Cybersecurity expert in Lake trial: Ballot printers must have been intentionally tampered with

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer sought to dismiss a subpoena requiring his testimony at the trial, but the judge denied the motion.
A voter drops their ballot into a drop box outside of the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on November 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.

A cybersecurity expert in the civil trial of Kari Lake's lawsuit testified Wednesday that the issues experienced with ballot printers at Maricopa County vote centers on Election Day had to have been intentionally caused by changing the printer settings.

The trial began Wednesday with the testimonies of Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, Maricopa County Director of Elections Scott Jarrett, cybersecurity expert Clay Parikh, and Heather Honey, who does open source research with regard to elections.

Parikh, who has previously worked with election systems, testified that the settings on either the printers or the laptops at the vote centers that sent the ballot print jobs to the printers had to have been intentionally changed to cause the printer errors that were experienced on Election Day.

Honey testified that there were no chain of custody documents provided by Maricopa County for a public records request regarding Early Voting ballots dropped off in drop boxes on Election Day, despite documents being made available for ballots from the Early Voting period prior to Election Day.

Jarrett explained under direct examination that the vote center wait times were based on prior elections, and calculated that voters would wait in line for about 30 minutes on average. He said that wait times included how long it would take voters to check in at the vote centers. The election director said under cross-examination by defendants' counsel that the average wait time for all voters was less than few minutes on Election Day.

When asked by Lake's legal counsel about reports from poll workers that wait times were over two hours, Jarrett said that those workers could make estimates, but unless they were timing voters, it was an assumption.

Jarrett also testified that there was no 19-inch ballot design for the 2022 general election, only the August primary, so ballot printers couldn't have printed the wrong ballot.

Richer was questioned by Lake's attorney Bryan Blehm about his responsibilities as the Maricopa County recorder, which include Early Voting ballots and ballots in drop boxes, including any early ballots dropped off on Election Day.

Under cross-examination by the defendants' legal counsel, Richer said that he had "absolutely not" done anything to make the ballot printers not print correctly or knew of anyone who did.

After a decade of election failures in Maricopa County, election officials are on trial this week for their management of the 2022 election.

As the trial for Lake's lawsuit begins Wednesday against Maricopa County election officials and her Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Lake's legal counsel plans to also call Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates to testify about their handling of the 2022 election, according to a court filing on Sunday.

Both Hobbs and Richer sought to quash subpoenas for their testimony, but the judge overseeing the case denied their motions on Monday. Later on Monday night, Hobbs asked the judge to reconsider his denial of her motion. On Tuesday, Lake's attorneys withdrew their subpoena for her testimony. Lake didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Lake's lawsuit was allowed to continue to trial after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson dismissed 8 of Lake's 10 counts against the defendants while leaving intact counts II ("Illegal Tabulator Configurations") and IV ("Ballot Chain of Custody").

Count II alleges that the malfunctioning of ballot-on-demand printers on Election Day was intentional. To prove this count, the judge wrote, "Plaintiff must show at trial that the BOD printer malfunctions were intentional, and directed to affect the results of the election, and that such actions did actually affect the outcome."

Count IV alleges violations of the County Election Manual enabling ballots to be added to the total. Finding that "whether the county complied with its own manual and applicable statutes is a dispute of fact rather than one of law," the judge denied the motion to dismiss this count.

Maricopa County has a 10-year history of election issues dating back to 2012. In the 2012 and 2014 elections, its counting of early and provisional ballots was marred by long delays.

In the 2016 primary election, the county reduced the number of polling places to 60, down from more than 200 in the 2012 presidential primary, and 400 in the 2008 presidential primary. The sharp reductions caused hours-long lines for voters to cast their ballots.

The Obama Justice Department sent a letter to the Maricopa County Recorder's Office after the 2016 primary inquiring about the election issues, which occurred under Helen Purcell, a Republican who had held the office since winning the 1988 election. Amid these issues, Purcell lost her 2016 reelection race for county recorder to Democrat Adrian Fontes.

During the 2018 election, dozens of polling locations failed to open on time due to technical issues with election machines, leading to the county's Board of Supervisors retaking control over Election Day voting from the recorder's office.

In 2020, the Arizona state Senate ordered an audit of the presidential contest in the county. The extensive investigation called into question more than 50,000 ballots cast in the election, including ballots cast by voters from residences they had left. The number of questioned ballots is nearly five times the margin of Joe Biden's victory in the state.

A separate review of Maricopa County's mail ballots in the 2020 found that more than 200,000 ballots with signatures did not match voter files and were counted without being reviewed.

In the 2022 election, at least 70 vote centers in Maricopa County experienced ballot printer issues on Election Day, which resulted in ballot tabulation machine errors.

The county has acknowledged that 70 vote centers had issues, while a report compiling Election Day observations made by GOP roving attorneys found that 72 out of the 115 vote centers they visited had issues. Maricopa County had 223 vote centers operating during the 2022 election, and Lake's lawsuit alleges that 59% of them — approximately 132 vote centers — experienced machine issues on Election Day.

Meanwhile, Richer, who was elected as Maricopa County Recorder in 2020, started a political action committee in 2021, funded by Democrats, that supports Republican candidates who, according to the PAC, "acknowledge the validity of the 2020 election and condemn the events of January 6, 2021 as a terrible result of the lies told about the November election."

In March, Richer sought support from the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) — including funding, intelligence, and collaboration with social media — in election officials' often controversial efforts to combat purported election misinformation.

Briefing CISA's Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Misinformation and Disinformation Subcommittee, Richer "suggested that CISA hold bootcamps for media representatives such as FOX News or CNN to enhance media's understanding of how elections are administered."

Richer added that the "malinformation" his office has encountered included "Abuse of Arizona's permissive public records process," as they received more than 350 public records requests last year regarding the 2020 election.