By Corinne Murdock
On Thursday, the Arizona Senate held a hearing on the election audit as it heads into its final days of work. Election auditors testified that they discovered a sweeping variety of discrepancies within the election proceedings, including: ballot numbers and quality, voter rolls, cybersecurity, and signature matching processes. Additionally, the auditors reported that they were still lacking the chain of custody logs and routers, which were included within the Senate’s subpoena. The three audit officials testifying were Senate Liaison Ken Bennett, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, and CyFIR founder Ben Cotton.
Among their findings from over 80,000 hours of work, the auditors testified that they discovered a surplus of over 74,000 mail-in ballots received and counted than were mailed out, 4,000 individuals were registered to vote after the October 15 deadline, over 11,000 voters disappeared from the rolls after the election but reappeared a month later, over 17,000 voters were removed from the voter rolls after the election, thousands of duplicate ballots lacked a serial number, most ballots were vulnerable to over-voting or unintended voting due to being printed out of calibration, election security systems on the machines weren’t updated after 2019, and a sizeable number of ballots were discovered with bleed-throughs.
Notably, only 52 out of around 1,700 boxes of election materials were reportedly secured with tamper-evident tape. The remainder were secured with regular packing tape. Logan assured the Senate that they would return these boxes numbered with new seals of tamper-evident tape.
Cotton explained that system updates on election machines are crucial for cybersecurity. Without updates, any system may grow increasingly vulnerable to hackers. Since the machines weren’t updated after 2019, hackers had several years to breach the system. This may explain the 38,000 inquiries for blank passwords that the auditors reported discovering.
At least one incident of hacking likely occurred with the Maricopa County election systems in the 2020 election. Federal agents raided the home of an individual named Elliot Kerwin on November 5 over intelligence indicating that he’d breached the systems sometime from October up through Election Day.
Maricopa County claimed that it used ballot paper thick enough to prevent bleed-throughs. However, the auditors said that they discovered the opposite was true. Logan said that anything from ballpoint pens to Sharpies could cause bleed-through.
The SharpieGate debacle concerned this very issue. Although several court cases were filed after voters were unsure whether their Sharpied ballots counted, but ultimately that case was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) reminded viewers and the floor that this audit was devoid of political agenda or allegiance to previous President Donald Trump.
When Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) asked the three men what more they would need to finalize their report. Logan responded that they would need the routers, splunk logs, portable media and external drives, chain of custody documents, the network diagram, election management data backups, records of all papers sent to vote centers, the total of all ballots sent to eligible voters, and a full backup copy of the voter rolls.
He added that they would also need copies of the election policies and procedures, including information on ballot adjudication processes. While those documents are available in part to the public, Logan explained that there were more detailed documents given to election officials and workers that they required.
A day before the hearing, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform submitted a letter to Logan requesting information about their audit process, leadership, interactions, and findings. The request letter listed a number of grievances against Cyber Ninjas’ conduct of the audit, citing multiple times their “lack of election audit experience.”
Congress further cited reporting on the audit to bolster their claims of mismanagement. One citation included a reporter’s indication that blue pens were used during the audit in violation of Arizona election law. That reporter later retracted her claim in part, noting that those pens were during training and cleared from the floor before any live ballots were brought out.
Fann offered a parting thought on the resistance by Maricopa County, as well as Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, to this audit.
“I do not know why Maricopa County has fought this so hard,” remarked Fann.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to email@example.com