the county's network and a copy of the county's voter-registration database.