Arizona county won’t use voting machines from partisan audit

Jonathan J. Cooper
Associated Press

Phoenix — Officials in Arizona’s largest county plan to stop using voting machines turned over to contractors hired by Republican state senators for a partisan audit of the 2020 election.

The Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed with Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who said in May that she had “grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines” because the county had lost control of them. Hobbs said she would seek to decertify them if the county planned to continue using them.

“The Board shares your concerns,” county attorney Joseph La Rue wrote to Hobbs on Monday.

The Senate GOP’s unprecedented partisan audit of the 2020 election has been condemned by voting rights advocates and election experts who say it’s being conducted by biased and incompetent consultants.

FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs addresses the members of Arizona's Electoral College in Phoenix.

Senate Republicans issued a subpoena earlier this year demanding the county turn over vote-tabulation equipment, along with ballots and a variety of other records for the audit. Former President Donald Trump and his supporters had claimed without evidence that his loss was marred by fraud.

The county fought the subpoena but lost in court and turned over the materials. The Senate hired several firms to conduct the audit, led by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based firm that had no election experience before 2020 and is led by a Trump supporter who has promoted election conspiracies.

The audit will not change the outcome of the election, but many Trump supporters hope it will lead to similar reviews in other battleground states and turn up evidence that President Joe Biden’s victory was illegitimate. Critics say it’s a fruitless attempt to further Trump’s narrative about the 2020 election and will diminish faith in the democratic process.

The county spent $6.1 million to lease the machines from Dominion Voting Systems in a three-year contract that expires before the 2022 election. There are three one-year renewal options.

County officials said in a news release that they used backup equipment for local elections in March and May and are working with Dominion to replace the subpoenaed machines ahead of elections in November.

Fields Moseley, a spokesman for the county Board of Supervisors, said there will be a cost associated with using new machines but the exact amount is still unclear. He said the board hasn’t decided whether to seek reimbursement from the Senate.

The Senate’s contractors said Friday that they have finished counting and photographing ballots, ending the most visible phase of the review. A final report isn’t expected for weeks or months.

This story has been corrected to show that the Senate, not the county, hired several firms led by Cyber Ninjas to conduct the audit.