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Arizona 'audit' team vacates fairgrounds, though more space may be needed

For the first time since the election review began in April, the state Senate’s team of self-styled auditors has vacated the state fairgrounds near downtown Phoenix.

The nearly 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 general election were returned to Maricopa County election officials on Thursday, and as of Friday, all of the team’s remaining equipment and materiel had been cleared out, according to election review spokesman Randy Pullen. The Senate’s lease for the Wesley Bolin Building, where the effort relocated from Veterans Memorial Coliseum in late June, ends on Saturday. 

However, the departure from the fairgrounds may not be permanent. Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen issued new subpoenas earlier this week to both the county and to Dominion Voting Systems, which provides the county’s ballot tabulation machines. The subpoenas demand that Dominion turn over administrative passwords for its machines — which election officials aren’t privy to — and that the county provide routers used by its election department, along with other data.

Depending on what the county and Dominion provide in response to the subpoenas before the 1 p.m. Monday deadline, the election review team may need more space, Pullen said. For example, if Dominion turns over the passwords, the team led by Florida-based cybersecurity company Cyber Ninjas may need to take possession of the county’s voting machines again, which Pullen said would require about 1,000 square feet of space. If the county provides ballot envelopes, that will take up space as well. 

The response to the subpoenas will also determine how long it takes the audit team to complete its final report. Pullen said the team began working on the report a week ago.

If the Senate and the Cyber Ninjas team need more space at the fairgrounds sometime in the next month, getting a new lease shouldn’t be a problem. Jen Yee, the assistant executive director for the Arizona Exposition and State Fair, said there aren’t any events planned for the fairgrounds until the Crossroads of the West gun show on Sept. 11-12, which will be held in the coliseum. After that, Yee said it hasn’t been decided yet whether the state fair will be held as planned at Wild Horse Pass, or whether it will still be held at the Phoenix fairgrounds.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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Jeremy Duda/Arizona Mirror

A security guard closes the fencing outside the north entrance at the Wesley Bolin Building at the state fairgrounds on July 28, 2021, as the Arizona Senate election audit team prepared to return ballots to Maricopa County election officials, remove equipment and vacate the facility.