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Firm recounting Arizona ballots wants methods kept secret

PHOENIX — A contractor hired by Arizona’s state Senate to oversee the recount of 2.1 million ballots from November’s election in the county that includes the metro Phoenix area wants a judge to keep secret its methods for ensuring ballot privacy.

The request came in advance of a hearing set for Monday morning where a judge planned to review policies and procedures for ensuring voter privacy and ballot secrecy that the Senate and contractor Cyber Ninjas are using in the Maricopa County recount.

Cyber Ninjas filed the policies under seal Sunday afternoon and asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury to keep them sealed as trade secrets and because the Senate is immune as a separate branch of government. The company also wants the hearing closed to the media and the public.

Cyber Ninjas also prompted Coury to recuse himself from the case by adding an attorney to its team who previously worked as Coury’s intern. Another judge will now have to step in, and it wasn’t clear immediately whether Monday’s hearing would be held as scheduled. The court website showed no hearing on the calendar.

The Arizona Democratic Party and the lone Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors sued the Senate and Cyber Ninjas last Thursday. They wanted the recount of the 2020 presidential election won by President Joe Biden halted unless they were given guarantees that voter privacy and ballot secrecy would be ensured.

Cyber Ninjas started the weeks-long recount effort Friday, but it is doing so with little transparency and refuses to allow media or the public to watch the recount being held at the state fairgrounds in Phoenix. Only observers who have had their backgrounds checked by the company are allowed in.

The Florida-based consultancy has no election experience and is run by a man who has shared unfounded conspiracy theories claiming the official 2020 presidential election results are illegitimate.

Maricopa County conducted numerous pre- and post-election reviews to check the accuracy of voting machines, including a hand count of a representative sample of ballots as required by state law.

County officials also hired two auditing firms that reported no malicious software or incorrect counting equipment and concluded that none of the computers or equipment were connected to the internet.

A series of lawsuits filed by backer of former President Donald Trump challenging Maricopa County’s election results were all thrown out as being meritless.

The Senate audit can’t overturn the results of the election.

Biden won Arizona last year by 10,457 votes and won in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, by 45,109 votes.

Bob Christie, The Associated Press