ARIZONA NEWS

Maricopa County commits nearly $3M to replace voting equipment after audit

Jul 14, 2021, 11:56 AM | Updated: 3:32 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 – Maricopa County on Wednesday committed nearly $3 million to replace election equipment that officials say can’t be reused after it was in the hands of uncertified auditors.

The Republican-led Board of Supervisors in metro Phoenix voted to amend the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems to cover the cost of 385 precinct tabulators and nine central counters, plus related election management hardware.

“The frustrating thing is, those were perfectly good machines which passed all of our accuracy tests from the time we first got them in 2019,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers said in a press release.

“The taxpayer paid good money for them, but now this equipment will have to be decommissioned because the Senate didn’t take our warnings about chain-of-custody seriously.”

Maricopa County’s lease deal with Dominion runs through the end of 2022. Adding the new equipment increases the cost of the contract from $6.1 million to $9 million, according to the county.

“Imagine leasing a car and then loaning it to someone who totals it. You’re still on the hook to pay off the wrecked car. Plus, you need a new car. That’s basically what we’re doing with this amendment,” Sellers said.

“We’re getting the car that will get us through the next year and a half and then we’ll reevaluate.”

It’s not clear whether the county will try passing the additional expense along to the state Senate, although Sellers hinted that might be the case.

“I’m just glad we had the Senate sign that indemnification contract,” he said.

In May, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told the county that the machines subpoenaed by state Senate Republicans are compromised and would be decertified.

“A broad percentage of the Arizona public would not have confidence in these machines after the Cyber Ninjas returned them,” Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who defeated Democratic incumbent Adrian Fontes in 2020, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann hired Cyber Ninjas to lead several other contractors to examine voting equipment and conduct a hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots from the November 2020 general election in Arizona’s largest county.

The audit began April 23 and is still going, with results not expected until late July or August. Only two races that Democrats won — president and U.S. Senate – were tallied in the recount.

Maricopa County officials and others have questioned the methods, competence and motives of Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity firm with no previous experience in election audits.

“When Senate leadership chose novices to conduct their audit rather than reputable, certified companies, they wasted an expensive investment that had served Maricopa County voters well in 2019 and 2020,” Sellers said.

The Board of Supervisors, which consists of four Republicans and one Democrat, previously authorized two audits by independent contractors who are certified by the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

Those audits found no problems, but state Senate Republicans subpoenaed the county for access to the election materials at the urging of supporters of Donald Trump who refused to accept President Joe Biden’s narrow victory Maricopa County and statewide.

Fann selected Cyber Ninjas’ bid of just $150,000 to conduct an audit that will likely end up costing millions. Several private campaigns have been launched to raise funds in the name of the audit, but there is no public record of where the money is coming from.

Fann has said the aim of the process is to restore faith in the election system and find ways to improve Arizona’s voting laws, not to reverse the result of the election.

However, many Trump supporters still see it as a step toward invalidating Biden’s victory and returning Trump to office.

Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the board’s only Democrat, made it clear who he thinks is to blame for the situation the county finds itself in.

“We’re in this position because you have Trump and Trump loyalists who continue to want to undermine our democracy, undermine the will of the voters and really utilize this whole fake audit as a way not only to push what ultimately is a big lie that is based on unfounded claims, that is now being utilized just to raise money for political purposes,” Gallardo said during Wednesday’s board meeting.

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Maricopa County commits nearly $3M to replace voting equipment after audit