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Cybersecurity? Democratic election officials claim that audited machines must be retired

Routers, election machines allegedly can't be verified as secure following third-party audits.

Updated: July 30, 2021 - 10:49pm

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Democratic election officials in multiple U.S. jurisdictions have claimed that election equipment audited in the wake of the 2020 election must be discarded, a response that is underscoring the bitter and contentious audit processes that have played out across the country. 

Those audits have been undertaken by Republican legislators and officials out of concerns that the U.S. election system may be vulnerable to security failures, particularly after the widespread imposition of largely untested new voting procedures, such as mass-mail-in voting, during last year's presidential election.

The audits, where they have occurred, have received pushback from Democrats and even some Republicans who claim the undertakings are little more than witch hunts designed to cast doubt on the results of Joe Biden's victory in November. 

Some have gone even farther, claiming that voting machines and equipment subject to audit investigations must be discarded and replaced at significant cost. 

Earlier this month, for example, acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid directed that voting machines in the state's Fulton County — equipment supplied by the controversial Michigan company Dominion Voting Systems — be decommissioned after a third-party audit of them. 

In a letter explaining the decision, Degraffenreid claimed that the third-party vendor conducting the audit —Philadelphia-based Wake TSI — had "no knowledge or expertise in election technology" and that the audit itself had been performed "in a manner that was not transparent or bipartisan."

While claiming that Fulton's election system "has been compromised," DeGraffenreid did not explain specifically how the system's integrity had been violated. Still, she said, nobody from Dominion or from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State's office was capable of verifying that the systems were "safe to use in future elections."

In Arizona's Maricopa County, meanwhile, a bitter election audit spearheaded by the state’s Republican-led Senate has led to a similar decertification of machines, with county officials also refusing to hand over additional subpoenaed equipment due to what they claim would be the need for further decommissioning of expensive equipment. 

The county said in a statement in July that it was required to obtain "385 new precinct tabulators and 9 new central counters as well as the election management hardware required to run them," a move that would cost "from $6.1 million to $9.0 million."

Maricopa has also for months been refusing to hand over a set of county routers used in part to handle election data. Officials have claimed that doing so would present a significant security risk due to the sensitive data stored on the equipment. 

County spokesman Fields Moseley this week told Just the News that the county would also deem it necessary to replace the routers if they were handed over to auditors. 

"Replacing those routers so the [auditing company] Cyber Ninjas can chase conspiracy theories would have cost the County taxpayers millions of dollars," Moseley wrote. "$6M was the best estimate we had from our IT experts because the routers from the network are all connected."

Neither Maricopa nor Pennsylvania officials clarified what, specifically, led them to decertify the machines, and whether or not cybersecurity experts had specifically claimed that the machines were incapable of being cleared for use after being audited. 

Maricopa's audit is drawing to a close after several contentious months, though the auditors in charge of the effort have pointed to the missing routers as a critical piece of evidence necessary to fully carry out the investigation. 

DeGraffenreid's decertification, meanwhile, was slammed by Pennsylvania Republicans as a political attack on Fulton County's audit. 

County Board of Commissioners Chairman Stuart Ulsh called the move "a partisan attack from the Department of State on a local Republican government," while state Rep. Doug Mastriano claimed that DeGraffenreid was "trying to threaten and bully [Fulton County] and other counties" throughout the state.

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