Maricopa County supervisors on Monday accused Senate President Karen Fann, of allowing a “mockery” to be made of the election process with her audit.
On one hand, the board and County Recorder Stephen Richer prepared a 14-page letter responding to specific questions — they called them accusations — about everything from handling of the ballots to whether a database had been deleted after the election but before files were delivered to Senate-hired auditors. In each case, they said either that the information is false or that they cannot or will not provide what she wants.
But, one by one, each official lashed out at Fann and the Senate for perpetuating what several said amounts to a hoax on the public. And they said she has effectively given over the Senate’s powers to Cyber Ninjas, an outside group that not only has no election audit experience but is now using it to raise money.
And if the message of Monday’s meeting is lost on Fann and other senators, board Chairman Jack Sellers put it succinctly.
“As chairman of this board, I want to make it clear: I will not be responding to any more requests from this sham process,” he said.
“Finish what you’re calling an ‘audit,’ ” Sellers continued. “Be ready to defend your report in a court of law.”
In doing so, Sellers and the Republican-dominated board confirmed what had pretty much been clear since last week; Board members will not show up at the Senate Tuesday, as requested by Fann, for a televised question-and-answer session with her, Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Ken Bennett, a former secretary of state who Fann tapped to be her liaison with the outside contractors.
In fact, Supervisor Bill Gates said there’s good reason to stay away.
“This board was going to be part of a political theater broadcast on livestream on OAN,” he said, a reference to One America News Network, a pro-Trump cable news outlet which not only has fueled the theories that somehow the former president did not lose the election but also is helping to raise money to fund what is supposed to be an official, government-conducted audit.
Monday’s response now leaves it up to Fann on how to respond.
The Senate has gone to court before to force the supervisors to surrender the 2.1 million ballots and the election equipment. But a maneuver to actually hold the supervisors in contempt — a move that could have allowed the Senate sergeant-at-arms to take supervisors into custody — failed when Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, refused to go along with his other 15 GOP colleagues.
Boyer in recent days has indicated even more hesitancy about pursuing the issue. And Richer, a Republican like Fann and the majority of the Senate, said he thinks the tide is turning.
“I guarantee you, there are Republicans in the state Senate … that do not believe a word of it,” he said.
And with Democrats firmly against the whole process, that could leave Fann with few options to force further compliance.
There was no immediate response from the Senate president as to what, if anything, she intends to do now.
Political charges aside, there was a response to what Fann asked.
For example, Fann — working with questions provided to her by Cyber Ninjas — said there are “a significant number of instances in which there is a disparity between the actual number of ballots contained in a batch and the total denoted on the pink report slip accompanying the batch.”
“They don’t know how to read transmission slips,” Richer said of the auditors.
For example, he said some ballots out of any batch of 200 might be pulled out because they can’t be read by the tabulators. And that, said Richer, creates a duplicate ballot.
As to claims of deleted databases, he said “that’s just fundamentally not true.”
“If they were professional, certified auditors they wouldn’t be asking those questions,” Sellers said.
Ditto, Richer said, about the demand for the county’s routers, the computer equipment that acts like traffic directors for data between computers.
“We do not know why Cyber Ninjas would need the routers, as they have no election information,” Richer said. Aside from the $6 million cost of pulling them out and putting in temporary replacements, he said Sheriff Paul Penzone is concerned that what is on them could provide a “blueprint” of computers used by law enforcement that could allow someone to compromise the system.
Richer also said that Cyber Ninjas has no need for internal passwords to get at the source code for the tallying machines. Anyway, he said, that information belongs to Dominion Voting Systems. And he said Dominion gave them directly to the two certified auditors the county hired — again, Cyber Ninjas is not — and does not share them with election officials.
Sellers said he sees a pattern in the requests.
“It’s become clear that some of these people are only going to be happy when they get the results they want,” he said — meaning a finding that somehow Trump won the election, regardless of whether there is actual evidence to back that up.
Gates said it is possible that the Senate at one time had a legitimate reason to review the ballots and equipment. He noted that Fann said the whole purpose was to review the process and determine whether changes are needed in state laws on how elections are run.
But Gates said that stopped being the driving force long ago now that “outside forces” have taken control. That, he said, has become obvious because everyone admits the audit can’t be completed for the $150,000 the Senate allocated.
“Tell us where the money is coming from,” Gates said. So far, though, neither Cyber Ninjas nor Bennett has provided details. And Fann, who is supposed to be in charge, said she doesn’t know.
Gates acknowledged that he and his GOP colleagues are in some ways bucking the partisan tide.
“We recognize … that a large percentage of Republicans believe that the election was stolen in 2020 and that Donald Trump actually won,” he said. But Gates said he does not share that belief.
“And the reason that I feel confident in saying that, particularly in Maricopa County, is that we overturned every stone,” he said. “We asked the difficult questions.”
Now, said Gates, is the time to say that enough is enough.
“It is time to push back on the Big Lie,” he said. “Otherwise we are not going to be able to move forward and have an election in 2022 that we can all believe the results, whatever they may be.”
Richer said there’s another reason people should believe his assurances that the 2020 results are accurate.
He pointed out that he wasn’t even running the office at that time. Richer took over in January after defeating Democrat Adrian Fontes who did run the election.
“Why would I stand here beside these gentlemen to say, ‘It was a good election’ if it wasn’t?” he asked.
“Why wouldn’t I just throw the guy that I spent the past 12 months criticizing, Adrian Fontes, under the bus and say, ‘Don’t worry, there’s a new sheriff in town’ ”? Richer continued. “So it’s just facially asinine.”