In response to the report released last week about the Maricopa County ballot audit, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Election Integrity Unit sent a letter to Maricopa County instructing the recorder and supervisors to preserve all records related to the 2020 election in preparation for litigation. He also sent a letter to the Arizona Senate requesting more information related to the audit.
“The Arizona Senate’s report that was released on Friday raises some serious questions regarding the 2020 election,” Brnovich said in a statement about the letters. “Arizonans can be assured our office will conduct a thorough review of the information we receive.”
In the letter to the county, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright wrote, “In light of our review, as well as the expectation the review may lead to further investigation or litigation, this letter is to provide notice to Maricopa County that a litigation hold should be in effect regarding all potentially relevant materials related to the 2020 General Election, as well as potentially relevant materials related to the 2020 Primary Election and 2020 Presidential Preference Election (combined referred to as “2020 Statewide Elections”).
Wright lists some of the items to be preserved, including all of the ballots and envelopes as well as logs that the county refused to turn over to the auditors.
The letter to the Arizona Senate asked for additional information related to the report from Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, which looked at voter signatures on the envelopes accompanying mail-in ballots, more information about Ben Cotton’s presentation on cybersecurity, and a request to meet with the contractors and subcontractors involved with the audit report. It informed the Senate that the Attorney General’s Office will be requesting a response from Maricopa County in a follow-up letter.
The audit found that hundreds of thousands of election files — which the Maricopa County Supervisors refused to allow the auditors to examine — were deleted the day before the audit began, a violation of federal law which requires federal election records to be retained for 22 months. Although the name of the account that deleted them was not tied to a specific election worker, Ben Cotton, the founder of CyFIR, said there is video of the person who accessed those servers at that time.
Other major troubling finds included 17,126 voters who had their votes erroneously recorded twice, and around 49,000 questionable votes, mainly from people who voted using a different address than the one on file. Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the official liaison between the Senate Republicans and the independent audit, listed multiple laws that were broken.
Brnovich has tangled with the supervisors previously. He wrote to the supervisors a few days after the election urging them to more than double the hand audit, which they refused to do. He filed an amicus brief in support of the Arizona Senate demanding that the supervisors turn over the Dominion voting machines for inspection. He issued an opinion stating that if the supervisors did not turn the requested items over to the Arizona Senate, he would notify the Arizona Treasurer to withhold Maricopa County’s state-shared funds.
Brnovich’s letter could mean he thinks there is a chance his investigation could lead to a lawsuit against the county, and it could also mean he anticipates possibly bringing criminal charges. Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri suddenly announced his resignation on September 21 after recordings surfaced of him showing support for the audit, in contrast to the other four supervisors who fought it.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].