Arizona's Maricopa County Advised to Purchase New Voting Machines Over Tampering Concerns

Arizona's secretary of state said Thursday that Maricopa County should replace hundreds of voting machines that have been examined as part of a Republican-led audit of the November election because of concerns that the equipment might have been tampered with in the process.

In a letter sent to election officials in Maricopa County, Katie Hobbs said she had "grave concerns" that Cyber Ninjas, the company hired to conduct the audit, has not sufficiently protected the equipment during its review of votes.

Cyber Ninjas has had no prior experience working in elections and is led by a man who previously pushed conspiracy theories claiming former President Donald Trump lost the election due to fraud.

"I understand Cyber Ninjas has begun returning the election equipment to the County. I have grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines, given that the chain of custody, a critical security tenant, has been compromised and election officials do not know what was done to the machines while under Cyber Ninjas' control," Hobbs said in the letter.

Hobbs, a Democrat, added that "the lack of physical security and transparency means we cannot be certain who accessed the voting equipment and what might have been done to them."

#BREAKING @MarkPhllpsnews has obtained a letter from @SecretaryHobbs to @maricopacounty saying that her office will not re-certify election equipment that was handed over to #AzAudit in subpoena. She advises the county to purchase new equipment.

— The AZ - abc15 - Data Guru (@Garrett_Archer) May 20, 2021

Hobbs recommended that the county replace each of the 385 voting machines and nine vote tabulators that have been reviewed as part of the audit.

"Decommissioning and replacing those devices is the safest option as no methods exist to adequately ensure those machines are safe to use in future elections. Instead, the County should acquire new machines to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County going forward," she wrote.

It is unclear if the county will replace the machines, but a spokesperson for the elections department told the New York Times that officials "will not use any of the returned tabulation equipment unless the county, state and vendor are confident that there is no malicious hardware or software installed on the devices."

As part of the audit process, the state's Republican-led Senate agreed to indemnify the county against financial losses in the event that new equipment would need to be purchased.

Maricopa County recount
Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, which was hired by the Arizona state Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021, in Phoenix. Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

The county's audit has been slowly taking place for several weeks, as the state Senate and Cyber Ninjas continue to review some 2.1 million votes in Maricopa County over unsubstantiated claims that the election contained voter fraud.

Maricopa County has previously carried out several election audits, all of which have found that President Joe Biden won the county. The newest GOP-led review will not change the outcome of the election, and critics have argued that the controversial audit has been a waste of time and resources.

Earlier this week, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which includes four Republicans and one Democrat, condemned the ongoing review and said it was a "spectacle that is harming all of us."

"Our state has become a laughingstock," the letter said. "Worse, this 'audit' is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic."

Newsweek contacted the Maricopa County Elections Department for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.