A two-time failed congressional candidate who has defended using the n-word and spouted COVID-19 conspiracy theories has apparently become a highly sought-after “expert” for Republicans conducting sham election audits.
Perhaps it is no surprise, as Shiva Ayyadurai’s baseless election fraud claims predate even those of Donald Trump. After losing his second congressional bid in 2020, Ayyadurai identified what he claimed was the cause of his loss: the mass destruction of ballots.
“Massachusetts Destroys Over 1 MILLION Ballots in US SENATE PRIMARY RACE committing #ElectionFraud,” Ayyadurai tweeted in September 2020, after losing his primary race.
Never mind that the ballots had not been destroyed, or that Massachusetts officials upheld Ayyadurai’s loss. His claim of election fraud foreshadowed Trump’s own claims of election malfeasance later that year. Now Ayyadurai, who backs Trump’s election fraud claims, has been hired by Arizona’s Republican-controlled state senate to work on an ongoing “audit” of the 2020 presidential election this summer, despite election officials there already repeatedly confirming that Joe Biden won.
In a recent podcast, a former Trump official suggested that Ayyadurai’s services were also being sought by Wisconsin legislators for a similar audit in their own state.
Ayyadurai has been hired twice to work on Arizona’s chaotic election audit: once by the state senate and once by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based tech firm that is conducting the audit, despite complaints that its CEO has promoted election fraud conspiracy theories.
Although Ayyadurai’s involvement with the audit was not public knowledge until this month, his contracts with the state senate and Cyber Ninjas were among thousands of pages of audit-related documents released during a lawsuit by the transparency group American Oversight. Those contracts, first reported by the Arizona Republic, showed Ayyadurai’s company striking two $50,000 deals to “review” ballots, beginning in July.
Neither Ayyadurai nor a spokesperson for the audit returned requests for comment.
That spokesperson, Randy Pullen, told the Republic that Ayyadurai had first come to his attention when he made a presentation at an event hosted by former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in November 2020. Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem (R) later introduced Ayyadurai to people involved with the Arizona audit, Pullen said. (Finchem, who did not immediately return requests for comment, is a staunch audit supporter, and sold T-shirts this year in support of election fraud claims. He tweeted pictures of himself among a raucous crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and released text messages between himself and an organizer of the Jan. 6 rally, although he has not been accused of a crime and there is no evidence he entered the building.)
Other documents from the American Oversight lawsuit suggest a long-standing relationship between Ayyadurai and pro-audit Arizona legislators.
“‘The Legislature has received voluminous evidence and testimony,” reads a Jan. 1 letter to then-Vice President Mike Pence, signed by 10 Arizona lawmakers (including Finchem). “One example is the testimony of Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, Ph.D. (M.I.T.), on Nov. 30, 2020; Dr. Ayyadurai is one of the most respected mathematicians and experts in pattern recognition in America engaged in the examination of election results in all of the contested states. He concludes that the only explanation for the actual voting results in Arizona is that 130 percent of Democrats voted for candidate Biden and a -30 percent voted for President Trump, and 100 percent of Republicans voted for President Trump, with ‘no party affiliation’ voters split 36 percent for Biden, 58 percent for the president. In his words, such a demographic distribution is ‘highly implausible.’”
In fact, Arizona election officials have repeatedly confirmed Biden’s victory in the state—and Ayyadurai’s reputation is significantly more controversial than the glowing letter suggested.
A tech entrepreneur, Ayyadurai claims to have invented email in the late 1970s. The claim has drawn skepticism from technologists, who note that email technology was already in use at the time. In 2018, Ayyadurai ran for Congress as an independent against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in a campaign that saw him rub shoulders with far-right figures. During an appearance on a white nationalist’s YouTube show, Ayyadurai repeatedly used the n-word, defending its usage because “we’re all n---ers on the white liberal deep state reservation.” An open neo-Nazi who has called for the murder and torture of Jews was also a guest on the same episode, although not at the same time. Elsewhere during his ill-fated campaign, Ayyadurai retweeted a QAnon slogan. He also participated in a 4chan-flavored ritual with an alt-right personality who had previously attended the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally and (the day before meeting with Ayyadurai) had tweeted a Nazi-themed football meme. He won less than 4 percent of the vote.
Undeterred, Ayyadurai ran for Congress again in 2020, this time as a Republican. When he lost his primary, he blamed election fraud, falsely claiming that ballots had been destroyed. (State election officials noted that Ayyadurai could have requested a recount, but failed to do so on time.)
Ayyadurai also made headlines that year after he went all-in on COVID-19 conspiracy theories, falsely claiming that the disease could be cured with vitamins and that Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was a “deep state plant.”
That record did not dissuade Arizona auditors from bringing Ayyadurai on board. Contracts show that his company EchoMail received two $50,000 contracts (one from Cyber Ninjas and one from Arizona’s Senate) to review ballots in the audit, which has already drawn scrutiny for its ties with other election conspiracy theorists.
Ayyadurai’s name has also been floated in attempted audits in two other states. In Windham, New Hampshire, election truthers attempted to launch their own audit earlier this year. Ayyadurai was suggested during a town board meeting as a possible audit leader, although he was not selected.
And in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers have launched a renewed effort to “audit” Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, Ayyadurai might be in the running for a role. (Neither the Republican Speaker of Wisconsin’s House, nor a Republican lawmaker spearheading the audit effort returned requests for comment.) During a recent appearance on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast, former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus suggested that Wisconsin lawmakers were courting Ayyadurai.
“They’re indicating they’re going to bring in Dr. Shiva, as well, to help on the forensic audit,” Priebus said.