PHOENIX – Arizona Senate Republicans have signed a lease to continue their slow audit of the 2020 Maricopa County election results until the end of June.
The State Senate and its contractors had rented the Veterans Memorial Coliseum until Friday, when they must leave the old basketball arena as it is booked for high school graduates next week.
Republicans have hired Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity firm, to oversee an unprecedented partisan scrutiny of the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county. They perform a manual recount of 2.1 million ballots and examine baseless conspiracy theories suggesting there were issues with the election, which have become popular with supporters of former President Donald Trump .
Under the new lease signed on Wednesday, ballots, computers, tables and related equipment will be stored elsewhere at the state fair grounds next week. The Senate will regain access to the Colosseum on May 23 and will have it until the end of June.
The effort was much slower than expected, and only a fraction of the ballots were counted. The audit was scheduled to stop Thursday night and then the packaging would begin and continue on Friday, said Ken Bennett, a former Republican secretary of state who serves as the Senate liaison with auditors.
Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s top election official, has asked the Senate to detail its plans to keep ballots safe while they are in storage.
Meanwhile, Senate Speaker Karen Fann on Wednesday sent a letter to Jack Sellers, chairman of the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Supervisory Board, asking county officials to publicly answer questions in the Senate on Tuesday, but she stopped threatening to issue subpoenas.
Fann reiterated the Senate’s demand for access to administrative passwords for voice counters and Internet routers. County officials said they returned all passwords they had and refused to give up the routers, saying it would compromise sensitive data, including classified law enforcement information held by the sheriff’s office.
Fann offered to allow his contractor to view data from routers at county facilities under the supervision of the sheriff’s office. “The Senate has no interest in consulting or taking possession of any information that is not related to the administration of the 2020 general election,” she wrote.
The county says passwords sought by the Senate are kept by Dominion Voting Systems Inc., which manufactures the vote counting machines and leases them to the county. The company said in a statement Thursday that it is cooperating with auditors certified by the US Election Assistance Commission, and has done so for two previous audits of 2020 results in Maricopa County, but will not work with Cyber Ninjas.
“To cede Dominion’s intellectual property to an unaccredited, biased and clearly unreliable actor such as Cyber Ninjas would be reckless, causing irreparable damage to the company’s business interests and the country’s electoral security interests,” Dominion said. . “No business should be forced to participate in such an irresponsible act.”
Fann’s letter also calls into question county records that document the chain of custody of ballots and accuses county officials of deleting data.
In a statement, Trump called it a “devastating letter” and said “Fake News and Lamestream Media are doing everything they can not to cover this major story.”
The supervisory board met privately on Thursday evening, after which the sellers issued a dazzling statement denying that any data had been deleted, calling Fann’s claims “false and misinformed” and demanding a retraction.
“It’s becoming clearer by the day: the people hired by the Senate are way above their heads,” Sellers said. “It’s not funny, it’s dangerous.”
He did not directly respond to Fann’s request for county officials to answer questions in the Senate on Tuesday, but said the county will hold its own public meeting the day before “to refute the lies and set out the facts on these issues. “