- In April, Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann agreed to "indemnify" Maricopa County.
- The agreement said the state Senate would cover the cost of replacing election equipment.
- The county had to replace machines that had been handed over for the Cyber Ninjas "audit."
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In a unanimous vote, Maricopa County's Republican-led Board of Supervisors has decided to serve notice to the Arizona state Senate that it may file a lawsuit if the legislature does not come up with $2.8 million to cover the cost of replacing election equipment "compromised" by a partisan, third-party review of the 2020 election.
"We should never be in the position that we are in, having to procure new equipment for upcoming elections," Steve Gallardo, the board's lone Democrat, said at a meeting on Wednesday. "What has happened over the last 8 months or so has just been an injustice and has really has hurt the reputation and credibility of not only our elections department," he said, "but our democracy."
Since April, Cyber Ninjas, a private firm whose founder has falsely claimed the 2020 vote was "rigged" against former President Donald Trump, has been reviewing some 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County on behalf of the state's GOP-led Senate.
President Joe Biden won Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, by more than 45,000 votes, a victory certified last year by the board of supervisors, which also audited the results. But some supporters of the defeated president have refused to acknowledge his loss, instead offering numerous conspiracy theories, including that fake ballots had been printed in China - a claim that led the state Senate's auditors to scan Maricopa County ballots for traces of "bamboo."
The Cyber Ninjas process has faced intense criticism from Democrats as well as election experts, who say it has significantly deviated from the standards of a credible audit and "should not be trusted." Even the state Senate's appointed liaison to the review, former Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett, has told Insider it has all been "very odd," with Cyber Ninjas refusing to tell him the actual results of its ballot count.
The review itself has already cost taxpayers $150,000 - supplemented by millions of dollars in private donations.
In May, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, instructed Maricopa County to stop using any machines that had been handled by Cyber Ninjas, noting that elections officials could no longer guarantee they had not been tampered with.
The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency echoed that advise. "If it is determined that the chain of custody of critical systems have been compromised, the safest practice is to decommission and replace those systems," a spokesperson said in a statement.
Fields Moseley, a spokesperson for the county, told Insider on Wednesday the notice of a potential lawsuit was filed to cover the cost of tabulation equipment - hundreds of ballot tabulators from Dominion Voting Systems - that "could not be used in future elections because Senate leadership provided the equipment to uncertified auditors."
Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel, in the notice itself, likewise said the state Senate had "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." The county has already purchased replacement equipment.
In April, Sen. Fann signed an agreement with the county for the senate to cover "any and all expenses" resulting from election equipment "being damaged, altered, or otherwise compromised."
In a statement, however, the lawmaker insisted there was no need to discard the original machines, indicating that a legal battle could ensue.
"This is yet another publicity stunt by Maricopa County," she told Insider. "This shows they prefer to shower taxpayer dollars on Dominion and lawyers, rather than having an honest conversation about the audit. Machines were not damaged or tampered with and they know it."
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