Shadegg report from “audit” finds no internet connection for ballot tabulation equipment

By: - March 23, 2022 9:39 pm

Jan 5, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Elections officials respond to claims about the 2020 General Election made by Senate contractors Cyber Ninjas, Cyfir, and EchoMail during a hearing to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer (left). Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-Arizona Republic

Maricopa County’s ballot tabulation system was never connected to the internet during the 2020 election and there were no routers to inspect, concluded a team of experts assembled by former Republican Congressman John Shadegg as part of the so-called “audit” of the last presidential election. 

As part of the review the Senate President Karen Fann ordered into the baseless claims of fraud that former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters spread after he lost the election, she and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed that Shadegg would serve as a special master who would hire IT three experts to examine the county’s routers and determine whether ballot tabulation machines were ever connected to the internet. There was never any evidence that the machines had been connected to the internet or otherwise hacked. 

The county on Wednesday released the results of Shadegg’s investigation, which found no evidence of internet connectivity by the county’s Ballot Tabulation Center. Fann asked that Shadegg’s team examine routers and Splunk logs, which are records of events and tasks that occur in a network. Shadegg’s report said there were, in fact, no routers or splunk logs to examine.

Shadegg’s report said his team examined both the ballot tabulation equipment used in the 2020 election, which is currently in the possession of the Attorney General’s Office as part of its investigation into the results of Fann’s audit, and the equipment that was purchased to replace it. 

Those machines, the report said, “were not, are not now, and are not ever connected by wire or wirelessly to any routers, computers, or electronic equipment outside the BTC.”

Furthermore, the report said that Shadegg found no evidence that data from the Ballot Tabulation Center had been deleted, purged, overwritten or destroyed, and that there was no evidence that anyone had tried to obstruct the “audit.”

Experts retained by the Senate produced a list of questions for Shadegg’s team to answer regarding the county’s election network. The report said whoever wrote those questions appears to have been operating under a false impression there is a single “election network” within the county. There are actually two networks, the report said — the Ballot Tabulation Center and the Office of Enterprise Technology.

The OET, Shadegg wrote, provides infrastructure for all county departments, including the Recorder’s Office and Elections Department. It stores and maintains voter registration records, but is not involved in the actual ballot tabulation process, and is not connected in any way to the BTC. It is connected to the internet, but only relays voter registration data. The county’s routers that connect to the OET were not connected to the Ballot Tabulation Center, the report stated.

The county has been harshly critical of the “audit,” which the supervisors and the Recorder’s Office believed to be inspired by bogus allegations unsupported by any evidence, and conducted by an unqualified team with a bias in favor of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. In a press statement on Wednesday, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said the report confirms what the county’s elections team has long said — that the 2020 election was secure. 

“In short, the unanimous conclusions of this expert panel should be a final stake in the heart of the Senate’s so-called ‘audit,’” said Gates, a Republican. “Whenever impartial, independent, and competent people have examined the County’s election practices, they have found no reason to doubt the integrity of those practices.”

Fann, R-Prescott, said on Wednesday evening that she hadn’t yet seen the report and wouldn’t make any comments until she’d read it. 

Shadegg’s report directly contradicts findings of Fann’s “audit” team, which claimed it found evidence that several ballot tabulation machines were connected to the internet. The county said those claims were false and noted that the machines are air-gapped, meaning they’re prevented from establishing external connections. 

CyFIR, the company that conducted that part of the “audit,” also made two misleading claims about internet-connected equipment. It correctly said two particular pieces of equipment had been connected to the internet, but withheld the fact that they’re web servers that are supposed to be connected and that they’re not part of the county’s election management system. 

The findings of the “audit” have been largely debunked and discredited. Doug Logan, former CEO of the now-dissolved company Cyber Ninjas, who led the election review team, has consistently refused to answer questions about his purported findings. 

Shadegg’s report wasn’t the first time that an investigation concluded that Maricopa County’s ballot tabulation machines weren’t connected to the internet. An audit commissioned by the Board of Supervisors and conducted by two federally accredited companies reached similar findings last year before Fann’s election review began.

The routers used by the Elections Department were at the heart of a prolonged feud between Fann and the county. 

Fann last year issued subpoenas for a trove of election-related data and equipment from the county, most of which the supervisors turned over after losing a legal challenge in court. But the supervisors refused to provide the routers, which are used by all county departments, not just the Recorder’s Office. The supervisors said handing over the routers would largely disable the operations of county government, and would give the “audit” team access to sensitive, confidential information.

Some Republican lawmakers and other GOP figures who were devotees of the bogus election fraud claims surrounding the 2020 election fixated on the routers as the potential source of the fraud they believed cost Trump the election. Trump himself ranted about the routers during a speech in Phoenix in July.

As a result, Fann and the supervisors reached an agreement for Shadegg to serve as a special master. He was authorized to hire a team of experts who would examine the routers at the county’s facilities. 

The Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating the other claims made by Fann’s “audit” team. 

Trump lost Arizona to President Joe Biden by 10,457 votes in 2020, falling short by 45,109 votes in Maricopa County. He was the first Republican presidential candidate to lose Arizona since Bill Clinton won the state in 1996, and only the second since 1948.

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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.”