Maricopa County Sheriff Penzone slams latest audit demand as ‘reckless’
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone in a scathing statement Friday evening slammed the Republican Arizona Senate’s alleged request of county routers for the election audit as “reckless and irresponsible.”
“The Senate Republican Caucus’ audit of the Maricopa County votes from last November’s election has no stopping point,” Penzone said in the statement. “Now, its most recent demands jeopardize the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
“We are talking about confidential, sensitive and highly-classified law enforcement data and equipment that will be permanently compromised.”
Jack Sellers, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said the Senate is threatening to issue a new subpoena to obtain routers the county uses for all its departments, including the sheriff’s office.
The county has refused to turn them over, saying doing so would cause major security issues and cripple county operations.
“The current course is mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible,” Penzone said in the statement.
The Democratic sheriff said he plans on briefing the Senate on the “horrendous consequences of this demand and the breadth of its negative impact on public safety in this County.”
“The integrity of classified data, private information and law enforcement specific material would immediately be vulnerable and exposed, regardless of the steps promised by a private vendor who states otherwise,” Penzone said in the statement.
“No evidence or information exists to indicate these items of information offer greater value to an ongoing audit process than to the public safety obligations of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and our law enforcement community.
“Access to this information would adversely affect the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office ability to protect critical evidence, data shared between law enforcement agencies, protected private information and individual passwords, all of which could be used to the detriment of citizens and law enforcement infrastructure.”
Maricopa County has already turned over the 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 election in the county, ballot tabulation equipment, computer servers and other elections-related equipment and a huge trove of information, including its voter database, after a judge upheld a December subpoena issued by GOP Senate President Karen Fann.
Repeated reviews of the election results in Maricopa County found no issues that would overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona over former President Donald Trump, which Biden won by 45,109 votes in Maricopa County and by 10,457 in the state.
“We have provided eight terabytes of data, ballots and election equipment as commanded by the subpoenas,” Sellers said in a statement. “Our efforts to cooperate while following the law have been rewarded with accusations, untruths and threats.”
The audit can’t overturn the results of the election, but Fann and Republicans in the chamber say the audit will help restore voter confidence and help lawmakers create changes to election laws.
The recount that began on April 23 isn’t close to being done and the Senate’s lease on the Coliseum at the state fairgrounds is set to expire on Friday with high school graduations scheduled to take place at the facility shortly after.
Liaison Ken Bennett said he hopes to pause the recount and resume once the graduations are over, but the fair board’s spokeswoman said an extension is not possible.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.