Audits find no problems with Maricopa County election machines

By: - February 23, 2021 3:38 pm

Screenshot via Twitter/Maricopa County

Forensic audits that Maricopa County commissioned to investigate the ballot tabulation machines used in the 2020 elections came back with a clean bill of health, finding no evidence of hacking, malware, vote switching or internet connectivity.

The county on Tuesday released the results of the two audits, which the Board of Supervisors ordered in response to widespread but baseless fraud claims and conspiracy theories alleging that the election was somehow rigged against former President Donald Trump. Many of those allegations involve Dominion Voting Systems, which provides the ballot tabulation machines used by Maricopa County.

SLI Compliance and Pro V&V, the only companies approved by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to examine and certify the machines and software that Maricopa County uses, subjected the machines to batteries of tests. Those tests searched for evidence that the machines had been connected to the internet, or whether they sent or received any information, during the election; whether their software, Dominion’s Democracy Suite 5.5B, had been altered since it was originally certified; or whether any malicious software was installed.

The machines also underwent logic-and-accuracy tests using test ballots from the November election to determine whether they could have changed votes on any of the ballots they counted. A test of 1.5 million ballot positions found no problems.

Jack Sellers, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, noted that SLI Compliance and Pro V&V are the only two companies certified by the EAC to conduct such tests, and that the board asked them “to go beyond what we had already done to ensure the integrity of our elections and beyond even the stringent requirements of state law.”

“We are releasing the results of those audits today so that the public can see what we see and know what we know: no hacking or vote switching occurred in the 2020 election,” Sellers said in a written statement.

When the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to conduct the audits in January, Supervisor Steve Chucri said many people in the county believed the rumors and allegations about the election. He said his mother, who isn’t politically engaged, had questions about the election equipment. On Tuesday, he said the results of the audits should instill confidence among members of the public.

“It is vital for us to listen to people’s concerns, to take them seriously, and to open ourselves up to closer examination when it comes to something as important as the right to vote. That’s what these audits were about,” Chucri said. “I believe it was necessary and right to address the questions that emerged following the 2020 elections, and I’m confident we did that thoroughly and with all Maricopa County voters in mind.”

Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the board’s lone Democrat, begrudgingly supported the audits, saying the allegations about the election were “lies and conspiracies.” But though some people will never accept the results, Gallardo said he supported the audit to help assuage some voters’ concerns.

“The audits clearly dispel the notion that somehow the November election was rigged,” Gallardo said on Tuesday. “Whether you liked the results or not, the will of the people was represented.  Our equipment worked. Our people were above reproach. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 2020 elections in Maricopa County were safe, secure, and accurate. End of story.”

The auditors examined all nine of the county’s central tabulators, all four workstations and two servers used to operate the county’s election management system, 35 of 350 tabulators from polling places, and four of 20 adjudication stations, where human election workers examined ballots that couldn’t be read by the machines.

SLI Compliance and Pro V&V ran multiple programs on the machines to search for malware or changes to the software installed. They compared the encrypted hash — the mathematical algorithms used to encrypt the software — with the encrypted hash on file with federal election officials for the software, concluding that there had been no changes. 

The new results follow several other tests conducted before and after the election that showed no problems with the machines. The county conducted logic-and-accuracy tests before and after the primary and general elections, as required by state law. And a post-election hand count of about 8,200 ballots showed a perfect match with the machine count of those ballots.

The audit results come as Maricopa County continues its legal battle with the Arizona Senate over Republican lawmakers’ attempt to conduct their own audit of the election. Senate President Karen Fann and Sen. Warren Petersen, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, have issued subpoenas demanding the county’s tabulation machines, the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast, and a trove of other materials and data. 

The Board of Supervisors argue that the Senate lacks legal authority to demand the ballots and the machines, and are fighting the subpoenas in court. A judge will hear arguments in the case on Thursday.

Fann and Petersen had preemptively declared the county’s audits as insufficient because they wouldn’t examine any of the ballots, and Fann took issue with the hiring of SLI Compliance and Pro V&V, insisting that the audit should be conducted by companies that hadn’t already certified Dominion’s machines and software.

The two senators were unavailable for comment when the audit results were released.

Fann sought to hire Allied Security Operations Group, a company with a well-documented history of spreading falsehoods and misinformation about the election, at times during legislative hearings in which its employees served as witnesses for the Trump campaign. 

One ASOG employee, Phil Waldron, falsely claimed during an unofficial hearing in Phoenix that election workers don’t verify the signatures on early ballot envelopes, and alleged without evidence the Maricopa County’s tabulation machines were connected to the internet. During a recent report by the far-right media outlet One America News Network, Waldron claimed, again without evidence, that hundreds of thousands of Maricopa County votes were added for President Joe Biden.

The audits did find one potential issue, though it did not affect any of the elections Maricopa County held in 2020. SLI Compliance noted that, though there was no indication of USB devices being connected to the machines, there were no physical or digital barriers that would prevent people from using unauthorized devices with them.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy contributed to this article.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”