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Tucson, AZ — When the “Results and Tally” folders were deleted it should have been our first clue.
Thursday, Arizona Republicans issued an unsurprising announcement related to the audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 general election results.
Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann, along with state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen, gave the floor to auditors who announced that as many as 74,000 absentee ballots mail-in records are missing.
And, of course, a great many vote irregularities found by the audit.
Three individuals played key roles in the state audit: Lead auditor Doug Logan first introduced a video clip that detailed the process and emphasized the security measures that were taken to ensure the audit could proceed safely.
Former Arizona Secretary of State and Arizona Senate liaison Ken Bennett then outlined specifics of the audit, such as how many ballots were received, data was collected from voting equipment and which security protocols were enforced while the audit took place.
He noted that the examination of duplicate ballots (typically produced when a ballot becomes damaged) was a tough process because of the constant cross-checking.
“It has created great difficulty to try to match up a duplicated ballot to its duplicate,” Bennett said, pointing out that some serial numbers were completely missing from duplicated ballots, while some were printed on the top right side where “black square alignment marks” were present. This makes it difficult to read and match the numbers.
Also, digital security expert Ben Cotton helped explain the process of the forensic examination of devices used in the Maricopa County election. Cotton, emphasized that drastic security measures were taken to ensure the integrity of all machines inspected.
“We have exactly a bit-for-bit image of these systems as we received them. We did not modify, we did not change any chips, we did not access anything other than the hard drives … If there were any changes to equipment, those would have had to occur within the custody of the board of supervisors.”
Further forensic examination looked into: any possible internet connections on devices, unauthorized entries to the system or malware, and also conducted live memory analysis of the machines.
Cotton told the Senate members that auditors found over 37,000 queries on one day for a blank password on a system that only contained eight accounts, and that it appeared as if several people may have accessed the machines while conducted different processes under the same account. As a computer guy, take my word that this would make it extremely difficult to determine chain of custody information.
There were a number of additional inconsistencies reportedly found by the audit, including ink bleeds, ballots that were incorrectly marked/placed and form number inconsistencies found on ballots. These are not, per se, generally alarming.
But Auditors also located 11,326 people that did not show up in Nov. 7 voter rolls, but that miraculously appeared on Dec. 4 voter rolls. Statements provided during the hearing have another 3,981 shown to have voted only registered after Oct. 15.
The 2021 Maricopa County presidential ballot audit began with extreme resistance, partially because it was driven largely by former President Donald Trump’s assertions of “election fraud” in several swing states across the nation.
Arizona Senate Republicans decided there was sufficient concern over the integrity of Maricopa County’s 2020 election for them to begin an investigation into the election results. Whether this was proactive action or a realization that this action was inescapable is up for consideration.
The Republican state senators began a long battle with officials on the Maricopa County board of supervisors; a judge eventually ruled the audit could take place. Bennett was vocal to this difficulty stating that the county had flat-out refused to provide certain materials outlined in a subpoena issued by the state Senate.
The Maricopa County audit has been an incredibly contentious partisan issue, which does not appear to make much sense as double-checking the election results should produce a good outcome.
There are two possible solutions:
One, discrepancies will be found (and corrected)
Two, the initial results will be confirmed, strengthening the public’s trust (which is currently suspect) in the election process.
What a shock; many Democrats have denounced the audit.
According to CNBC House Democrats launched an investigation Wednesday into Florida-based cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas, one of the private companies hired by Arizona Republicans to help conduct the audit,
Democrats conducting the investigation are concerned over Cyber Ninjas’ apparent lack of auditing experience, reports of “sloppy and insecure audit practices” which may have “compromised the integrity of ballots,” and possible evidence that the company “may have a vested interest in advancing former President Donald Trump’s “stolen election” narrative,” CNBC reported.
Tuesday, Fann voiced her confidence in Cyber Ninjas’ competency, but admitted that the audit has not gone perfectly
“I’m confident because it’s not just them,” she said. “Everybody keeps just counting on them when actually they are working with a number of other contractors that have experience in audits and in their expertise in their own fields … This is a joint effort.”
“Do I think that it’s gone as smoothly as it could have? Heck, no,” she said.
“This is the first time in the history of our nation that anybody has done an audit of this magnitude. And so, quite honestly, we are doing a lot of things, triple-checking, just to make sure that this is all correct.”
It is likely that the audit’s new findings will be examined prior to being immediately contested by this Democrat-led investigation.
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