Posts sharing information that the entire database of Maricopa County in Arizona was deleted amid an audit of the 2020 presidential election results are false.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, flipped Arizona by a margin of just over 10,000 votes out of more than 3.3 million cast statewide. Last month, the Republican-controlled state Senate ordered an audit of roughly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, where about 62 percent of Arizona's population resides (here).
The claim appears to stem from the fact that the auditing company struggled to access some files within the database.
The posts being shared with the claim appear to copy a statement released by former President Donald J. Trump on May 15, 2021 on his website here which says: “The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!” See full statement here .
Trump’s tweet came after the official Twitter account of the Senate liaison for the audit said in a May 12, 2021 tweet here : “Breaking Update: Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases from the 2020 election cycle days before the election equipment was delivered to the audit. This is spoliation of evidence!”
The same day, Senate President Karen Fann wrote to county Board of Supervisors chairman Jack Sellers on May 12, 2021 here , about three “serious issues” in the ongoing audit of the general election results. In the statement, Fann outlined “ongoing non-compliance with the legislative subpoenas”, “chain of custody and ballot organization anomalies” and “deleted databases.”
In the section about deleted databases, Fann wrote that the Senate discovered that the entire database directory from the D drive of the machine “EMSPrimary” was deleted and the main database for the Election Management System (EMS) software was not located where it was supposed to be, including a screenshot of the database.
Sellers, however, responded in a May 13, 2021 statement visible here saying, “After reviewing the letter with County election and IT experts, I can say the allegations are false and ill-informed. Moreover, the claim that our employees deleted election files and destroyed evidence is outrageous, completely baseless and beneath the dignity of the Arizona Senate. I demand an immediate retraction of any public statements made to the news media and spread via Twitter.”
Megan Gilbertson, communications director for Maricopa County Elections Department, confirmed to Reuters that the claims are false. “Maricopa County did not delete files when preparing the subpoenaed SQL server for delivery,” Gilbertson said.
The elections department also responded to Fann’s letter in another letter sent to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and County Recorder here on May 17, 2021.
The department said in this letter that nothing was deleted from the database when the server was being shut down and packed up to be sent to the Senate, and that the Senate simply did not retrieve the information from the system correctly.
In a press release from Maricopa County posted on May 17, 2021 here , elected leaders called for the State to end the audit and described the auditors as unqualified.
At the board of supervisors special meeting on May 17, 2021 visible here at the 4:58 mark, Sellers said: “We will be reviewing a response to the State Senate president’s attempt at illegitimatizing a grift disguised as an audit. One should be more concerned about what this exercise is costing us in time and money and why the ninjas can’t even find files that were already given to them by Maricopa County. They can’t find the files because they don’t know what they are doing.”
On May 18, 2021, Ben Cotton, founder of CyFIR, one of the firms hired in the audit, told senators at a hearing that he was able to recover the data (here).
Cyber Ninjas, the company leading the audit, has been criticized for its lack of experience in auditing an election and its CEO’s involvement in #stopthesteal and other similar comments showing support for Trump on Twitter, as explained by Slate here .
False. The Maricopa County databases for the 2020 general election were not deleted before an audit. According to the county elections department, the auditors did not correctly retrieve the data from the system. One of the firms hired in the audit later confirmed they were able to see the data.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
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