Maricopa County’s vote-counting machines were not connected to the internet during the 2020 election, an independent review has found, further undercutting claims by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the results were “rigged.”
A trio of technology experts overseen by an impartial special master found no evidence of an internet connection, according to results of the review released Wednesday.
That echoes the county’s long-standing position as well as the findings of independent audits the county conducted a year ago. It also dispels unproven theories from election deniers that the tabulation machines were hooked up to the internet and therefore susceptible to hacking to throw the election to Joe Biden.
Biden won Maricopa County by 45,109 votes, according to the official results.
In a statement, Bill Gates, a Republican who chairs the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said “the unanimous conclusions of this expert panel should be a final stake in the heart of the Senate’s so-called ‘audit.’
“Whenever impartial, independent and competent people have examined the county’s election practices, they have found no reason to doubt the integrity of those practices. The Board of Supervisors remains committed to free and fair elections that conform to federal and state laws.”
Senate President Karen Fann, a Prescott Republican who helped negotiate a settlement that allowed scrutiny of the county’s routers, said the findings overseen by special master John Shadegg should bring some closure to people who doubted the security of Maricopa County’s election machines.
“We’re hoping this new information will restore some confidence back into our elections system,” she said in a statement.
However, she noted that this is not the final chapter of the Senate’s scrutiny of the 2020 election. The Senate is still waiting for Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office to finish his investigation, based off the findings of the Senate’s contractor, the Cyber Ninjas. And state auditors are reviewing Maricopa County’s election process.
Two of the Senate’s biggest skeptics about the election said the router examination doesn’t qualm all their concerns.
“It just means Maricopa County’s IT system is not compromised,” said Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City. While that’s a good thing, he said, he still has questions about the ability of the machines to be connected to the internet.
Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, said she had not had a chance to review the report as of Wednesday evening and said she needed to see the examiners’ details.
“I approach this report with skepticism,” she said. Last September, she issued a list of six steps she felt the review should include to build confidence in their work. They included videotaping their work and signing statements under penalty of perjury that their work was accurate.
A deal settles router dispute
The review resulted from a settlement last fall between the county and the Senate after months of feuding over the routers.
Shadegg, a former U.S. congressman from Arizona, was hired as the “special master” to oversee the latest review. He, in turn, hired three technology experts who examined the equipment in mid-February and then each submitted their own independent findings to Shadegg.
The three each reached the same conclusion: No internet connection, Shadegg wrote in the report.
“There is no electronic connection between the BTC (the county’s ballot tabulation center) and the MCTEC (Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center), either wired or through a wireless protocol,” the report concludes.
There are no routers in the tabulation center, the report states. There were no Splunk logs to track internet activity because the was no internet connection, and the county’s voter-registration database is never sent electronically to the tabulation center, as the Arizona Constitution has privacy requirements that would bar such transmission.
Whether the router review concludes the Senate’s examination of the 2020 election is unclear: Earlier this week, Townsend issued a subpoena for county officials to appear before her Senate Government Committee on Monday. She is demanding answers to questions that state Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office posed to the county, but which have gone unanswered.
County officials said they received the questions less than two weeks earlier and are working on a response, noting they will respond within a “reasonable period of time as prescribed by Arizona law.”
Report follows Cyber Ninjas review
The router report comes six months after the Senate’s contractor for a review of 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots found no fraud in the November 2020 election.
The Cyber Ninjas’ report concluded Biden defeated Trump in Maricopa County by a slightly larger margin than the county’s certified results. However, the Ninjas’ report raised questions about election processes — issues that Fann forwarded to Brnovich for an investigation that is still underway.
No surprises, but interesting finds
The report’s findings were widely expected. But there were a few interesting discoveries.
For example, the technical experts learned they could not review the election devices the county used in the 2020 election, despite a request from the Senate. That’s because the equipment was sequestered at the attorney general’s request. Those devices include electronic poll books and high-speed scanners.
The Senate’s inquiry was based on the assumption that the county’s “election network” was a single entity, the report states.
But in fact, the technical experts learned the network has two components: the ballot tabulation center, which has no internet connectivity, and the Office of Enterprise Technology, which does. That office, among other things, stores and maintains voter registration records and has no connection to the tabulation center. The two are physically separated and have no electronic connection, the report stated.
“No ballot tabulation information is ever received by, sent to or stored in the OET,” the report said, using the acronym for the technology office.
In addition, the tabulation center is walled off from outside interference due to the fact there is no internet connectivity, the system is air-gapped from all outside systems, access to the center is controlled by key cards and the center’s operations are continuously monitored electronically, the report states.
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