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Here we go again: Townsend issues subpoena to Maricopa County for election records

By: - March 22, 2022 8:37 am

A person hold Stop the Steal sign at a rally at the Arizona Capitol on Jan. 26, 2022, in favor of House Bill 2596, which would make sweeping changes to how elections are conducted in Arizona. The biggest change would be to allow the legislature to overturn election results for any reason, but it also would require all ballots to be hand-counted within 24 hours of the polls closing and would end on-demand early voting, which is used by about 80% of Arizona voters. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is facing another legislative subpoena for records related to the 2020 election that Joe Biden narrowly won, this time centering on records related to a dubious analysis conducted by someone who presented a series of debunked findings as part of last year’s so-called “audit” report.

The subpoena that Senate Government Committee Chairwoman Kelly Townsend issued to the supervisors on Monday demands that they turn over voter registration records, records related to attempts to contact voters with mismatched signatures on their early ballot affidavits and copies of the voter signatures election officials used to verify early ballots. She is also seeking the county’s policies and procedures related to signature verification.


In addition, Jennifer Wright, the head of Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Election Integrity Unit, said she was renewing her request for records that she’d already asked for twice. Specifically, she said she wants policies that she claims were missing from policies that Maricopa County had provided to the Attorney General’s Office. 

Townsend’s subpoena also commands that the supervisors appear before the Government Committee on March 28 to answer questions and provide information. 

Wright is leading Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s investigation of the self-styled “audit” that Senate President Karen Fann ordered of the 2020 general election in Maricopa County. The results of that review, which was conducted by companies with no experience in election-related matters and led by individuals who were overt proponents of the false claims that the election was rigged against former President Donald Trump, has been largely debunked

Arizona ‘audit’: A multitude of unsubstantiated claims and no proof of fraud

Both Wright’s letter and Townsend’s subpoena cited the alleged findings of Shiva Ayyadurai, whom Fann’s audit team hired last year to examine the signatures that election officials used to verify the identity of voters who cast early ballots in Maricopa County during the last presidential election. 

Townsend has been a vocal proponent of the Big Lie, and has made false allegations about election fraud in 2020.

People who vote early sign their names on affidavits on the envelope used to return their ballots. Election officials with special training compare those signatures against signatures they have on file for those voters to confirm their identities before their votes are counted. If a signature doesn’t appear to match, they contact the voter to confirm that they were ones who signed the affidavit, a process known as “curing.”

Ayyadurai’s findings from the “audit” were full of false claims, errors and misleading statements, and he demonstrated a distinct lack of knowledge of the policies and procedures the county uses to verify and cure signatures. 

In a more recent study that Ayyadurai conducted outside of the scope of the “audit,” which Townsend and Wright cited, he claimed to have found a number of early ballots that were counted despite containing signatures that did not match other signatures from those voters.

However, Ayyadurai acknowledged that he didn’t have access to the signatures that election officials used for comparisons. Instead, he said he used examples of signatures for the 499 voters whose ballot affidavits his team examined that he found on deeds on the Maricopa County Recorder’s website. 

Election officials and signature verification experts say people’s signatures can change over time. It’s unclear how recent the signatures that Ayyadurai used were, or whether anyone has independently verified that he matched deeds with the correct voters. 

Former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who is currently running for secretary of state, said the study isn’t valid if it didn’t use the correct signatures for comparisons.

“It’s like getting a transmission manual for a Volkswagen and trying to fix a semi trailer with it. It’s not real. It doesn’t match,” Fontes told the Mirror

The Attorney General’s Office did not respond to questions from the Arizona Mirror about why they found Ayyadurai’s work to be credible enough to investigate. Wright acknowledged in her March 9 letter to the county that Ayyadurai did not use the same signatures that election officials used from voter registration records. 

Fontes said Wright’s reliance on Ayyadurai’s findings aren’t a good sign for the credibility of the attorney general’s investigation as well, and that it indicates she doesn’t understand the signature verification process the county uses for early ballots. The Attorney General’s Office has interviewed Fontes, who was recorder during the 2020 election, in conjunction with the investigation. 

“It tells me that that attorney general is incompetent and so are his people,” Fontes said. 

Townsend also did not respond to questions about the apparent flaw in Ayyadurai’s study or the problems with his previous findings. 

A spokesman for Maricopa County did not respond to a request for comment regarding the subpoena. 


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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”