(WASHINGTON) — Arizona’s partisan audit of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots restarted on Monday, as county officials seek litigation over ballot handling and potential defamation.
Stephen Richer, the Republican recorder in charge of administering Maricopa County’s elections, has started speaking out against the process, and said Monday on ABC News Live’s “The Breakdown,” that there was no “legitimate reason that would have prompted this audit.”
“It’s happening, not because the evidence merits it,” Richer told ABC News Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran. “All the tests came back clean. The parties themselves oversaw the hand-count auditing of 47,000 plus votes.”
Richer told Moran he takes issue with the fact that Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity company with no experience in auditing elections, was the firm the Senate chose after it used its subpoena power to compel election machines and ballots.
“And the frustrating bit is that some professional, legitimate companies did make bids to the Arizona Senate to do this work and we would have welcomed that,” he said.
Richer, who was elected in November, began voicing concerns about the audit after officials falsely claimed on Twitter that Maricopa County deleted voter files before surrendering ballots and voting machines to the Senate. The lie that the county deleted those files then spread across the internet, even drawing attention from former President Donald Trump, who lost Arizona by just over 10,000 votes in November.
“This is where this crossed the line for me,” he told ABC News Monday. “I wanted to stay out of this, but when the good workers of Maricopa County — who are my friends, my teammates, my staff — are accused of unlawfully destroying evidence under my watch, then I had to say something.”
Richer eventually weighed in on the process and fired back at audit officials on Twitter.
“Enough with the defamation,” he wrote on Twitter on May 14. “Enough with the unfounded allegations. I came to this office to competently, fairly, and lawfully administer the duties of the office. Not to be accused by own party of shredding ballots and deleting files for an election I didn’t run. Enough.”
The county wrote to the Senate on Friday, asking them to preserve all documents related to the administration of the audit in a litigation hold. Richer told Moran on Monday that the county is looking to pursue charges of defamation.
“If the auditors want to look for bamboo paper, fine if they want to use UV lights, fine. I don’t think that will convince anyone about the validity of their efforts,” he said. “That’s one thing, it’s entirely a different thing to be accusing us of breaking the law, and not just accusing us, but the manner in which they did it. They did it from an anonymously run Twitter account.”
Election experts, including Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, have said that the procedures used for conducting the audit don’t fit the status quo and that the results will not be trustworthy. Hobbs also wrote to the county warning that the voting machines they rented would be unusable in future elections due to “grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines” during the audit, when they were not in the hands of official vendors certified by the Election Assistance Commission.
Arizona’s so-called audit, which election experts say is not legitimate, is now fueling calls for new audits in other states. Late last week, a Georgia judge agreed to unseal absentee ballots in Fulton County, despite the fact that those ballots were already recounted three times.
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