The Guardian’s voting rights reporter Sam Levine on the latest developments in Arizona’s election audit:
Arizona Republicans are overseeing a “grift disguised as an audit,” the chairman of the Maricopa county board of supervisors said on Monday, just before officials released a blistering letter refuting accusations the county was hiding information from auditors.
The comments from Jack Sellers, a Republican and the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, marked the latest shot in a closely-watched fight in an unprecedented review of the 2.1m ballots cast in Maricopa county in 2020. Even though the county conducted multiple audits affirming the results of the 2020 race, the Arizona senate, controlled by Republicans are conducting their own audit of the vote. The contractor the senate hired to oversee the audit is a company called Cyber Ninjas that has little experience in elections and whose CEO has voiced support for conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen.
Last week, the Arizona senate accused county officials of deleting files on hardware and asking them to hand over passwords to routers. The auditors also alleged that there were discrepancies between the number of ballots the county said were on boxes and what was actually counted.
Maricopa county said in its letter Monday the claims were “are false, defamatory, and beneath the dignity of the Senate.” The county did not delete any data from the server it handed over to the auditors in April, the county said. Cyber Ninjas had only provided proof that its workers were unable to locate data, not that anything was deleted. There could be numerous explanations for this, the county wrote, suggesting that workers may have improperly executed their search or copied it in such a way that was unreadable.
“Regardless, the failure of your so called “auditors” to locate data files on the copy they made of the County’s server speaks more to their ineptitude than it does to the integrity and actions of our dedicated public employees who effectively and accurately run the elections in the fourth largest county in the United States,” the county wrote.
County officials also said Cyber Ninjas were misreading the sheets that have the total number of ballots and in some cases. The number on the sheets Cyber Ninjas referenced reflect the total number of ballots that were submitted for tabulation, but there may have been ballots that were not readable by tabulators, which could explain the discrepancy.
In another instance, Cyber Ninjas claimed there were 218 ballots in a batch that should have had just 200. Maricopa county officials said they checked tabulation records and were confident there were 200 ballots in the box, suggesting auditors had just miscounted. An audit observer with the secretary of state’s office told the Guardian earlier this month she was concerned there were not quality checks to ensure that data entry workers were correctly inputting data without typos.
The county also blasted auditors for requesting access both to voting machine equipment and county routers. Giving the auditors access to routers, the county said, would put sensitive law enforcement operations at risk. It also said the passwords to election equipment the auditors wanted were not needed to run elections and that only the equipment vendor, Dominion voting systems, had them.
“We cannot give you a password that we do not possess any more than we can give you the formula for Coca Cola. We do not have it; we have no legal right to acquire it; and so, we cannot give it to you,” they wrote.