Republicans in the Arizona state Senate are officially off the hook for the $2.8 million needed to replace hundreds of voting machines ruined during the GOP-led, scandal-ridden "audit" of the 2020 election results in the state, the Arizona Republic reported.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in August to force GOP state senators — who had signed an agreement saying that they would be responsible for any costs incurred from their "forensic audit" of the state's 2020 election — to pay the millions for the machines.
The county had determined that the machines were no longer usable after audit workers compromised the tabulators and left them vulnerable to security risks.
Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel informed the GOP senators in August:
The County incurred costs as a result of its election equipment being compromised while in the control of the Senate. Specifically, and as explained more fully below, the Senate allowed unqualified persons to handle, examine, and manipulate the County's election equipment in ways that compromised it and rendered it unfit to be used in future elections. As a result, the County has had to replace the subpoenaed election equipment at a cost to the County of $2,833,220.00. These costs are directly recoverable from the Senate pursuant to the Covenant of Indemnification.
But the Arizona Republic reports that Maricopa County reached a deal on Friday that would let the GOP lawmakers off the hook for the millions in damages. As part of the deal, Maricopa County will pay the costs of replacing the voting machines from its taxpayer-funded budget — despite the Senate's indemnification agreement that promised taxpayers wouldn't foot the bill for any costs stemming from the audit effort.
In return for dropping the costs, Arizona's Republican attorney general backed off his own threat to withhold $700 million in annual state funding to the county — or nearly half of its operating budget — because Maricopa County had not complied with one of numerous subpoena demands. Republicans in the Arizona Senate had subpoenaed routers from the county as part of their audit, but the county refused to turn them over, saying it could pose a security risk, according to the Arizona Republic's report.
Now, despite dropping its demand that the Senate pay for the ruined voting machines, Maricopa County will still have to answer questions about the routers, the Arizona Republic reported. But the Senate agreed to have the review done by former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) rather than by Cyber Ninjas, the firm that conducted the audit and is run by an avid Donald Trump supporter who has promoted lies about election fraud.
Republican Senate President Karen Fann called the compromise a "HUGE win" for the Senate.
"Maricopa settlement gives us all the data needed to complete the review of the routers & splunk log to the most comprehensive election audit in history," Fann tweeted. "We got everything we need and more. Maricopa County goes home with its tail between its legs."
She told the Associated Press that the compromise was "a victory for election integrity and the Arizona taxpayer."
The GOP Senate has yet to release a report of its findings from the audit, which has been plagued by scandal and incompetence. Cyber Ninjas now says the report should be out Friday, blaming the delay on the fact that a number of its staff contracted serious cases of COVID-19.
Election experts said auditors did not follow proper procedure in counting the more than 2 million ballots it was reviewing and accused Cyber Ninjas and the GOP-led Senate of trying to back up Trump's voter fraud lies instead of accurately recounting the vote.
Even some GOP lawmakers in the state started to turn against the audit, saying it made Republicans look like "idiots." Polling also showed the audit is unpopular with voters and poses an electoral risk for the GOP in the 2022 midterm elections.
Prior to this audit, multiple previous recounts had found that there were no irregularities in the results and that President Joe Biden had won the state.
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who campaigned for Trump and for former Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), wrote a letter in August chastising his own party for the audit, saying, "I'm embarrassed listening to my party concoct the most outlandish theories (Chinese ballots!) to avoid accepting the reality: We lost the top two races in Arizona."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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