Top Arizona election official says GOP election audit compromised voting machines

1271

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs says she has 'grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines' after the GOP audit and recommended that new machines be purchased.

The Republican-led audit of Arizona's 2020 election results has run into more problems, after Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said the auditors carelessness with voting equipment left machines vulnerable to tampering and recommended that entirely new equipment be purchased for future elections.

Hobbs, a Democrat, made the comments in a Thursday letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, saying she has "grave concerns" about the security of the equipment after it was reviewed by Cyber Ninjas, the firm Republican state Senate President Karen Fann hired to run the audit she forced. Cyber Ninjas is run by a Donald Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist who falsely believes the 2020 election was stolen.

Hobbs wrote in the letter, obtained by a local Arizona television station:

Unfortunately, after a loss of physical custody and control, no comprehensive methods exist to fully rehabilitate the compromised equipment or provide adequate assurance that they remain safe to use. While the machines could be put through an intensive and costly forensic examination by an accredited, national forensics laboratory, even after such forensic examination, machines are generally not recommissioned given that the forensic analysis cannot be guaranteed to locate all potential problems.

Hobbs added that she "did not reach this decision lightly," given how costly purchasing new voting equipment would be.

"However, given the circumstances and ongoing concerns regarding the handling and security of the equipment, I believe the County can agree that this is the only path forward to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County in the future," Hobbs wrote.

Buying new machines could cost as much as $6 million, according to Garrett Archer, a former election analyst for the Arizona secretary of state's office and current data analyst at ABC15, a local Arizona television station.

That could be costly for Fann and state Senate Republicans, as Fann signed an indemnification agreement with Maricopa County swearing that if machines were damaged during the audit the county would not be responsible for the expenses incurred, according to Arizona reporter Ben Giles.

Hobbs' recommendation that millions of dollars worth of equipment be replaced comes after Republicans already began speaking out against the hand recount of some 2 million ballots in Maricopa County.

Republicans forced the audit, despite the fact that two previous independent audits had found no evidence of fraud or irregularities.

Now, weeks into the process, Republicans like state Sen. Paul Boyer have said the audit has been an embarrassment for the GOP.

"It makes us look like idiots," Boyer, who initially supported the audit, told the New York Times. "Looking back, I didn't think it would be this ridiculous. It's embarrassing to be a state senator at this point."

Meanwhile, the heavily Republican Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said in both a fiery letter to Fann, as well as in a news conference on Monday, that the audit must stop.

The letter from the Board of Supervisors went on to accuse Fann and state Senate Republicans of "not acting in good faith," saying the Republican lawmakers had "no intention of learning anything about the November 2020 General Election" and are "only interested in feeding the various festering conspiracy theories that fuel the fundraising schemes of those pulling your strings."

The Department of Justice has raised concerns that the entire audit may be illegal, as outside contractors should not have had access to ballots this soon after an election according to federal election law.

"We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss," Pamela S. Karlan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, wrote in a letter to Fann earlier in May.

What's more, Jennifer Morrell — an election audit expert who has been observing the Arizona audit — wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published on Wednesday that, "In more than a decade working on elections, audits and recounts across the country, I've never seen one this mismanaged."

Ultimately, it's unclear when the audit will wrap up. It's currently on pause, as the arena where the counting was taking place had been previously booked for high school graduations. Even before the pause, the audit was running far behind schedule.

Morrell said the outcome of the audit will be meaningless because it was so poorly and improperly run, yet she fears it will be used by conspiracy theorists to prove their voter fraud lies.

Trump himself is already using lies auditors told to claim vindication that his stolen election lies were true.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer called Trump's lie-filled statement about the audit "unhinged."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.