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Sellers says Senate Republicans are making 'false and ill‑informed' election allegations

Jack Sellers, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said a letter from Senate President Karen Fann about “serious issues” arising from the Senate’s partisan review of the county’s recent election is full of allegations that are false and ill-informed.

Sellers also demanded a retraction of a tweet by the Senate’s official audit Twitter account accusing Maricopa County election officials of deleting files from the county’s voting systems before handing them over under a Senate subpoena.

“That would be a crime — and it’s not true,” Sellers stated.

Fann’s letter invited Maricopa County officials to the Capitol on Tuesday. It was sent amid lingering threats by the Senate’s attorney to once again subpoena the county over the Senate’s ongoing audit and hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 General Election.

Earlier Thursday, a spokesman for the county elections department called the issues raised in the letter a “misunderstanding of election operations.” In his statement, Sellers attributed that misunderstanding to Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity company Fann hired to lead the election review.

“The contractors hired by the Senate President are not auditors and they are not certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It's clearer by the day: the people hired by the Senate are in way over their heads. This is not funny; this is dangerous,” Sellers said.

Fann (R-Prescott) had invited the county to speak at a public hearing at the Capitol — an effort, she wrote in the letter, to “constructively resolve these issues and questions without recourse to additional subpoenas or other compulsory process.”

The Senate president wanted county officials to explain why they won’t hand over Maricopa County networking devices; answer for alleged issues with the organization of ballots; and respond to an allegation that a “database directory” was deleted from election systems subpoenaed by Senate Republicans.

That last allegation drew the bulk of Sellers’ ire.

It was tweeted late Wednesday, around the same time Fann’s letter was publicly released, and caught the attention of former President Donald Trump, who has seized onto the audit to reinforce his false claim that the election was stolen. In a statement, Trump called Fann’s letter “devastating” and claimed, without evidence, that the database was “illegally deleted.”

Sellers called the Senate’s tweet “outrageous, completely baseless and beneath the dignity of the Arizona Senate” and demanded an immediate retraction.

It’s unclear if county officials will still take Fann up on her invitation. But following a closed-door meeting with his fellow supervisors, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and county attorneys, Sellers announced the board would hold its own public meeting on Monday to “refute lies and lay out facts about these issues.”

Maricopa County officials had already given the Senate a detailed response explaining why they refuse to hand over routers, citing security concerns that could possibly put law enforcement data at risk.

The Senate’s initial threat to subpoena Maricopa County officials once more also stemmed from their demand for passwords to Dominion Voting Systems equipment leased by the county. County officials have explained that since the equipment is Dominion’s, the Senate was asking the county for passwords the county doesn’t have.

In a statement Thursday, Dominion said it would not provide the Senate those passwords.

Dominion noted that it voluntarily provided the passwords to independent companies, hired by Maricopa County to conduct two audits in February, that were accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based cybersecurity firm hired by Fann to lead the Senate’s election review, isn’t accredited by the commission and has no prior experience auditing elections.

“Not only is Cyber Ninjas unaccredited, but they have also already demonstrated bias and incompetence,” the company said in a statement. “Releasing Dominion’s intellectual property to an unaccredited, biased and plainly unreliable actor such as Cyber Ninjas would be reckless, cause irreparable damage to the commercial interests of the company and the election security interests of the country.”

The latest standoff between Maricopa County and Senate Republicans comes as the Senate’s contractors prep for a one-week hiatus in the election review. The firms must vacate Veterans Memorial Coliseum to make way for high school graduation ceremonies, and have an agreement to store county voting systems and ballots in a separate building on the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

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Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.