Maricopa County won’t reuse subpoenaed ballot counters

Maricopa County officials said on June 28 they’ll never again use voting machines turned over to contractors hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to audit the 2020 election.

The county’s Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors responded to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who said in May that she would seek to decertify the machines because the county lost control of them and doesn’t know what was done to them. She said she had "grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines."

"The Board shares your concerns," county attorney Joseph La Rue wrote to Hobbs.

Arizona's Senate President Karen Fann had a different take.

"If their machines can't undergo a forensic audit to verify what happened in an election, then it never should have approved those machines to be used in an election in the first place," Fann said.

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 an unprecedented partisan audit of the county’s 2020 vote count. Former President Donald Trump and his supporters had claimed without evidence that his loss was marred by fraud.

The county hired several firms to conduct the audit, led by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based firm that has 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’re using backup equipment for local elections in March and May and are working with Dominion to replace the subpoenaed machines ahead of elections in November 2021.

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.

"It was never our decision to pursue this, so it seems fundamentally unfair to me that the Maricopa County taxpayer would be left holding the bill for this particularly poor choice as I would call it," said Bill Gates, Republican county supervisor.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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