Election data from the politicized “audit” of Maricopa County, Arizona’s 2020 election results has made its way across multiple state lines to a secure “lab” — or maybe a cabin — in Montana.
The purported lab location, CNN reported Wednesday night, is the residence of the founder of an audit subcontractor who lives off of a Montana highway.
The Arizona Republic first reported the story two weeks ago: Ben Cotton, the founder of the audit’s tech contractor CyFIR, made copies of Maricopa County’s election server and other data and drove them to what one audit spokesperson described as a “secure lab” in Montana. The spokesperson, Ken Bennett, told the Republic he didn’t have any details on how Cotton was keeping that data secure.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ (D) office had earlier noted the Montana twist on its website: “Observation: On May 24, 2021, Senate Liaison Ken Bennett confirmed that copies of voting system data was sent to a lab in Montana. He did not specify what security measures were in place, or what the lab in Montana will do with the data or how long it will be in possession of the copies.”
The Republic reported that Ryan Macias, an elections expert who’s observing the audit for Hobbs’ office, asked Bennett about the data traveling to Montana after hearing a rumor about it.
The Republic and CNN noted that Cotton, in addition to being the founder of CyFIR, is also CEO of its precursor company CyTech. CyTech’s website, which lists Cotton as CEO, also lists a Montana address off of Montana Highway 83 in Bigfork, not far from Flathead Lake. Records indicate Cotton is the property owner, the Republic and CNN reported.
It’s not clear what data traveled to Montana. Neither the audit, CyTech nor CyFIR responded to TPM’s requests for comment.
CNN followed up in person, sending reporter Gary Tuchman to the Montana property and capturing what appeared to be drone footage of the land.
CNN got some aerial footage of the "lab" (maybe a log cabin) where some Maricopa County election data was transported recently, as @JenAFifield first reported a couple weeks ago (https://t.co/4Lkd6ZYNsh) pic.twitter.com/pz9e7FH4jw
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) June 17, 2021
Cotton’s audit work was in the news last month after state Senate President Karen Fann (R), who authorized the audit in the first place, claimed that a database directory had been deleted from the information that Maricopa County had handed over to the Senate.
Cotton subsequently reported to Fann that “I’ve been able to recover all of those deleted files, and I have access to that data” — prompting a round of heckling from the county’s Twitter feed.