Top Arizona elections official says voting machines turned over to GOP recount should be replaced

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) on Thursday advised Maricopa County officials to replace all voting machines that were turned over to the private contractor carrying out an audit of the 2020 presidential election.

The Washington Post reports that Hobbs cited “grave concerns regarding the security and integrity” of the machines and their suitability for future elections. In a letter obtained by the Post, Hobbs, Arizona’s chief elections officer, expressed concerns regarding the machines that were recently returned by Cyber Ninjas, the firm which has had no prior experience in auditing elections.

Cyber Ninja chief executive Doug Logan was found to have spread conspiracy theories regarding the election in Arizona in tweets that have since been deleted, which raised concerns among critics of the GOP-supported audit.

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“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,” Hobbs wrote in her letter.

“Indeed, such loss of custody constitutes a cyber incident to critical infrastructure—an event that could jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of digital information or information systems,” Hobbs continued. 

“Therefore, my Office consulted with election technology and security experts, including at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, regarding the appropriate next steps, 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 spokesperson for the Maricopa County elections department told the Post in a statement that they were working on the next steps to ensure that only certified equipment was used in the county.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

In early May, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official warned Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R) that the audit could be a violation of civil rights laws.

Principal deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ's civil rights division Pamela Karlan told Fann in a letter that handing election material over to Cyber Ninjas could be a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1960. Karlan wrote there are "at least issues of potential non-compliance with federal laws enforced by the Department," apart from the possible civil rights violations.