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Arizona Senate hires auditor to review county election

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PHOENIX (AP) — The Republican leader of the Arizona Senate announced Friday that she has hired an independent auditor to scour election results in Maricopa County, where supervisors voted earlier in the week to hire two firms to audit election equipment and software used in last November’s election.

The move comes after the county refused to allow the Senate access to election equipment, copies of ballots and other materials under a subpoena issued by lawmakers, some of whom continue to question whether Democratic President Joe Biden won.

Senate President Karen Fann said in a statement that the auditor will be tasked with doing an audit much larger in scope than the county intends.

“We must bring back confidence that the election results reported are how votes were legally cast,” Fann said. “The Senate’s forensic audit will bring accuracy and detail to the process, and with that restore integrity to the election process.”

The county said supervisors respect the Senate’s right to hire its own auditors to review material the county has already provided. Stiil, the county plans to move ahead with the hiring of the two firms to audit election equipment and software. The firms are the only ones in the nation certified to examine the equipment.

“If the source code from our tabulation equipment is exposed and posted online, that could jeopardize the integrity of voting systems across the country,” the county said in a statement issued by spokesman Fields Moseley. “Therefore, the county prefers to use these companies.”

County supervisors have hesitated to allow access to voting machines by non-certified auditors, saying the equipment could be compromised and rendered useless in future elections. They also balked at turning over copies of ballots and other non-public information amid privacy concerns.

The Senate has issued several subpoenas to the board and county recorder, seeking access to its voting machines, copies of all ballots and much more so it can perform its own audit. The board has fought those requests, saying they were overly broad, while providing some information and trying to negotiate a settlement with the Senate.

The Republican-dominated county Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to do an audit it said was designed as “a multi-layered review that dives into the tabulation equipment’s software and hardware,” according to documents posted with the board agenda. “It will analyze hacking vulnerability, verify that no malicious software was installed, test that the machines were not sending or receiving information over the internet and confirm that no vote switching occurred.”

The board also ordered a “logic and accuracy” test to confirm the tabulation equipment operates correctly. Similar tests were done before and after the November election and found the machines accurately counted ballots, and hand counts of a sample of ballots found the tallies were 100% correct.

GOP Sen. Warren Peterson said Friday that the county review falls short of what he believes is needed.

“We need to do more than make basic checks on the machines to make sure they were working,” he said in a statement. “We need to check the ballots and ballot scans for abnormalities. We need to look at the machines to see if there was any manipulation. We need to make sure there was no remote or local access that made changes to the results.”

The board acted Wednesday after months of unsubstantiated claims of fraud from some Republicans who question former President Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona. Board members have defended the accuracy of the county’s election results while acknowledging that a full audit may help dispel what members called “disinformation” about their accuracy.

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