Ballots, laptops reportedly left unattended during Arizona vote audit, official says

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) on Wednesday raised concerns about the procedures in the Republican-led audit of 2020 election results in Arizona’s largest county, specifically pointing to workers reportedly leaving ballots and computers unattended during the recount.

Hobbs in a six-page letter to former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R), who is serving as a spokesman for the Maricopa County election audit, outlined several reported and observed practices that the Democrat wrote “has not been reassuring.”

“Mr. Bennett, as a former Secretary of State, you know that our elections are governed by a complex framework of laws and procedures designed to ensure accuracy, security, and transparency,” Hobbs wrote. “You also must therefore know that the procedures governing this audit ensure none of those things.” 

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Hobbs in the letter pointed out several alleged practices observed by her office that she found “troubling,” including “that the observers associated with the audit are now instructed not to speak with the SOS observers, and that counters are instructed to not to talk when an SOS observer is near their table.” 

The secretary of state then argued that there has been “inadequate physical security of ballots.” 

“It appears that boxes containing ballots were stored on the counting floor in fenced-off areas,” she wrote. “This chain-link fencing, however, appears to be only about 8 feet tall, and there is no ‘ceiling’ or top fencing to prevent an unauthorized person from climbing the exterior fencing to gain access to the ballots.” 

The secretary of state added that on several occasions, “it has been noted that the computers used by the forensics teams have been left unlocked and unattended, sometimes with files still open.”

“Failing to adequately secure these workstations when not in use could allow anyone on the floor to access them and alter dates, files, or programs,” she wrote. “This is even more concerning given the open questions about hiring practices that have allowed those with clear political bias — and a desire to overturn the results of the 2020 election — to be present and participating on the floor.”

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The letter contains the latest in a series of criticisms from Hobbs against the audit of nearly 2.1 million ballots ordered by Arizona’s GOP-led Senate, despite legal efforts by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to block the subpoenas for election ballots. 

Republicans hired a Florida-based private contractor called Cyber Ninjas to handle the recount. The company's chief executive has backed former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread 2020 election fraud. 

The audit’s Twitter account, Maricopa Arizona Audit, responded to Hobbs’s letter Wednesday by arguing that the secretary of state, who has previously called the recount a “farce,” was promoting “baseless claimes [sic] about this forensic audit.” 

The Hill has reached out to Bennett for comment on Hobbs’s Wednesday letter.