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The Arizona “Audit” Was Election Subversion

The subversion will continue until morale improves.
September 24, 2021
The Arizona “Audit” Was Election Subversion
(The Bulwark / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

At the outset the Cyber Ninjas’ presentation about its wildly incompetent review of the Maricopa County’s 2020 election, state Senate President Karen Fann stated that she had never intended to overturn the election. Oh no. She insisted all she had ever sought to do was satisfy voters’ concerns about fraud. It was just a weird coincidence that during the process former President Trump and Republican State Senator Wendy Rogers kept saying things like “Decertify the election!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Fann’s protestations were, in technical terms, complete bullshit. These partisan, kangaroo court investigations being passed off as “audits” are nothing but blatant attempts at election subversion. Their only purpose is to delegitimize the 2020 election.

But those who still feel icky about saying they’d like to reinstate Trump as president have an easy out. They just do what Fann did. They play along and act like it’s all perfectly normal. They’re just tending to the concerns of The People. They’re just asking questions.

And to be fair to Fann, there was never any doubt about who she was pleasing with her hacky, grift-laden, partisan review. Especially after a Freedom of Information Act request obtained the emails she sent bragging about the boost she got from former President Trump and Rudy Giuliani. “I have been in numerous conversations with Rudy Giuliani over the past weeks trying to get this done,” she said in December 28 email. “I have the full support of him and a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud.”

How exciting for her.

Fann continued to just ask questions on Friday when the Cyber Ninjas delivered their long-overdue report.

She called in experts who had no expertise at all in election administration, election law, or election processes. But who nonetheless were eager to disparage the system they knew very little about.

For example, Fann relied upon Shiva Ayyaduri—“Dr. Shiva,” to her internet friends—to testify at length about duplicate ballots and signature verification. In case you’re curious, Dr. Shiva has no expertise in this field. When asked to provide his credentials, he noted his degrees from MIT and background in “pattern recognition.” What Dr. Shiva is well-known for is being a “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theorist. That and being an anti-vaccine activist. Of course.

Like the other presenters—and like all good conspiracy theorists—Dr. Shiva wasn’t big on conclusions. He, too, was just asking questions. And he was able to do so secure in the knowledge that no one was going to ask him any tough questions. Because you see, while the full state Senate was invited to attend this session, only Fann and Senate Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen, who also supported the review, were allowed to ask questions.

This may sound slightly nuts. If the whole point of this is “just asking questions,” then shouldn’t the non-crazy people be allowed to toss out a couple, too? But it was actually kind of fitting because the entire sham was put in motion by Fann and Peterson alone. There was never a Senate vote on this fiasco. Instead, Fann and Petersen used their power of subpoena to obtain Maricopa’s ballots, election equipment, and other materials, which they handed over to the Cyber Ninjas who spent months sowing doubt and distrust in an election that had already been audited three times in the state and nationally has been deemed as “the most secure in history.”

Fann would like you to believe that metaphysical certainty is unobtainable in this fallen world, so we must keep just asking questions, over, and over, and over.

And if, as a byproduct of this philosophical inquiry, some large percentage of the country becomes convinced that the United States government is illegitimate and begins preparations to overturn the results of the next election?

Well, as Aristotle once said, tough noogies.


Say this much for Donald Trump: No matter how coy people like Karen Fann try to play it, Trump himself is entirely clear about why he wants these election investigations.

He not only put out a statement calling for the Arizona election to be decertified in the middle of the hearing, but he spelled it out in a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger last week in which he (falsely) claimed, “Large scale Voter Fraud continues to be reported in Georgia” and told Raffesnberger to “start the process of decertifying the election, or whatever the correct legal remedy is, and announce the true winner.”

Trump also sent a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott requesting that he support a bill for the “Forensic Audit of 2020 Election.” Trump said, “Your citizens don’t trust the election system, and they want your leadership on this issue, which is the number one thing they care about. . . . We’re quickly running out of time, and it must be done this week.” Abbott complied. Hours later the Texas Secretary of State’s office said it would “ conduct a full and comprehensive forensic audit of any election” and it had “already begun the process in Texas’ two largest Democrat counties and two largest Republican counties—Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Collin—for the 2020 election.”

Similar activities are underway in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.


On Friday, Fann sat at the Senate dais, undisturbed. By all accounts, her “audit” was a fiasco that embarrassed the state, divided the Republican party, and caused nothing but grief for local election officials who were proven correct in their counts—even by the Cyber Ninja’s funhouse mirror standards.

But Fann was proud of her work. She will face no consequences for the chaos she wrought. There will be no penalty for her subversive acts. She remains the president of the Arizona Senate. And she’s now passing the baton to other states.

At the conclusion of the event, Fann said:

Eighteen different states sent representatives here because they have constituents asking the same questions, and the very least, what I think we can all come out of this, is that we need to do audits, to some extent, we need to do bigger audits on every election just to make sure that everybody is following the rules.

Which is exactly the message Trump and his base wanted to hear and are championing around the country. Even in states that Trump won by “massive” margins.

Thanks to Fann’s handiwork in Arizona, Trump’s big election lie is alive and thriving. The “audits” are a new tool, wielded by a small minority like a crowbar to force their way back into power or, failing that, to delegitimize the entire electoral process itself. Even if it doesn’t “work” this time, it’s good practice for the next election they wish to overturn.

The subversion will continue until morale improves.

Amanda Carpenter

Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.