Arizona Senate Republicans intended their fake “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election to carry costs in voters’ confidence in elections and to undermine the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s win in the state. But it will carry major financial costs for the state as well. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has now told Maricopa County that all of the voting equipment seized for the “audit” should be replaced, due to serious security concerns.
In a Thursday letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Hobbs wrote, “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.” Given that the head of Cyber Ninjas has publicly embraced “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theories and retweeted predictions that recounting Arizona would deliver Donald Trump hundreds of thousands of extra votes, it’s not a stretch to worry about what the company is doing intentionally to the machines—to say nothing of the unintentional damage the documented incompetence of the “auditors” could do.
“The lack of physical security and transparency means we cannot be certain who accessed the voting equipment and what might have been done to them,” Hobbs wrote, which means that the county “should acquire new machines to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County going forward.”
Hobbs is a Democrat who has been critical of this “audit” from the outset, but the advice to replace the machines doesn’t come only from her. Her office consulted Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, among other experts, and “each 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 Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency spokesperson confirmed this to The Washington Post, saying “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.”
The nine tabulating machines and 385 precinct-based tabulators involved would cost millions of dollars to replace. The county is “working with our attorneys on next steps, costs and what will be needed to ensure only certified equipment is used in Maricopa County,” a spokesperson for the county elections department said, adding, “We will not use any of the returned tabulation equipment unless the county, state and vendor are confident that there is no malicious hardware or software installed on the devices.” It’s not clear if that confidence will be enough for Hobbs, who has warned that, because “no comprehensive methods exist to fully rehabilitate the compromised equipment or provide adequate assurance that they remain safe to use,” her office would consider “decertification proceedings” if there was a move to use the machines.
Republicans in the state Senate intended to do damage with their “audit,” even if they didn’t directly intend to cost Maricopa County millions of dollars in lost equipment. The damage to election integrity and public faith in our democracy is far, far more important—but the financial cost underlines how careless and irresponsible the “audit” backers were willing to be.