Maricopa County officials held a press conference and issued a response Wednesday to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s first Interim Report on the 2020 Maricopa County independent ballot audit, prompting a sharp reaction from Brnovich. He said in a letter to supporters, “[T]he Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and County Recorder continue to throw stones at Attorney General Brnovich instead of working to address the serious issues identified in the interim report.” Jen Wright, head of his Elections Integrity Unit, who has lengthy experience investigating voter fraud for the Arizona Republican Party, sent a response back to their attorney with “serious concerns.”

Brnovich also released a video response, calling the county officials out for attacking him over the findings instead of addressing them. He asked why they ignored his finding that “up to 200,000 ballots did not have the proper chain of custody.” Second, “[A]s far as ballot signature authentication, you know, whether it took six seconds, eight seconds, or 10 seconds, why doesn’t the Board of Supervisors tell us exactly what they did, how long it took, and whether they believe it was an adequate amount of time?”

Brnovich pointed out that Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, on whose letterhead the county officials’ wrote their response, previously criticized the County over election integrity. Richer was able to defeat the Democratic incumbent County Recorder Adrian Fontes in part by attacking him on election integrity.

The 59-page document was signed by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, Vice Chairman Clint Hickman, Supervisor Thomas Galvin, Supervisor Jack Sellers, and Supervisor Steve Gallardo.

Brnovich expressed his disappointment that the county officials were not going to address the issues listed in his report. “I was very disappointed with today’s press conference with the Maricopa County Supervisors and the County Recorder because we already live in very divisive times. … The reality is, we issued an interim report that identified several issues that need to be addressed.”

The county officials’ letter took a very defiant tone, declaring, “The 2020 election was fair and the results indisputable.” They made subtle threats to Brnovich’s law license, “Given the oaths you took as both a lawyer and elected official, we were shocked by your April 6th letter.”

They asserted that the County conducted its own review of the chain of custody problems and said it didn’t affect 200,000 voters, but didn’t explain how they came to a different number. They claimed, in direct contradiction to Brnovich’s report, “We volunteered in good faith to work with your investigators to answer any and all questions.” Similarly, “We have fulfilled every single public records request.”

The letter got argumentative and repetitive, starting multiple sentences in a row, “We did this despite…” Each sentence listed off various unrelated duties taking place at the County. Much of the letter appears to be merely complaining about having to respond to the requests for information as they came in throughout the investigation.

They dodged Brnovich’s concern that only a few seconds were spent verifying signatures, and instead point to the fact Brnovich did not instruct them on what number of seconds is best. They accompanied it with another subtle threat to his bar license, saying that his “speculation” about the seconds spent “seems inappropriate for a prosecutor to publish.”

Wright responded in her letter regarding the limited number of seconds taken to analyze ballot signatures, “It is not clear to either lawmakers or voters how your staff and temporary employees (with limited training and who are expected to process 500 signatures each hour), can perform this task without error or fatigue, and why the percentage of rejected signatures varies from election to election. … The time your staff spends analyzing signatures does not appear sufficient given the hundreds of thousands of signatures that need to be processed in a short period.”

The county officials state that artificial intelligence (AI) was not used to verify signatures during the 2020 election, and accuse Brnovich of lying about it during an appearance on Steve Bannon’s War Room. However, Wright’s letter cites internal emails from the Recorder’s office exchanged with the AI signature verification company Runbeck, discussing how Runbeck employees matched signatures from Maricopa County voters. Runbeck then assigned confidence levels to different batches of emails, she said. “It’s hard to believe human verifiers disregard batch assignments, despite Maricopa’s assertions to the contrary.”

She concluded, “Although Maricopa continues to suggest that signature verification was not done exclusively using the AI technology, it is a procedure that was integrated into Maricopa County’s signature verification process in June of 2020 without either approval from the Secretary of State or public discussion (either at the county or state level) regarding its intended use or veracity.” She cited a statement in the 2022 election plan that indicates the County intends to use AI this year as well.

As for Brnovich’s finding that the number of ballots due to rejected or missing signatures was a low number, the county officials disregarded the finding as speculation on his part, since he didn’t provide them with scientific studies.

They also ignored Brnovich’s concerns about private money that was received and spent by the County, instead of explaining how the money was used. Over $2.5 million was given to Maricopa County for the 2020 election from the left-wing organization Center for Technology and Civic Life. As a result of suspected illegal voting activity in Maricopa County and other Arizona counties that received the funding, the Arizona Legislature passed a law prohibiting those types of private funds in the future.

The county officials threatened Brnovich a third time with disbarment, citing an ABA rule which cautions prosecutors about what they say during ongoing criminal cases. However, ABA rules are not binding on attorneys.

They further assert that the AG office previously has not spoken up during prosecutions, which is inaccurate. Prosecutors frequently speak out during prosecutions. “In publishing this ‘interim report,’ you have seemingly deviated from your office’s usual practices and the universally accepted standards for ethical behavior by prosecutors.”

The Maricopa County officials ended the letter threatening his law license a fourth time, “We should not have to remind you of your oaths,” and accused him of spreading misinformation.

Read the letter.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].