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Arizona Sec. Hobbs wants audit to reveal security plan for pending hiatus

(Audit Pool Photo)

PHOENIX – Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is demanding details about how voting equipment and nearly 2.1 million ballots will be secured when the state Senate-ordered audit of the 2020 Maricopa County election goes on a planned hiatus at the end of this week.

“The Secretary is deeply concerned about Defendants’ plan to move the ballots and other election equipment from their current location in the Coliseum after May 14, without returning them to Maricopa County,” Hobbs’ legal counsel wrote Tuesday in a letter to Senate attorneys.

“The Defendants do not seem to have and, if they do, they have not disclosed any policies or procedures related to the secure moving or secure storage of ballots at some other, unknown location.”

After winning a legal battle that concluded in February for access to the ballots and other election material, state Senate President Karen Fann hired Cyber Ninjas to lead three other contractors in the hand recount and forensic audit at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

In April, the Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the proceedings, citing, among other things, concern about the contractors’ lack of transparency. A judge allowed it to continue but required the auditors to allow observers from Hobbs’ office and make certain procedures public as part of the settlement.

The letter from Hobbs’ attorneys alleges that the auditors haven’t been following their own published security plan, demanding “immediate corrective action.”

“If Defendants are going to retain the ballots and election equipment after May 14, they must move and retain them in a secure and documented manner, including using tamper-evident and numbered seals which Defendants do not appear to be using currently,” the letter says.

“Pursuant to sections 1(a) and 1(d) of the Settlement, please immediately provide any and all policies specifying how Defendants plan to do so. Please also notify us when and where the ballots and election equipment will be packed and moved so that the Secretary’s observers may observe pursuant to section 1(h) of the Settlement.”

The audit, which is being conducted on the main floor of Coliseum, has to pause after Friday because the venue was previously booked for a series of high school graduation ceremonies next week.

No formal rental deal for the audit to continue at the original home of the Phoenix Suns beyond Friday had been announced as of Tuesday afternoon. However, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has repeatedly said an arrangement was being made for ballots and equipment to be secured in other parts of the building to make way for the Phoenix Union High School District ceremonies.

Bennett told pool reporters Tuesday that the Coliseum will be available to the auditors again from May 24 to the end of June.

“I’m very confident that we can conclude our work during that time,” he said.

Bennett estimated that about 300,000, approximately 14%, of the 2,089,563 ballots had been tabulated since counting started April 23.

He has been saying the contractors are working to increase staffing.

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