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Maricopa County tells Arizona Senate to find own place for election audit

Election workers sort ballots Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX (AP) — Maricopa County’s elected leaders aren’t interested in allowing a firm led by a backer of unfounded election fraud theories to use county facilities to recount 2.1 million ballots from November’s election as part of an audit that Arizona Senate’s Republican leaders plan to conduct.

The decision by the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors came after the board met with its lawyers Thursday, a day after Senate President Karen Fann announced the auditors she had hired to try to show whether President Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate.

It means Fann, who won a court order allowing access to the ballots and voting machines late last month, will need to find a secure location to do the recount. The board has never indicated it would let the Senate use its vote count center, but Fann repeatedly suggested she wanted to use the facility.

Board Chairman Jack Sellers said in a Thursday evening statement that the board respects the “power of the Senate” and has been ready to comply with a subpoena to deliver the ballots and vote-counting equipment for more than a month.

In a letter Sellers instructed to be sent to the Senate’s lawyer, the county’s lawyer said the county “stands ready” to deliver the ballots and tabulation equipment to the Senate or “a non-County owned location of the Senators’ choosing.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs fired off a letter to the county board expressing concerns about the company hired to lead the audit, Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, and the contract that shows auditors will try to track down and question voters.

After initially announcing a hyper-partisan firm that backed former President Donald Trump, Fann had promised a non-partisan independent audit of the elections results, but then chose Cyber Ninjas. An archive of Cyber Ninjas founder Doug Logan’s now-deleted Twitter account shows he used hashtags and shared memes popular with people promoting disproven or unsupported allegations about the veracity of Biden’s victory.

“This firm’s CEO not only harbors conspiratorial beliefs about the 2020 election, but has shared conspiracies about Dominion election equipment, the exact equipment he has been hired to audit,” Hobbs said in a letter to the five supervisors.

Hobbs also expressed concern in the letter about auditors going to voters’ homes to question them. Her elections director sent a letter to officials in Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office seeking advice and warned that the auditors “will use voter information to call voters and knock on doors to ask voters about their voting history, which we believe will lead to unfounded harassment and intimidation of voters.”

Brnovich, a Republican, disqualified himself from advising or representing Hobbs and authorized her to hire outside counsel.

For its part, Dominion Voting issued a statement saying: “the firms selected to conduct this audit are beyond biased.”

“Publicly available information shows they are led by conspiracy theorists and QAnon supporters who have helped spread the Big Lie,” the statement said, using a term coined to describe unfounded theories that former President Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. “Dominion supports all forensic audits conducted by independent, federally-accredited Voting System Test Labs – but this is not that.”

The Board of Supervisors fought the Senate subpoenas and repeatedly said there were no issues with how the election was conducted. Multiple reviews, audits and a hand-count of a sample of ballots back that position.

Last month, the county released the results of two new audits of their equipment that showed no malicious software or incorrect counting equipment and that none of the computers or equipment were connected to the internet.

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