Hobbs says voting machines can’t be reused, were ‘compromised’ by audit

May 20, 2021, 1:36 PM | Updated: 1:54 pm
Maricopa County elections staffers take inventory before retrieving machines auditors finished insp...
Maricopa County elections staffers take inventory before retrieving machines auditors finished inspecting. (Twitter Photo/@MaricopaVote)
(Twitter Photo/@MaricopaVote)

PHOENIX – Arizona’s top elections official is telling Maricopa County leaders that the equipment they were forced to turn over for the ongoing Arizona Senate audit “has been compromised” and can’t be used in future elections.

“Instead, the county should acquire new machines to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County going forward,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said Thursday in a letter to the county Board of Supervisors.

The county said it was reviewing the letter but would never use equipment that “could pose a risk to free and fair elections.”

According to ABC15, replacing the machines could cost $6.5 million.

Hobbs’ letter says that election security experts, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told her office that once machines leave the custody of elections officials there’s no way to ensure they are safe to use again.

“I have grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines, given that the chain of custody, a critical security tenet, has been compromised and election officials do not know what was done to the machines while under Cyber Ninjas’ control,” the letter says.

Cyber Ninjas is the Florida-based cybersecurity company hired by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to lead three other contractors in doing a hand count of nearly 2.1 million ballots and a forensic audit of equipment and computer systems from the November 2020 election in the state’s largest county.

Hobbs noted that her concerns are only about the election equipment the county delivered to the auditors, not the underlying Dominion voting system.

Maricopa County spokesman Fields Moseley told KTAR News 92.3 FM that attorneys were reviewing Hobbs’ letter and issued the following statement from the elections department “for context — not as a direct response to the letter”:

Subpoenaing tabulation equipment is an unprecedented action in Arizona. State statutes and the Elections Procedures Manual never contemplated the tabulation equipment leaving the custody of the Elections Department. While the central count tabulators and other equipment were returned, the Senate still has 385 precinct-based tabulators that were subject to the subpoena. We are working with our attorneys on next steps, costs and what will be needed to ensure only certified equipment is used in Maricopa County. We will not use any of the returned tabulation equipment unless the county, state and vendor are confident that there is no malicious hardware or software installed on the devices. The voters of Maricopa County can rest assured that we will not use any equipment — ever — that could pose a risk to free and fair elections. The Elections Department has implemented back up plans that included using new tabulation equipment for elections in 2021, which was first used for the March Jurisdictional Election.

In February, after months of legal battles, a judge ruled that the Senate’s subpoena for the election materials was enforceable.

County officials fought the subpoena citing security concerns. When they were forced to comply, they refused to allow the audit to be conducted on county property or use county resources.

The auditors instead rented out Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the state fairgrounds, where the county delivered the ballots and machines.

The audit started April 23 and went on hiatus this week because of previously scheduled graduation ceremonies at the Coliseum, where the counting will resume Monday under a lease that runs through the end of June.

Audit officials estimated that about 500,000 ballots, less than a quarter of the total, had been counted when the break began.

The auditors have been returning equipment to the county after completing their inspections.

Hobbs, a Democrat, said that if the county attempts to redeploy the machines, her office will “consider decertification proceedings.”

The audit has been controversial since Fann, a Republican, selected Cyber Ninjas’ $150,000 bid to lead it because company founder Doug Logan’s deleted Twitter account was found to have actively supported unfounded election conspiracy theories.

Maricopa County leaders, most of whom are Republicans, have accused Cyber Ninjas of malicious accusations and incompetency.

Fann maintains that the audit is a way to restore confidence in elections.

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Hobbs says voting machines can’t be reused, were ‘compromised’ by audit