Stephen Richer Slams 'Insane' Arizona Audit—'This Is Far From the Gold Standard'

Arizona Republican Stephen Richer has strongly criticized the state's audit of the 2020 presidential election results and warned other states that they shouldn't try to emulate the process.

Richer is the recorder of Maricopa County—where the controversial audit is being conducted. He told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday that the process is "insane."

The audit, ordered by the Republican-led state legislature, has previously been criticized for allowing the pursuit of conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, including searching for bamboo fibers based on the unfounded claim that some 40,000 ballots were shipped in from Asia.

Cooper described the ongoing audit as "meshugas," a Yiddish word meaning "craziness."

Richer appeared to agree with Cooper's assessment.

"That's the right word for it," the Republican said.

Richer went on: "This is insane just from a competence standpoint."

"We've had 13 other states visit, and I would say to them, this is not the audit you want," he said.

Representatives from other states have visited the audit amid the possibility that Republican-led legislatures could follow the Arizona state senate and order election audits.

"This is far from the gold standard of audits," Richer said. "You're looking for the Ernst & Young of accounting, or the Latham & Watkins of law firms. You're not looking for a newbie company who has never done this before, who as CNN very capably showed doesn't even have office space and is sending the data off to a mysterious house in Montana. That's not the gold standard."

The Arizona audit is being conducted by Cyber Ninjas, a firm that has no experience carrying out election audits. Two previous audits in Maricopa County did not find evidence of widespread voter fraud.

NBC Montana reported on June 4 that voting system data from the Arizona audit is being sent to a lab in Montana and handled by a subcontractor for Cyber Ninjas. The subcontractor's parent company owns a cabin near the state's Swan Lake. It was not clear where the lab is located or whether the data is being reviewed in the cabin.

"I mean, there is no good reason for doing this," Richer said.

Richer defeated an incumbent Democrat in the 2020 elections on the same ballot that some of his party colleagues have claimed suffered from fraud or other irregularities.

The Maricopa County Recorder's Office issued a statement to Newsweek on Tuesday.

"This office is not against audits," the statement said. "The County conducted a multi-layered forensic audit which was comprised of three separate audits performed by two United States Elections Assistance Commission Voting System Testing Laboratories and a Certified Public Accounting Firm.

"We had these audits performed to address the concerns of our constituents in a thorough and professional manner and the results came confirmed 100% accuracy of our systems."

"We want to see a gold standard audit of the kind that Ernst and Young would offer in the accounting world or Kirkland and Ellis brings to the legal world. The Senate's audit is not that and won't convince anybody except conspiracy theorists looking to confirm their biases of their finding," said the statement.

Richer had previously criticized the audit. Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett on May 17, he said: "Just stop indulging this. Stop giving space for lies."

Several Arizona Republicans have joined in that criticism. All four Republican members of the GOP-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors joined their single Democratic colleague in condemning the audit.

"Our state has become a laughingstock," the board wrote in a letter to State Senate President Karen Fann. "Worse, this 'audit' is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic."

Newsweek has asked Cyber Ninjas for comment.

Update 6/23/21 7:15 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include a statement from the Maricopa County Recorder's Office.

Trump Supporters Rally in Maricopa County, Arizona
Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrate at a "Stop the Steal" rally in front of the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 7, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. A controversial audit of the election in Maricopa County is still ongoing. Mario Tama/Getty Images