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Hobbs Says Subpoenaed Maricopa County Voting Equipment No Longer Usable

Maricopa County election equipment turned over to private firms conducting the Arizona Senate’s election review should be decommissioned and no longer used in any future elections, according to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

In a letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Hobbs wrote that she has “grave concerns” the election equipment may have been compromised by private firms, including the Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas, hired by GOP Senate President Karen Fann.

Hobbs, a Democrat, wrote that she reached the conclusion after consulting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other election technology and security experts.

“Each unanimously advised that once election officials lose custody and control over voting systems and components, those devices should not be reused in future elections,” Hobbs wrote in a letter sent Thursday. 

Cyber Ninjas has not disclosed its processes or procedures for handling the equipment; did not allow Hobbs’ observers to remain with the equipment; and unlike the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots, did not provide a livestream of the equipment to the public, she added.

Critics say Cyber Ninjas is unqualified to review the 2020 election. The company’s CEO, Doug Logan, spread conspiracies about the election on social media and authored a document for elected officials that promoted debunked election fraud theories.

“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,” Hobbs wrote.

It’s unclear what it would cost Maricopa County to obtain new equipment. The devices, which were part of a wide-ranging subpoena of voting records by the Senate, are leased by the county elections department from Dominion Voting Systems as part of a three-year, $6.1 million contract, according to a spokeswoman for the county. 

The Senate didn’t subpoena every part of the leased voting system, and Hobbs wrote that equipment that never left the custody of Maricopa County election officials can still be used in future elections.

But not all of the equipment subpoenaed by the Senate has been returned — in a statement, county officials noted there are still 385 voting machines in the custody of the Senate’s private contractors.

Hobbs said she understands the cost to replace the equipment could quickly add up, but “given the circumstances and ongoing concerns regarding the handling and security of the equipment, I believe the County can agree that this is the only path forward to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County in the future.”

Maricopa County election officials said county attorneys are reviewing all possible options, including whether or not equipment can be recertified or needs to be replaced — and if so, exactly how much that will cost.

“The voters of Maricopa County can rest assured that we will not use any equipment — ever — that could pose a risk to free and fair elections,” election officials said in a statement.

If Maricopa County tried to get the equipment recertified, Hobbs made clear she’ll stonewall that effort. As the chief elections officer in Arizona, it's the secretary of state’s responsibility to make sure voting equipment is federally certified prior to any election. In her letter, Hobbs wrote she may trigger proceedings to decertify subpoenaed equipment if the county tries to use it again.

The cost to simply replace the equipment as Hobbs recommended is likely to shift to the state Senate, and taxpayers statewide.

Before Maricopa County officials turned over subpoenaed ballots and voting equipment, Fann signed an agreement indemnifying the county from expenses that occur as a result of the election review. The agreement covers equipment that’s “damaged, altered or otherwise compromised while in the Senate’s custody and control,” and specifies there’s no limit to the expense the county can claim “associated with procuring new equipment.”

Fann did not respond to a request for comment.

The audit and hand recount of all ballots cast in Maricopa County during the general election has been on a one-week hiatus. The Senate’s contractor fell far behind schedule and had to vacate Veterans Memorial Coliseum to make way for high school graduation ceremonies.

Ballots and equipment are expected to be moved back into the coliseum over the weekend, and the recount is scheduled to begin again on Monday.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.