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Opinion

Maricopa County Board Refuses to Appear Before AZ Senate to Discuss Election Concerns, Calls for Audit to End

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The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors held a hearing Monday to announce they would not attend a meeting requested by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to answer election questions the audit has raised to date.

In fact, board chairman Jack Sellers and the board took it a step further calling for the audit to end, as Sellers proclaimed he would not be answering any more questions regarding how November’s election, which the board helped oversee, was conducted.

It would seem if one wanted to take election integrity concerns that many voters have to the next level, there would be no better way to do it than the board’s response.

Sellers launched into invectives right from the outset of Monday’s meeting.

“We are here under some bizarre circumstances to discuss responding to an unfortunate letter from the president of the Arizona state senate,” the chairman said.

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Sellers then noted that he would not be responding to the particulars contained in Fann’s letter at the meeting.

“This board is done explaining anything to these people who are playing investigator with our constituents’ ballots and equipment, paid for with real people’s tax dollars,” Sellers said. “It’s time to be done with this craziness and get on with our county’s critical business.”

“I want to keep this part of the circus as short as possible. We will be reviewing the response to the state senate president’s attempt at legitimizing a grift disguised as an audit.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Sellers stated, “As chairman of this board, I just want to make it clear, I will not be responding to any more requests from this sham process. Finish what you’re calling an audit and be ready to defend a report in a court of law. We all look forward to it.”

Seeing the Senate in court is nothing new.

The board, in fact, has taken the Senate to court multiple times since the elected body’s judiciary committee first issued subpoenas requesting election-related materials in December.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason ruled in late February that the Senate has the authority to review the materials requested.

“There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Thomason wrote in his opinion.

“The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections,” he added.

The Maricopa board has been unwilling to recognize that authority.

Fann’s letter to the board last Wednesday highlighted “serious issues” the audit, which began April 23, has uncovered thus far.

They included discrepancies “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.”

Fann further wrote, “The County has not provided any chain-of-custody documentation for the ballots. Does such documentation exist, and if so, will it be produced?”

She also had questions about how the ballot boxes were sealed and finally why an entire election database appeared to be missing.

The letter was written in a very respectful tone and requested a Tuesday meeting to discuss the concerns raised.

Sellers and other board members made clear they would not be attending the meeting and issued a written response offering an explanation for the ballot discrepancies, saying there was chain of custody documentation, and denying the election database was deleted.

Of course, the point of the meeting Fann sought with the board is to have a back-and-forth to ensure all questions get answered and the explanations offered are understood and accepted.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the head of companies contracted to conduct the audit and Senate audit liaison and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett gave an update on the progress of the audit to date, which they anticipate being concluded by the end of June.

In their letter, the board refused to turn over county routers that auditors have requested to ensure voting tabulators were not connected to the internet during the election.

Do you think the Arizona Audit should be completed?

The officials cited security concerns about sensitive information contained in the routers getting into the wrong hands.

The board members closed their letter — also signed by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone — calling for the audit to cease.

“You, Senate President Fann, are the only one with the power to immediately end it. We implore you to recognize the obvious truth: your ‘auditors’ are in way over their heads,” they wrote.

“It is time to end this. For the good of the Senate, for the good of the Country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans.”

Some of the board followed up their meeting with a news conference the county’s official Twitter account then made a push Monday night to get the hashtag #RealAuditorsDont trending.

Arizona Republican Party chairman Kelli Ward in a video posted to Twitter called what the board did a “political circus.”

“Their real motivation could not be more clear: stop attacking them, stop questioning their work and above all stop the audit,” she said.

“Why do these local officials believe that they alone are acting in good faith while at the same time questioning the motives and character of those who disagree with them?” Ward asked.

If the board had simply shown up to the Senate meeting and answered all the questions Fann and her colleagues had, it could have done much to advance the cause of election integrity forward.

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Instead, they chose to throw a fit, only highlighting all the more why the audit must be seen through to the end.

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