Maricopa County votes to audit machines used in November election
PHOENIX - The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Jan. 27 to hire two firms to audit election equipment and software used in the November election, but a key member of the state Senate who has demanded access to election machines and data to conduct his own review is not satisfied.
The board acted after months of unsubstantiated claims of fraud from some Republicans who question President Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona.
The Republican-dominated board defended the accuracy of the county’s election results while acknowledging that a full audit may help dispel what members called "disinformation" about their accuracy.
Board member Clint Hickman, a Republican who has defended the results from attacks by backers of former President Donald Trump, said he welcomes the participation of the Legislature, Secretary of State and governor in the audit process.
"We don’t need to be defensive," Hickman said. "This board has had nothing to hide."
The state Senate has issued several subpoenas to the board and county recorder, seeking access to its voting machines, copies of all ballots and much more so it can perform its own audit. The board has fought those requests, saying they were overly broad, while trying to negotiate a settlement with the Senate.
Sen. Warren Peterson, a Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee with Senate President Karen Fann and issued the most recent subpoenas, said the county’s audit will not satisfy him.
"A county audit will not prevent the Senate from doing their own audit," Peterson said. "My concern with the county audit is that the scope of the audit is an inch deep. With the limited scope, they have asked to be audited, they are guaranteed to find nothing."
The county audit is designed as "a multi-layered review that dives into the tabulation equipment’s software and hardware," according to documents posted with the board agenda. "It will analyze hacking vulnerability, verify that no malicious software was installed, test that the machines were not sending or receiving information over the internet and confirm that no vote switching occurred."
The board also ordered a "logic and accuracy" test to confirm the tabulation equipment operates correctly. Similar tests were done before and after the November election and found the machines accurately counted ballots, and hand counts of a sample of ballots found the tallies were 100% correct.
Board members expressed frustration with the continued questions about the election results, while acknowledging that doubts exist and the board audit may help dispel them.
"Some have called me serious names – we all have got some death threats," Republican board member Steve Chucri said. "But all that being said, we have to listen."
Board member Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the five-member panel, said he is willing to go along with the audit but angrily dismissed what he called "lies and conspiracies about how our elections are conducted."
"We’re never going to convince them – no audit... nothing is going to convince them," Gallardo said.
He also accused GOP members of the Legislature of using questions about Biden’s Arizona victory as an excuse to push new laws he said will amount to voter suppression after Democratic wins.
"Look at the root cause of this. It isn’t our election process, its who’s voting, let’s be honest," Gallardo said. "There are bills going through the Legislature right now intending to do one thing, and that is to suppress the vote."
Adrian Fontes, the former Maricopa County Recorder says of the decision, "You’re taking the whiniest sore losers and saying they get to dictate what happened."
Fontes who lost re-election says voting for a fourth audit is a disservice to those who worked to make it a fair election.
"Political cowardice won the day and the lie is perpetuated now. The lie about problems with the election," Fontes says.
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