Trump-Backed Audits Make Elections 'Wide Open' to Future Fraud, Experts Warn

Some election security experts warn that the efforts to audit the 2020 election results backed by former President Donald Trump could actually make future elections "wide open" to voter fraud.

Allies of the former president have pushed for audits of the election results due to Trump's claims that the 2020 election was "rigged" in favor of President Joe Biden. The allegation has been thoroughly litigated and discredited. Meanwhile, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell—a close Trump ally and top promoter of the fraud claims—gave out copies of voting software used in U.S. elections at a recent event in South Dakota.

Harri Hursti, an election security pioneer who attended Lindell's event, told The Guardian that the software copies could give would-be election hackers a "practice environment" to search for vulnerabilities. However, the hackers would still need physical access to the systems as voting machines are not connected to the internet.

"The door is now wide open," Hursti told The Guardian. "The only question is, how do you sneak in the door?"

Mike Lindell and Donald Trump
Election audits pushed by former President Donald Trump and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell could make future security breaches more likely, election experts warn. In this photo, Lindell and Trump shakes hands at the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 19, 2017. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Kevin Skoglund, an election technology expert, told the publication that the disclosure of the software could allow hackers to adjust results and sabotage the system, or inspire ballot design changes to make that easier. "This disclosure increases both the likelihood that something happens and the impact of what would happen if it does," Skoglund warned.

Matt Masterson, a former top election security official in the Trump administration, told The Guardian that they had already warned election officials that voting software could be released to the public.

"We told election officials, essentially, that you should assume this information is already out there. Now we know it is, and we don't know what [hackers] are going to do with it," Masterson said.

Trump has pressured Republicans in states across the country to demand audits of the 2020 results. One such audit has moved forward in Arizona, with Republicans in the state Senate contracting Florida-based Cyber Ninjas to conduct the recount. That audit has been widely criticized, with election experts warning about the future security of election systems due to the unprofessional manner in which it was carried out.

Back in April, when the audit began in Arizona, concerns were raised about the security of the election systems and ballots of Maricopa County after they were transferred into the custody of Senate Republicans and Cyber Ninjas. Video by Arizona's Family Investigates showed security lapses that suggested the election systems and ballots could be easily compromised.

"I don't know how people walk away feeling comfortable about what is going on. We have asked repeatedly, 'What is the plan? What is the plan for security?'" Arizona state Senator Rebecca Rios, a Democrat, told Arizona's Family Investigates at the time.

Cyber Ninjas audit
A contractor working for Cyber Ninjas, which was hired by the Arizona state Senate's Republicans, works to recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1 in Phoenix. Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

"It is a concern that people, in the pursuit of trying to show the system is insecure, are actually making it more insecure," security researcher Jack Cable told The Guardian.

Newsweek reached out to Trump's press office for comment on the security experts' concerns, but did not immediately receive a response.

While Trump continues to claim that the 2020 election was "rigged" or "stolen," dozens of election challenge lawsuits filed by the former president and his allies have failed in state and federal courts. Even judges appointed by Trump and other Republicans have rejected the allegations. Official non-partisan audits and recounts in key battleground states, including in areas where the election was overseen by pro-Trump Republicans, have reaffirmed Biden's victory.

Former Attorney General William Barr, who was widely viewed as one of Trump's most loyal Cabinet officials, said in December that there was "no evidence" to support the claims of widespread fraud. Following the November election, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, which was led by a Trump appointee at the time, asserted that there was "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."