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CEO of company conducting Ariz. ballot audit has COVID-19; report delayed

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- The full results of a controversial, Republican-backed audit of ballots cast last year in Arizona has been delayed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the auditing team, a state official announced Monday.

Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann, who hired the Florida-based private company Cyber Ninjas to lead the ballot review in late March, said in a statement that its CEO, Doug Logan, and two members of the audit team were "quite sick" with the coronavirus.

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The auditors, who are strongly supported by former President Donald Trump, were expected to have a full draft of their findings ready by Monday after several earlier delays -- the original timeline to deliver the full results was 60 days.

But that deadline has again been pushed back to an unspecified date with only a "portion of the draft report" delivered so far, Fann said, adding that the GOP-held Senate will begin reviewing the portion now available starting on Wednesday.

The Cyber Ninja review includes a hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County, the state's largest jurisdiction which includes the city of Phoenix, and came after Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump by more than 45,000 votes in the county.

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Biden beat Trump in the state overall by around 10,000 votes in Arizona, which was one of the key battleground states that helped him win the White House.

Trump and his supporters have frequently voiced false conspiracy theories about a rigged election in Arizona and other states he lost in November. Fann commissioned the audit believing that irregularities were to blame for his loss.

But she did so over the objections of GOP leaders in Maricopa County, who sharply criticized the methods used by Cyber Ninjas and accused Fann of being "only interested in feeding the various festering conspiracy theories that fuel the fundraising schemes of those pulling your strings."

The audit has been funded with $150,000 in public funds and nearly $5.7 million in private donations from Trump allies.

Congressional Democrats on Sunday accused Logan of refusing to cooperate with an investigation of the audit and reiterated a demand first made last month for "documents and communications related to Cyber Ninjas' audit procedures, funding sources, and related issues."

In a letter to Logan, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and civil rights subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said they were concerned about "Cyber Ninjas' apparent lack of experience in conducting election-related audits" as well as "constant reports that the company engaged in sloppy and insecure audit practices that compromised the integrity of ballots and voting equipment."

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They also cited "evidence that you and several individuals funding the audit have not displayed impartiality, but rather sought to promote the 'big lie' of debunked election fraud allegations in the November 2020 presidential election."

The company objected to the Democrats' requests on the grounds they were "vague" and "poorly worded."

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