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Voting machines subpoenaed by the Republican-led Arizona Senate for its audit of the 2020 election will be removed from service, Maricopa County officials announced on Monday.
Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel responded to a May 20 letter from Arizona's Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who advised the county to replace its voting machines over concerns the review hurt their "security and integrity" because the chain of custody had been "compromised."
"The voters of Maricopa County can rest assured, the County will never use equipment that could pose a risk to free and fair elections. The County recognizes Secretary Hobbs' authority under A.R.S. § 16-442 to certify equipment for use in Arizona’s elections. As a result, the County will not use the subpoenaed equipment in any future elections," the county said in a statement on Monday.
"Maricopa County noted this potential risk in February when it asked the court for guidance on the Senate subpoenas. Since then, the County has implemented back up plans that include acquiring new tabulation equipment for the March and May jurisdictional elections in 2021," the statement added.
The audit began earlier this year after the Arizona Senate received a favorable ruling from a judge who found its subpoenas to be "legal and enforceable." Local reporters noted on Monday the Arizona Senate agreed in April that Maricopa County would not have to pay for damages or any costs of replacing machines, and a spokesperson said it "hasn't been decided" whether the county will seek reimbursement.
The auditors, led by private firm Cyber Ninjas, announced last week the ballot inspection had come to a close. This came less than two weeks after auditors finished a recount of 2.1 million ballots cast in Arizona's most populous county, with a few exceptions such as Braille ballots.
Ken Bennett, serving as the Arizona Senate's liaison for the Maricopa County election audit, recently told OAN he expected the findings to be released in August. However, they could come as early as late July or as late as Labor Day.
Maricopa County officials and Hobbs have taken the lead in raising concerns about the process and security of the audit. Critics say the results from two previous election machine audits conducted for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors showed no irregularities in the county's 2020 election. There was also a recount of a sample of ballots that did not turn up any problems.
Hobbs said in her May letter her office consulted with election security experts for guidance, including some who work for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Hobbs threatened to de-certify the subpoenaed equipment, which she stressed only applied to “specific pieces of subpoenaed election equipment that the county turned over to the Senate and its contractors, and not to the underlying Dominion voting system.”
Millions of dollars worth of equipment were used in the 2020 election, including tabulation machines. The county leased equipment from Dominion Voting Systems under a three-year, $6.1 million contract. The voting machine company has engaged in litigation to fight a wave of 2020 election fraud claims made against it.
Maricopa County said on Monday that with its "backup equipment and the other certified tabulation equipment not subpoenaed, the Board of Supervisors, Elections Department and Recorder’s Office are working with our current vendor to replace the subpoenaed equipment so we will be able to serve voters for the November 2021 election."
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann said the audit is not meant to overturn the 2020 election results but rather to restore trust in the system and influence possible changes to voting laws.
Still, former President Donald Trump and his allies have cheered on the Maricopa County audit as they continue to insist the 2020 contest was stolen due to widespread fraud. Trump and his allies filed legal challenges to the results in several states, which were roundly dismissed by the courts.
The Maricopa County audit, centered in Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, has attracted Republican lawmakers from other states, including Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin, and inspired calls for copycat reviews in other places.
The U.S. Justice Department recently signaled it would crack down on these post-election audits, with Attorney General Merrick Garland warning about "assertions of material vote fraud in the 2020 election that have been refuted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies of both this administration and the previous one, as well as by every court, federal and state, that has considered them."
President Joe Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes out of more than 3.3 million cast across the state. His lead of roughly 2 percentage points was due partly to his advantage in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, where the Democrat scored nearly 45,000 more votes than former President Donald Trump.
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Original Author: Daniel Chaitin