Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approves independent audit of voting equipment

Jack Sellers, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors
Jack Sellers, chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, conducted the board's meeting Jan. 27, during which the board voted to conduct a forensic audit of the tabulation equipment used in the November 2020 general election. (Screenshot courtesy Maricopa County)

Jack Sellers, chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, conducted the board's meeting Jan. 27, during which the board voted to conduct a forensic audit of the tabulation equipment used in the November 2020 general election. (Screenshot courtesy Maricopa County)

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Jan. 27 an independent forensic audit of the vote-counting hardware and software used in November’s general elections.

In doing so, board members expressed confidence that the audit would yet again show that the county’s November vote count was accurate and its election results legitimate.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer also endorsed the audit and said the results would be used to help educate the public on how elections are conducted in the county.

Scott Jarrett, the county’s elections director for election day and emergency voting, detailed previous efforts to ensure accuracy and how the latest audit will be conducted.

Jarrett said four separate hand counts have been conducted showing 100% accuracy and that more than 47,000 votes have been verified as accurate. Jarrett also said the federally and state certified tabulation equipment have gone through independent accuracy and logic tests as well as rigorous security testing in a lab.

Jarrett also pointed to the numerous court cases that had been dismissed or withdrawn and noted that both major political parties had observed and participated in the process.

“We believe that this [audit] is just a continuation of the efforts of the Board of Supervisors, the recorder—the former recorder, Adrian Fontes, and the current recorder, Mr. Richer—the recorder's office and the elections department to build confidence in the elections process and to really detail what we've done in the past to ensure that elections in Maricopa County are reliable, are secure, are done with integrity and are accurate,” Jarrett said.

Audit conduct

For this audit, two independent firms will be employed to analyze the hardware and software of tabulation equipment to see if it is vulnerable to hacking, verify it has no malicious software installed, see if the tabulators were sending or receiving information over the internet and confirm no vote switching occurred, Jarrett said.

Additionally, an independent CPA will be used to verify that the county followed state and county procurement code when it leased the equipment.

In their remarks before the vote to approve the audit, the supervisors made clear that they were confident in the election’s integrity.

“I want people to understand I am supporting moving forward with this audit, but in no way am I indicating a lack of support for our elections team,” Vice Chairman Bill Gates said. “I'm fully confident with the work that they've done over the last year.”

In a statement released Jan. 26, Chair Jack Sellers also expressed confidence in the outcome of the audit.

“Some will never be satisfied, but this vote is not about them,” he said. “The best we can do, in my opinion, is to err on the side of transparency, to embrace the opportunity to once again show our work, and to put facts in their proper place at the center of public discourse instead of the periphery.”

Questioning Arizona Legislature

Supervisor Clint Hickman took aim at legislators who have questioned the election’s integrity, noting that county officials had appeared before the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by then-Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, and the Arizona House Elections Committee, chaired by Rep. Kelly Townsend, to testify before the election about the election processes. Townsend also toured the department, and Farnsworth turned down the opportunity to do so, Hickman said.

Farnsworth and Townsend are among those who have questioned the election’s results. Hickman was the board’s chairman in 2020.

Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the five-member board, was sharply critical of the Legislature, accusing some members of introducing bills to suppress the vote.

“They need to use our election as justification for the bills that they are introducing right now,” he said. “That's what they are. They don't like who's voting, so, 'Let's make it more difficult for them to vote. Let's make it harder for Scott [Jarrett] and our election folks to count the ballot.'”

Supervisor Steve Chucri called for a spirit of cooperation with the Legislature and asked board members to approach it with an open mind; however, he was firm that this was the final audit.

“We should get [legislators'] feedback,” he said. “But make no mistake, this is the audit that we're doing, and we're not going to go and continue to turn over rocks. ... That’s not what we do.”

The audit will be conducted in February and March, according to Jarrett’s presentation to the board.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.