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Maricopa County board set to OK audit of election equipment

Maricopa County board set to OK audit of election equipment

  • Updated

Several state senators have expressed skepticism that an audit supervised by Maricopa County will be adequate.

PHOENIX — Maricopa County supervisors are set Wednesday to approve an audit of election equipment in a bid to satisfy questions about security and vote counts — and avoid further litigation with the state Senate.

Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers, a Republican, said Tuesday that he still believes the tally showing more votes for Democrat Joe Biden than Republican Donald Trump is correct. He said that accuracy was shown through a series of court rulings and a statutorily required hand count of a sample.

“However, a significant number of voters want the additional assurance that a full forensic audit of election tabulation equipment might bring, especially given all the misinformation that spread following the Nov. 3 general election,” Sellers said.

So the board is scheduled to vote on Wednesday, Jan. 27, to authorize an audit, which two separate firms will conduct.

“It is my belief these audits will prove our machines were not vulnerable to hacking or vote switching,” he said.

But several state senators told Capitol Media Services they’re not convinced that an audit supervised by the county will be adequate.

“The Senate is moving forward with our own audit,” said Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, one of the Arizona legislators who has expressed doubt about the reported election returns. Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, agreed the Senate still intends to do its own examination.

In both cases, they said that was being done with Senate President Karen Fann’s approval.

Fann, however, said it’s yet to be determined whether the Senate will do its own review. She wants to see exactly what the supervisors approve and the extent of the proposed audit.

“I’m waiting for a copy of that so I can see if that scope is everything that we were looking for,” she said.

“And if it is, great,” she said. “And if it’s not, we’ll have to have a conversation about what do we need to do to make sure we can truly put this thing to bed and answer all of these questions that so many of our constituents have.”

Some Republicans have raised questions about the results of the presidential race in which Biden got Arizona’s 11 electoral votes by besting then-President Trump by 10,457 votes statewide.

The focus has been primarily on Maricopa County, where Biden beat Trump by 45,109 votes, with many of the attacks based on unproven allegations that the Dominion Voting Systems hardware and software used there was either programmed or hacked in a way to move Trump votes into Biden’s column.

Several lawsuits challenging the results were thrown out.

One challenge filed in federal court resulted in a ruling by U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa that “the allegations they put forth to support their claims of fraud fail in their particularity and plausibility.”

And a state court judge tossed out a separate claim of irregularities after a random review of early ballots found the error rate was so small that it would not have changed the outcome of the vote.

That did not satisfy some lawmakers, with the Senate issuing a pair of subpoenas demanding access to items ranging from the raw ballots to the voting equipment. That landed the parties in court, as the Senate sought to enforce those subpoenas and attorneys for the county argued it would violate the law to give legislators access to everything they want.

Both sides agreed last week to shelve the litigation and see what they can work out.

The supervisors’ planned vote Wednesday is designed to address that, but without losing control of the documents and the machinery.

“We are going to send an invite to the Senate and ask them to participate and give us feedback,” said County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, a Democrat.

“We’re doing one audit,” he said. “But in terms of us turning over ballots and turning over machines, it ain’t happening.”

Fann said that, for the moment, she’s satisfied with what the county is proposing.

“The whole reason we’re doing this is to reinstill voter integrity and confidence,” she said. “And so we have to make sure we do it right, do it independently, so that voters — hopefully 95% of them — will say, ‘Yes, you have proven to us that it was done correctly and you have answered our questions.’”

A draft of the proposal before the supervisors shows a multipronged approach.

First, it would determine that the county’s tabulation equipment is state- and federally certified. There also would be a check for malware on the system and a verification that the tabulation equipment was not connected to the internet during the general election.

Second is a “logic and accuracy” test to verify that the results being reported by the machinery match the votes on the submitted paper ballots. There were similar tests already performed before and after the November election.

Finally, auditors would verify that the Dominion software was leased according to state and county procurement regulations.

Fann said she has been doing extensive research on what it takes to verify accuracy of election equipment. She reached out to her counterpart in Georgia, another state where the results for Biden were questioned, to determine how they verified the results there.

Gallardo said he and his colleagues are willing to contract with outsiders for the audit if it will reinforce voter confidence and blunt the criticism of GOP legislators who have made repeat allegations of fraud and misconduct.

“I think it’s upon us to really push back to show that, no, our system is secure, it’s accurate, it’s safe,” he said.

“We had a good system, we had a great election,” Gallardo continued. “I’m sorry they don’t like the results of it but, nonetheless, the results are what the results are.”

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