Arizona’s secretary of state informed Maricopa County officials Thursday that hundreds of the state’s vote-tabulating machines should no longer be used because of their handling by the inept, partisan company hired by Senate Republicans to recount ballots cast in November’s presidential election.
The machines should not be used again because there is no way of knowing whether they were tampered with while out of the county’s custody and under the control of Senate Republicans and the controversial Cyber Ninjas company conducting the recount, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, she said in a letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
New machines reportedly could cost the state millions of dollars.
It’s the latest astonishing snafu in a circus recount of 2.1 million Maricopa County votes by a company that has no experience with ballots or elections and that is run by a right-wing conspiracy theorist who was convinced months ago that any audit would turn up hundreds of thousands of votes for Donald Trump. The Ninjas are subjecting ballots to ultraviolet light in a crackpot hunt for bamboo fibers, which they are convinced would be evidence of tampering by China.
Hobbs said a strict “chain of custody” procedure to safeguard the integrity of votes was broken when the county was forced last month to turn over voting machines to Senate Republicans and the Cyber Ninjas, who then had total control without supervision. Critics are convinced that countless ballots have already been altered, stolen, trashed or gone missing.
Such a break in the chain of custody constitutes a serious “cyber incident to critical infrastructure — an incident that could jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity and availability of digital information,” Hobbs warned. Access must be strictly limited and tracked, she noted, but Cyber Ninjas’ procedures, “if any,” are unknown, and “troubling security lapses” have been witnessed.
If the county uses the machines again, Hobbs said, her office would consider “decertification proceedings” that would ban their utilization.
The list of missteps by Cyber Ninjas is driving a wedge between Republicans in the state. State GOP Sen. Paul Boyer said earlier this month that he regrets initially supporting the recount. “It makes us look like idiots,” he said of the vote audit launched by Senate Republicans. “I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point.”
Early this week, Trump furiously complained about voter files that the Cyber Ninjas were unable to find — but only because workers had no idea where to look, said the head of the county’s Board of Supervisors, Jack Sellers, a Republican. The head of county elections, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, also a Republican, called Trump “unhinged” for parroting — then amplifying — Cyber Ninjas’ lies.
Sellers and the rest of the county board fired off a scathing letter Monday to the president of the state Senate demanding an immediate end to the audit that has “become a spectacle that is harming all of us.”
Sellers called the operation a “circus” involving “purple lights and spinning tables” and hunts for bamboo, which are “not things that serious auditors of elections do. You are photographing ballots and ... sending those images to unidentified places and people,” the letter stated.
“It is time to end this,” the letter concluded. “For the good of the Senate, for the good of the Country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans.”
The Arizona vote was certified nearly six months ago by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey after several recounts failed to find any irregularities. Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump by 10,457 votes in the state. Biden edged out his rival by more than 2 percentage points ― about 45,000 votes ― in Maricopa County.