County spokeswoman Megan Gilbertson sent a statement to the Washington Examiner on Monday saying the county is informed of the images, which have been propelled around right-wing circles, but denied the materials obtained were from recent elections. "Maricopa County has not, and would never destroy, voted ballots until legally authorized to do so after the 24-month retention period," she said.
"The reality is the November General Election ballots are sealed and stored in the vault, not the warehouse," Gilbertson said. "The vault is under the watch of a 24-7 camera. None of the ballots or other General election materials from the vault were in the garbage, and as a matter of business, the county can and does throw out the trash."
Images of the dumpster diving were issued by the far-right website Gateway Pundit, which announced a retired Purple Heart veteran, entitled "Earl S," is a "wanted man" after investigating through the trash on county property and finding "illegally shredded ballots."
Gilbertson said one of the people who discovered the purported shredded ballots was "dumpster diving" and said security footage reveals people trying to break into the warehouse where ballots are saved using a board taken from the dumpster. It is not clear whether the suspect was the veteran or other people attempting to break into the warehouse.
"Maricopa County plans to follow up with law enforcement about these activities," she said.
The majority-Republican Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County previously tackled and delayed any independent forensic audit conducted by the Arizona Senate Republicans of the county’s results in the 2020 presidential election.
Although a judge recently obtained subpoenas issued by the Senate to recover county elections materials are "legal and enforceable," and the county began the method of packaging 2.1 million ballots to be counted and analyzed in beliefs the audit will restore voter confidence.
Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward issued a video statement Monday, saying, "The Arizona Senate is doing its due diligence on vetting the most qualified auditors of the 2020 election materials that we prevailed in court to gain access to."
Her statement comes less than a week after the county was told by Senate Republicans to stop its shipment of election materials for the review, as GOP members said recently they would prefer the audit to take place on county property.