The auditors paid by Arizona Senate Republicans to review Maricopa County’s 2020 general election said Thursday they have found security flaws and want to dig further.
County officials, however, said the auditors’ announcements are the latest in a series of sham declarations meant to cast doubt on the results and spur a redo of the election.
A hearing in Phoenix on Thursday consisted of only Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, and Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, asking questions of Ken Bennett, former Arizona secretary of state and liaison for the Senate in audit; Doug Logan, CEO of auditing firm Cyber Ninjas; and Ben Cotton of digital security firm CyFIR.
The auditors didn’t announce any final numbers that would infer elections were stolen, but they highlighted security issues they had found in their weeks-long investigation of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots.
Cotton said the voting machines hadn’t received a security patch, something common with home and business cybersecurity, since 2019, when they were certified. The county responded to the claim by saying they “cannot update our systems through security patches. That is why we maintained an air gapped system. Installing security patches would be changing the system that was certified.”
Cotton told lawmakers one of the systems received 37,000 queries one day in February even though the system had eight registered users, inferring another entity attempting to access the system.
Logan said many ballots were printed in a manner that wasn’t lined up perfectly, potentially creating a situation where ink bleed could alter votes on the other side of the ballot.
“It can potentially cause an overvote. It can potentially cause you to vote for someone you didn’t intend to vote for,” Logan said, referring to a method called “kinematic artifact detection,” an untested method of authentication. “The bleed of one side’s bubble can go to the other side and get within the area where other votes are taking place.”
Logan said the issue might have been present on tens of thousands of ballots. However, the county maintains an offset will not affect votes.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in June she wouldn’t allow the voting machines turned over to auditors to be used in future elections, saying they broke the chain of custody. The county bought new machines, costing $2.8 million. Fann signed an agreement that the Senate would cover the cost of any equipment determined to be compromised.
Cotton, the audit’s digital specialist, refuted the claim that auditors had spoiled the machines.
“We did not do anything of the sort that would have interfered with any of the machine configurations or any of the tampering that the secretary of state has alleged,” he said.
Auditors requested a door-to-door canvass of voters, additional hardware they said the county was withholding, as well as other data they said would paint a clearer picture of the election.
Many supporters of former President Donald Trump have hoped the audit would cast enough doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election that it would set the wheels in motion to reinstall Trump or recall electors from key states that Trump lost, spurring a “redo” of the election.
“I have heard enough,” Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, tweeted during the hearing. “With the tens of thousands of ballots mailed without being requested, the over ten thousand people who voted after registering after November 3rd, the failure of Maricopa to turn over the 40% machines, the passwords that Dominion still refuses to turn over, [and] tens of thousands of unauthorized queries demonstrating how insecure the election was, I call for the Biden electors to be recalled to Arizona [and] a new election must be conducted. Arizona’s electors must not be awarded fraudulently & we need to get this right.”
“Let’s be clear. This sham ‘audit’ was never actually about election integrity,” they said. “It’s always been about sowing doubt, confusion and conspiracy theories in an effort to pass more restrictions on voting rights because the GOP no longer believe in Democracy.”
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