Maricopa County's 2020 election votes were counted correctly, more county audits show
The results of Maricopa County's independent audit of 2020 election results are in.
The verdict: The election was sound.
Maricopa County on Tuesday released the results of election audits from two independent auditors it hired to verify that voting machines were not hacked, were not connected to the internet and counted votes properly during the 2020 general election.
The auditors found that the county used certified equipment and software, no malicious hardware was found on voting machines, the machines were not connected to the internet, and the machines were programmed to tabulate ballots accurately, according to a letter from county election directors to the supervisors.
These results, along with the previous audits the county and political parties did and other security protocols "confirm that Maricopa County Elections Department's configuration and setup of the tabulation equipment and election management system provided an accurate counting of ballots and reporting of election results," county election directors Scott Jarrett and Rey Valenzuela wrote in the letter.
The county's Board of Supervisors will review the audit results at a 1 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. The results and results summary were posted Tuesday as an attachment to the meeting agenda.
Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers said in a statement on Tuesday that the county was releasing the audit results "so that the public can see what we see and know what we know: no hacking or vote switching occurred in the 2020 election.”
While this audit is complete, there is still a chance that one more will occur.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge is set to hear a lawsuit from the supervisors asking the court to stop subpoenas issued by the Arizona Senate seeking 2020 ballots and voting machines so that the Senate could conduct its own audit of results.
The Senate wants the ballots in part so it can do another hand count of ballots — something not included in the county's latest audit, but that the county has done previously.
The Arizona Republic took an in-depth look earlier this month at what kind of post-election audits are best.
The findings of the audit
The supervisors hired the two outside firms, Pro V&V and SLI Compliance, to offer an independent look at the county's voting machines and election results.
Here is what the county-hired auditors examined and found in the two weeks they spent in Phoenix earlier this month:
- Pro V&V performed another logic and accuracy test on the tabulation machines to see that the “system correctly captures, stores, consolidates, and reports the specific ballot selections, and absence of selections, for each ballot position." Pro V&V found no issues.
- Both firms checked to see if the county is using certified hardware and software. The auditors inspected and verified the software and said it was certified.
- The firms examined what's called “hash values” — the code that dictates how the machine functions — to see if they were the same as when the machines were certified. If the hash code is different, that may indicate tampering. No hash value discrepancies were noted.
- The auditors also checked that hackers didn’t install any software or hardware onto the machines by running malware tests and opening up the machines. They also conducted a network analysis to “ensure the network is a ‘closed network’ and can’t reach the internet.” No malicious hardware and software discrepancies were identified, and the firms did not see any proof of internet connectivity.
- The auditors examined all nine of the large tabulators that count ballots at the election center, a random selection of 20% of the county’s precinct-based tabulators and a random selection of 40% of the county’s adjudication stations. No issues were found with the machines.
The audit of voting machines cost the county about $56,815, according to estimates from both firms. An additional part of the audit, which will examine the county's procurement process to lease Dominion Voting System machines, will cost between $34,000 and $69,000, according to an estimate.
One firm's report more detailed than the other
SLI Compliance did five days of work with five team members, and Pro V&V did seven days of work with two team members, according to a county document.
SLI Compliance was much more thorough in the way it reported results, compared with Pro V&V. SLI Compliance called its audit a "forensic audit," while Pro V&V said its audit was a "field audit."
SLI Compliance's 18-page report shows every step that the auditors took, including a timeline of what was done each day.
Internet connectivity and hacking checks
SLI Compliance gave details on how it checked to see whether any connection was made to the internet on the machines from July 6 to Nov. 20.
This is key because some claimed that this could have been how votes could have been switched after the election — although previous audits had found no proof of vote switching.
This included checking whether there were any instances of the systems being connected to an internet-routed network, including manually inspecting system data, files, logs and settings.
One test found one log entry of a connection attempt on Aug. 26 — someone had attempted to search for how to adjust screen brightness. But the auditors did not find any evidence that the machine successfully connected to the internet, this time or any other time.
SLI Compliance also listed five malware programs, including a digital forensic tool, it ran to check whether malicious software had been installed — in other words, whether the machines had been hacked. The team also manually checked for any malware programs on the machines.
The auditors found no malware.
Logic and accuracy test on counting ballots
Pro V&V performed a logic and accuracy test on the voting machines to ensure the software "correctly captures, stores, consolidates, and reports the specific ballot selections and absences of selections for each ballot position."
Volunteers with the League of Women Voters scanned the ballots for this test, and election staff acted as poll workers if the volunteers had any issues.
The tests reviewed "1.5 million ballot positions," according to a county report, found "no evidence of vote switching" and "concluded that the equipment tabulated and adjudicated ballots accurately."
Pro V&V's report identified two times that a ballot jammed during the test, but no miscounted votes came from that.
Some questioned the depth of the county's audit, but the county has said that it was comprehensive and more in-depth than any previous audit it had done.
Who is best to perform this type of audit?
County officials also emphasized the importance of hiring independent firms to perform the audit.
The county hired the only two firms accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to certify voting machines across the country, with officials saying they were the only companies that could be trusted with looking at the machines and their source code.
Yet, this connection alone — that the companies who certified the county's machines are now the ones auditing them — has some questioning whether there is a conflict.
The Republic found that, while there are still some questions, election consultants say the firms are probably best to do the work, simply because their background and conflicts have been vetted by the elections commission.
The Arizona Senate plans to try to find another independent firm to conduct its audit.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield.
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