Arizona election auditor takes back ‘deleted database’ claim

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The company hired to audit the results of the Maricopa County elections in Arizona is walking back its charge that the county deleted a “directory full of databases from the 2020 election cycle days before the election equipment was delivered to the audit.”

The admission came a day after the GOP-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors fired off a scathing letter to Republican Senate President Karen Fann that refuted the deleted database claim.

“Your ‘auditors’ are in way over their heads,” said the letter, which went on to call for the Senate president to end the “circus.”

The next day Ben Cotton, founder of the computer forensics firm CyFIR LLC that is working on the audit, told state senators at a hearing that he had located the data in question.

“I have the information I need from the recovery efforts of the data,” Mr. Cotton said at the hearing Tuesday.

It is the latest twist in a process Ms. Fann launched earlier this year by hiring an independent auditor to investigate Maricopa County’s results from the 2020 presidential election.

Things have not gone smoothly.

The CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the group hired to oversee the recount, had promoted election-rigging conspiracy theories before landing the job, and there are lingering questions about who is funding the massive effort, which kicked off in late April.

“You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’ while shining purple lights for effect,” the Maricopa board said in its letter to Ms. Fann. “None of these things are done in a serious audit.”

The questions about deleted databases are one of the “serious” issues Ms. Fann raised in a May 12 letter to the board.

That same day the official Twitter account of the audit sounded the alarm, in retrospect, prematurely.

“Breaking Update: Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases from the 2020 election cycle days before the election equipment was delivered to the audit,” the Twitter account said. “This is spoliation of evidence!”

Former President Donald Trump, who is cheering on the audit and insists the election was stolen from him, touted the allegations as a smoking gun.

“Many Radical Left Democrats and weak Republicans are very worried about the fact that this has been exposed,” Mr. Trump said. “The DELETION of an entire Database and critical election field of Maricopa County is unprecedented.”

Independent fact-checkers called the claim false.

Stephen Richer, a Republican who took over as Maricopa County recorder after the election, said Mr. Trump’s accusation was “unhinged.”

The Maricopa board, in its letter to Ms. Fann, said the deleted database accusations are “false, defamatory, and beneath the dignity of the Senate.”

Members of the board, which is composed of four Republicans and a Democrat, said that it is time to confront the “Big Lie” about the election, and warned the bogus charges are sowing doubt in the election system.

“Our state has become a laughing stock,” the letter read. “We implore you to recognize the obvious truth: your ‘auditors’ are in way over their heads.”

Ms. Fann, however, signaled Tuesday the audit will continue despite the missteps and blowback from local leaders.

This story is based in part on wire reports.

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