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A Desperate Trump Revives Debunked “Deleted Files” Claim About Arizona Ballots

The claim originated from a mistake made by auditors in Maricopa County, Arizona, who quickly walked it back in May.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the Rally To Protect Our Elections conference on July 24, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona.

This past weekend, former President Donald Trump held a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, where he continued to peddle false claims about election fraud, including pushing the assertion that data for an audit in Maricopa County had been deleted by election officials — a false contention that was debunked two months ago.

Trump made a number of false notions during the event, including telling those in attendance that dead people had voted in the 2020 presidential election in the state last fall, and that 168,000 ballots were discovered to be fraudulent, thanks to the questionable audit being managed by a firm called Cyber Ninjas, a company with no prior election auditing experience. Both of those claims have been widely discredited.

One of the claims Trump made on Saturday stuck out, as it had originated directly from the auditors themselves but they had walked it back soon after when it was revealed to be erroneous. Trump told his rally-goers that these auditors were unable to conduct part of their work because county election officials had deleted files meant for their inspection.

“Unbelievably, the auditors have testified that the master database for the election management system, I’m sorry to tell you, has been deleted…. Meaning the main database for all of the election-related data in Maricopa for 2020 has been illegally erased,” Trump said. “It’s been erased.”

That claim has been proven to be untrue. Back in May, firms contracted out by Cyber Ninjas, the company with zero experience in election auditing that was hired by Arizona Republican legislators to audit votes in Maricopa County, had suggested that data files pertaining to their work were deleted prior to their receiving them, implying that county officials had destroyed them.

Such an action would have been illegal, and county officials soon after said those claims by the firms were false, noting that the companies had simply been looking in the wrong place in the data for the files.

The firms walked back their claims, without, of course, admitting that the error had been theirs all along.

“They don’t know what they’re doing,” said Jack Sellers, chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors, in May, in response to the false allegations. “And we wouldn’t be asked to do this on-the-job training if qualified auditors had been hired to do this work.”

In spite of the claims by auditors being proven false more than two months ago, Trump still repeated the allegation to his followers at the rally he held on Saturday, indicating that he intends to use the audit as a means to continue peddling his debunked election fraud allegations.

Other claims from Trump that evening, including him stating that 18,000 voters were “purged from the rolls immediately after the election,” were checked and found to be false in a fact-checking analysis from The Associated Press.

“This didn’t happen,” the AP article noted, pointing out that 13,320 voters were indeed removed from the rolls, but that only happened two months following the election, well after Arizona had certified its results.

That claim, too, emanated from persons tied to the audit, having first been pushed by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan.

Although the claims from Trump have been proven false time and time again, polling from within Arizona indicates that most Republican voters wrongly believe the audit will prove him to be the true winner of the state’s narrow election contest last year, which saw President Joe Biden win by more than 10,000 votes.

According to an OH Predictive Insights poll conducted earlier this month, Arizona residents overall largely believe the outcome of the race will be unchanged, with just 31 percent saying Trump will be named the true victor while 53 percent say the audit will still find Biden the winner. But among Republican respondents in the poll, 62 percent said the audit will prove Trump won, while only 21 percent of GOP voters said they think the audit will prove Biden did.

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