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A reporter watches the Maricopa County ballots cast in November being examined by contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, a firm hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Arizona Republic via AP) A reporter watches the Maricopa County ballots cast in November being examined by contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, a firm hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Arizona Republic via AP)

A reporter watches the Maricopa County ballots cast in November being examined by contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, a firm hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Arizona Republic via AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 7, 2021

No truth to the claim that Arizona audit found Trump up by 250,000 votes

If Your Time is short

  • Republicans in Arizona’s state Senate ordered an audit of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix.

  • The audit is ongoing. No preliminary findings have been released.

In the 2020 election, 3,385,294 votes were cast for president in Arizona, and Donald Trump lost the state to Joe Biden by just 10,457 votes — 49.36% to 49.06%.

Six months later, a livestreamed but opaque audit of ballots from the state’s most populous county is under way in a 14,870-seat arena. And posts on social media falsely suggest that the audit showed Trump was overtaking Biden. 

A widely shared Instagram post claimed:

"Preliminary audit showed Trump ahead by 250,000. Now as it nears completion nearly 950,000 ballots are declared illegal. Nearly all for Biden." 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

"There’s no preliminary results," Ken Bennett, Arizona’s former secretary of state and a liaison for the Senate Republicans who ordered the audit, told PolitiFact on May 6. "There’s no such finding. There’s been no findings released to either of those effects."

The audit, begun April 23, will likely to continue for at least 60 days, Bennett said. He added that under the contract for the audit, no preliminary findings are to be released.

A spokesperson for the audit did not reply to our email.

Final official results of the November election showed Biden beat Trump in Maricopa County, 1,040,774 votes to 995,665, or by about 2% of the vote.

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So the Instagram claim would have you believe that the audit found roughly 90% of Biden’s votes were "illegal."

Fallout since the election

The Maricopa audit was ordered up by Republican state senators, even though the original result has been validated by a hand-count sample audit and a forensic audit of tabulation equipment that found no abnormalities.

The GOP hired a team that included Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based technology company lacking election audit experience. Cyber Ninjas is headed by Doug Logan, who promoted "stop the steal" conspiracy theories about the election that culminated in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. 

The conservative One America News Network, which has aired falsehoods about the 2020 election, set up a nine-camera livestream for the audit, which is being conducted at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. But Cyber Ninja’s policies and procedures were released only after a judge ruled that the firm couldn’t keep them secret. Reporters initially were restricted from taking notes or filing reports.

The false claim follows others that we’ve debunked about purported findings from the audit. We rated False a widely shared Facebook claim that the audit found "a quarter of a million illegal votes," given that no results have been released.

We also rated False a claim that the audit "is confirming the rumors that real ballots have a special watermark." There’s no evidence of any such finding, and Maricopa County says it does not use watermarks on its ballots.

Our ruling

A widely shared social media post claimed that an ongoing audit of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona "showed Trump ahead by 250,000" votes, and "nearly 950,000 ballots are declared illegal, nearly all for Biden."

No findings have been released from an ongoing audit of the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County, Ariz., that is being conducted by firms hired by Arizona Senate Republicans.

There is no evidence that the audit has turned up any illegal ballots or changes in votes that would give Trump the lead in Arizona. The claim, with its sky-high figures, is false and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!

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No truth to the claim that Arizona audit found Trump up by 250,000 votes

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