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Maricopa County threatens to sue Senate to replace voting machines decertified by ‘audit’

By: - August 18, 2021 1:24 pm
election audit

The Senate audit began April 23, 2021, in Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. Screenshot via AzAudit.org

Maricopa County is threatening to take the Arizona Senate to court unless it pays $2.8 million to compensate the county for the cost of replacing voting machines that were handed over to the Senate’s election review team.

The county on Wednesday filed a notice of claim, which is a statutorily required precursor to any lawsuit filed against a government entity in Arizona. The Senate now has 60 days to settle the issues before the county can sue.

In response to subpoenas that Senate President Fann issued for materials for the self-styled audit she ordered of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, the county turned over 385 tabulation machines from its polling places and another nine machines from its main election office. CyFIR, one of the companies Fann hired to conduct the election review, made digital copies of the machines and returned them to the county.

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None of the companies that are part of Fann’s election review team have been accredited by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission to work with the tabulation machines, noted attorney Thomas Liddy, who represents the county. 

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told the county that the machines should no longer be used in future elections because an unaccredited company had accessed them. The county concurred, and reached an agreement with its vendor, Dominion Voting Systems. The company provided new machines, and the county agreed to buy the old ones for $2.8 million. 

“Because the County’s equipment was compromised while in the Senate’s control, the equipment was rendered unusable not only in Arizona but in every jurisdiction. The equipment could not be used by anyone without risking the safety and security of the elections,” Liddy wrote in the notice of claim. 

Bolstering the county’s case is an indemnification agreement it signed with Fann before it turned over the machines to the Senate. That agreement indemnifies the county “against any and all expenses it incurs as a result of the Subpoenaed Materials being damaged, altered, or otherwise compromised” while under the control of the Senate or the audit team, “including without limitation expenses associated with procuring new equipment, certifying any such new equipment for use for elections in Arizona, and re-certifying its current equipment for use for elections in Arizona.”

“The county had to replace its subpoenaed election equipment because it was compromised while under the control of the Senate — the very possibility against which Senate President Fann agreed for the Senate to indemnify the County,” Liddy wrote. 

Maricopa County is not the first jurisdiction in the country to have to replace its voting machines due to a review tied to the “Stop the Steal” movement that falsely claims that the 2020 election was rigged against former President Donald Trump. Dominion Voting Systems required Fulton County, Penn., to pay $25,000 for new machines after it turned its old ones to Wake TSI, a company that was originally part of Fann’s audit team. 

Fann expressed outrage at what she called a “publicity stunt” by the county, but did not address the indemnification agreement she signed pledging the Senate would replace machines that can no longer be used in elections.

“This shows they prefer to shower taxpayer dollars on Dominion and lawyers, rather than having an honest conversation about the audit,” she told the Arizona Mirror. “Machines were not damaged or tampered with and they know it”

***UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from Karen Fann.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. 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.”

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