Maricopa County intends to replace all of its election machines, due to concerns that the audit compromised the equipment. The county’s Dominion Democracy Suite 5.5B voting system was turned over to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) and Senate Majority Leader Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) through subpoena earlier this year. The Senate contracted with a private company, Cyber Ninjas, to conduct the audit.
Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel confirmed on Monday the county’s intent to replace their entire fleet of voting machines in a reply letter to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
[Your letter] expressed your concerns about any future use by Maricopa County of the election equipment that was subpoenaed by The Arizona Senate, because they placed it under the control of persons not certified to handle election equipment in the United States, such as the Cyber Ninjas and others. You also stated that, if the County intended to use the equipment in future Arizona elections, you would consider beginning decertification proceedings.
The Board shares your concerns. It also recognizes your authority as Arizona’s Chief Election Officer to determine what equipment is acceptable for use in Arizona’s elections, as provided by A.R.S. § 16-442. Accordingly, I write to notify you that Maricopa County will not use the subpoenaed election equipment in any future election.
Adel’s office told The Arizona Sun Times that, since they’re legal advisory to the board, they wouldn’t offer further comment on the board’s decision.
In May, Hobbs penned a letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors expressing concern that the auditors compromised the election equipment.
Hobbs said she was concerned that the election equipment was no longer secure because it was given to an organization outside of governmental purview. She said she’d spoken with various experts, including the Biden Administration’s Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. According to them, Hobbs shared that the election officials shouldn’t reuse that same equipment.
“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,” wrote Hobbs. “Indeed, such loss of custody constitutes a cyber incident to critical infrastructure – an event that could jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of digital information or information systems.”
Hobbs cited her “expert observers” and news reports as evidence of poor chain of custody “troubling security lapses.” As The Sun Times reported, audit officials claimed they witnessed reporters fabricating stories of security issues that later made headlines – such as reporters propping open doors to stage pictures claiming that audit entrances were left unguarded and unlocked.
Hobbs suggested that the board acquire new machines. She noted that the cost of investigating the equipment upon its return outweighed the purchase of new equipment in terms of cost and dangers.
“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,” wrote Hobbs. “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.”
If the board had decided to use the same election machines, Hobbs promised to engage in decertification proceedings.
Estimates for replacing the voting machines haven’t been put forth yet. When the county contracted with Dominion Voting Systems in 2019 for its current systems, it agreed to pay $6.1 million over the course of 3 years.
– – –
Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ballot Machine” by Lance Fisher CC BY-SA 2.0.