Was the Voter Database ‘Deleted’ in Maricopa County, Arizona?

No.

On March 15, Donald Trump released a statement claiming that the voter database in Maricopa County, Arizona had been “deleted.”

Arizona Republicans, recycling familiar voter fraud claims, last month initiated an audit of ballots from Maricopa County, claiming that Trump won the state. The new, partisan audit has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud or, as some have claimed, produced new votes.

Trump’s statement continues with further unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud: “[S]eals were broken on the boxes that hold the votes, ballots are missing, and worse. Mark Brnovich, the Attorney General of Arizona, will now be forced to look into this unbelievable Election crime.”

Trump’s accusations stem from a May 12 letter written by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to Maricopa County officials claiming, among other things, that auditors identified deleted files on a county machine, according to an Arizona Republic story reprinted in USA Today

The official Twitter account of the Senate liaison for the Maricopa County audit tweeted a similar accusation that same day, saying: “Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases from the 2020 election cycle.”

This is a false claim. The Maricopa voter database was not deleted.

The Maricopa County Elections Department released a memo “to document the analysis that the Elections Department and Recorder Office’s Information Technology Teams performed in response to Senate President Karen Fann’s letter dated May 12, 2021.”

The statement refuted the claim, among others, that data had been deleted: “On April 12, 2021, the Recorder Office’s IT Team, shut down the server to be packed up and made ready for delivery to the Senate. At no point was any data deleted when shutting down the server and packing up the equipment.”

Maricopa County Elections Department also has said: “The County provided the Senate 8 terabytes of data, including Results Tally & Reporting logs from the 2020 November General Election.” 

Also included in the Maricopa County Elections Department memo is background on Fann’s missing data allegation. Included in her letter was a screenshot that Fann claimed to be evidence of missing data. However, county officials said, Fann’s screenshot does not indicate that files were missing or deleted: “The screenshot does not identify what type of search your ‘auditors’ ran, and you conveniently failed to provide the full report the search generated. However, the table at the bottom of the screenshot appears to indicate that certain data is missing because it ‘extends beyond disk bounds’ of the copied hard drive searched.” 

Further, county officials wrote in their response to Fann that: “Regardless, the failure of your so called ‘auditors’ to locate data files on the copy they made of the County’s server speaks more to their ineptitude than it does to the integrity and actions of our dedicated public employees who effectively and accurately run the elections in the fourth largest county in the United States.

Jack Sellers, a Republican who chairs the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, also responded to Fann’s letter: “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.”

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, also a Republican, responded to the claim of deleted files, calling Trump’s statement “readily falsifiable.”

On May 19, the Senate liaison for the Maricopa County audit, walked back on claims of “deleted databases” saying: “I was able to recover the deleted databases through forensic data recovery processes. We are performing data continuity checks to ensure that the recovered databases are usable.”

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