Maricopa County Will Ditch Voting Machines Analyzed In ‘Audit’ Of 2020 Election

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 01: Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoeni... PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 01: Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 29, 2021 11:31 a.m.

Maricopa County, Arizona will discontinue its use of voting machines due to concerns that they have been compromised by contractors for the state’s politicized “audit” of its 2020 election results, the county said Monday.

The decision creates a multimillion-dollar question: Who’s on the hook for paying the rest of the lease on the voting machines that the county will no longer use? 

“I write to notify you that Maricopa County will not use the subpoenaed election equipment in any future election,” Joseph E. La Rue, Maricopa’s deputy county attorney, wrote to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. The Arizona Republic first reported the letter. 

The letter noted that Cyber Ninjas — the lead audit contractor, led by a conspiracy theorist with no prior experience in election auditing — wasn’t certified to handle election equipment.

The machines, which were turned over to the Senate-authorized audit along with ballots after a judge upheld a subpoena for the materials, have been a sticking point for months as county and state officials expressed concern about whether they’d be fit to use in another election. 

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In a May letter that Hobbs sent county officials, she said the machines might have been compromised.

“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,” she wrote. 

Hobbs said her office had consulted with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure agency regarding next steps, and that they and other election technology and security experts “unanimously advised that once election officials lose custody and control over voting systems and components, those devices should not be reused in future elections.” 

A CISA spokesperson told TPM at the time, “CISA regularly provides security best practices to critical infrastructure partners.  If it is determined that the chain of custody of critical systems have been compromised, the safest practice is to decommission and replace those systems. Election officials are best positioned to make that determination for their systems.” 

A spokesperson for Maricopa County, Fields Moseley, told TPM Tuesday, “The Secretary of State by statute certifies tabulation equipment in Arizona and her letter makes it clear she intended to decertify the machines subpoenaed by the Senate President.” 

Hobbs’ office praised the county’s decision. “Secretary Hobbs absolutely supports Maricopa County’s decision,” a spokesperson for Hobbs, C. Murphy Hebert, said in an email to TPM. “It is in line with the recommendations she sent the Board of Supervisors on May 20.”

The county doesn’t own the machines, it leases them from Dominion Voting Systems. And as of Monday, it was around halfway through a $6.1 million, three-year lease set to end in December 2022. 

It’s not totally clear who’s on the hook for the remaining expense: Senate President Karen Fann signed an indemnification agreement in April, stating “The Senate shall indemnify the County against any and all expenses it incurs as a result of the Subpoenaed Materials being damaged, altered, or otherwise compromised while in the Senate’s custody and control, including without limitation expenses associated with procuring new equipment.” 

Moseley told TPM that county officials were discussing replacing the equipment with Dominion, “but we do not have a final cost.” The county hasn’t decided whether to pursue reimbursement from the Senate, he said. 

A spokesperson for Dominion declined TPM’s request for comment on the situation. Neither audit officials nor Fann immediately responded Tuesday to a request for comment on the Maricopa County letter. 

County officials have grown increasingly frustrated with the haphazard audit, calling it out in letters and press conferences and even heckling auditors from the county’s Twitter account.

This article has been updated.

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