The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors demanded an end to the Arizona Senate-led audit of the 2020 election in the populous county that includes Phoenix, a significant new stand by the Republican-led group against the review that former President Donald Trump and his allies have cited to further claim the contest was stolen.
Board members issued their defiant response after holding a meeting Monday afternoon to address questions raised by Senate President Karen Fann in a letter to Chairman Jack Sellers regarding the audit, which includes a review of the county's 2.1 million ballots and election equipment, raising "serious issues" auditors claimed to have found during their work. Among them, Fann said, was the county's failure to provide virtual copies of Wi-Fi routers and allegations that someone deleted a main database from the Election Management System.
"These accusations are false, defamatory, and beneath the dignity of the Senate," the board wrote in a 13-page letter signed by all five members. "They are an insult to the dedicated public servants in the Maricopa County Elections Department and Office of the Recorder, who work incredibly long hours conducting the County’s elections with integrity and honor."
Compounding the controversy surrounding Fann's letter last week are tweets by an account for the audit, run by unnamed volunteers, which has clashed with local journalists covering the process and made serious but so far unsubstantiated allegations about the election.
"Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases from the 2020 election cycle days before the election equipment was delivered to the audit," the account said while accusing the Elections Department of "spoliation of evidence."
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors criticized Cyber Ninjas, the private firm fired by the Arizona Senate to lead the audit, of "incompetence" and rebuked claims of deleted files, saying: "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 majority-Republican board has long been at odds with the Republican-led Senate over its push for an audit under the supervision of the Legislature, saying that two previous audits led by county officials found no irregularities in the 2020 election, and fought lawmakers in court until a judge ruled Senate subpoenas to hand over county election materials and equipment were "legal and enforceable" on Feb. 26.
"We are trying to do the best we can as publicly elected officials," said Clint Hickman, a Republican supervisor for District 4. "We ran a bipartisan; fair election," he added during the Monday meeting.
The board members' letter reiterated their refusal to allow auditors to access the county's routers, explaining the devices essentially provide a map showing where "all the County's most critical data is hidden," adding that it would jeopardize the security of sensitive law enforcement programs and protected health information for residents.
The board's letter also stated that its members "will not attend your meeting on May 18," a reference to Fann's request last week for them to convene for a meeting on Tuesday to resolve the issues she expressed to Sellers, an offer that appeared to show the Senate president backing off threats to subpoena multiple county officials.
"We will not be responding to any additional inquiries from your 'auditors,'" the board's letter said.
Fann, who a spokesperson said was participating in budget meetings all day, has yet to respond to the board's letter on Monday.
Former President Donald Trump, who has boasted claims the election was "stolen" from him, has expressed public support for the audit efforts in Maricopa County. On Saturday, he published a statement claiming the "entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!"
Republican Stephen Richer, the Maricopa County recorder, called the former president's remarks "unhinged."
"I'm literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now," Richer wrote in response. "We can't indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country."
Richer, who defeated his Democratic opponent Adrian Fontes and assumed the recorder position heading the county's election department in January, outlined a list of accusations he has faced since taking over the post in testimony at Monday's board meeting.
"I have been accused of deleting entire databases, even though I participated in the transference of all databases to the Senate, have seen them with my own eyes ... I am now the leader of an office of 160 full-time employees, and I am tired of hearing them defamed and ridiculed," Richer said.
Election materials for the audit have been transferred to a secure facility on the fairgrounds near the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the audit is taking place. Audit procedures have been temporarily paused to allow high school graduation ceremonies at the coliseum this week, and counting is set to resume on May 24.