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Subpoenas for Maricopa County supervisors unlikely for now in election audit dispute

  • Updated

PHOENIX — Senate Republican leaders are not going to subpoena Maricopa County supervisors, at least for the time being in the ongoing battle over information they want to conduct their audit of the 2020 general election.

In a new letter to the board, Senate President Karen Fann is now inviting them and other county officials to a meeting on Tuesday at the Capitol. There, she said, they can sit down with her, Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Ken Bennett who is the Senate liaison with the audit team.

A spokesman for the county said that, as of Thursday afternoon, the board had made no decision on whether to accept the invitation.

Meanwhile, the Senate made official what has now been obvious for weeks: It would not finish its work at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum by Friday as originally scheduled. And that means the Senate has had to extend its lease of the facility through the end of June — but only after storing the ballots and equipment for more than a week in another building because the coliseum is going to be used for high school graduation ceremonies.

The invite is a sharp departure from the threat issued last Friday by Kory Langhofer, the Senate’s attorney, demanding that the county provide access to its computer routers and passwords to some tallying equipment. In an email to the county’s legal staff, he said unless the Senate got the materials that day, the Senate will issue subpoenas on Monday “for live testimony from Mr. (Scott) Jarrett (the county’s director of election day and emergency voting) and each of the supervisors personally, so that their positions and rationales can be better explained under oath.’’

That produced no response — and no subpoenas that ultimately could have led to another court hearing.

On Thursday, however, Fann told Capitol Media Services that there never had been a firm decision to issue subpoenas.

“It was an option being discussed,’’ she said.

The dispute starts with whether Cyber Ninjas, the private firm Fann hired to review the ballots and equipment, should have access to all of the county computer routers. That could show whether any of the election equipment sent or received data on Election Day that might have changed the results.

Fann said she’s not satisfied with the county’s assertion that the machines were never connected to the internet.

Then there’s those passwords to some of the tallying equipment that the county leases from Dominion Voting Systems, passwords that would give auditors access to their programming.

The county says it doesn’t have them. And Dominion, in a statement Thursday, said it won’t provide access to its equipment to Cyber Ninjas, which has not been accredited by the federal Election Assistance Commission.

And Dominion took a swipe at the auditors, saying “they have also already demonstrated bias and incompetence.’’

Fann said Thursday, though, that the issues have gone beyond the routers and the passwords.

She said that Cyber Ninjas has “become aware of apparent omissions, inconsistencies and anomalies’’ in how the county had handled, organized and stored the ballots.

For example, Fann said, the bags in which the ballots were stored are not sealed, though the audit team found some cut seals at the bottom of many boxes. And she said there are disparities between the actual number of ballots in each box and the paperwork that accompanied them.

What has gained more attention is that an entire database from one machine has been deleted.

“This removes election related details that appear to have been covered by the (initial) subpoena,’’ Fann wrote. Now she wants to know why those files were deleted and whether there are any backup files.

Fann has said the purpose of the audit is not to change the outcome of the 2020 election and the fact that the official tally showed Joe Biden outpolling Donald Trump, though she acknowledged there are members of her party who have that as their goal.

And Trump weighed in Thursday, sending out a message to followers, say the database “was illegally deleted after the subpoena to produce the information.’’

In a brief response to the questions, the County Recorder’s Office said much of what is in Fann’s letter “is a misunderstand of election operations.’’ The office promised more information to follow.

Fann, for her part, said all she wants is answers from the county.

“We are not trying to be hostile,’’ Fann said. “But they have tried their darndest to shut us down.’’

And she wants them not just on the record but in public: That Tuesday meeting — if it happens — will be livestreamed by the Senate.

“We want to get it on the record,’’ she said.

But Fann, in her invite, made it clear that she wasn’t going to let county officials off the hook if they refuse to provide her the information she wants.

“I am hopeful that we can constructively resolve these issues and questions without recourse to additional subpoenas or other compulsory process,’’ she wrote.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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