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Arizona GOP candidates take on voting machines they call exploitable

There is no evidence to date that anyone has ever hacked voter ballots, but Republicans say the possibility alone is enough to bar the machines that count ballots on Election Day.

PHOENIX (CN) — Attorneys for the state of Arizona sparred Thursday with Republican challengers who want electronic voting machines barred in the upcoming midterm election.

Scott Jarrett, the director of elections at Maricopa County, testified about the impracticality of doing a hand-count election on the baseless speculation Republicans are asserting to challenge machines.

“It would be a near impossibility,” Jarrett said. “Well, with my current employees, it would be impossible.”

Jarrett explained it would take an additional 25,000 temporary workers to count ballots by hand, along with 2 million square feet in leased real estate.

Meanwhile voters and candidates would be waiting long past Election Day for results.

“Several days,” he said, referring only to how long it would take to count 2,000 ballots on one table.

“That would be if you’re only counting five contests — all 70 could take months.”

In a federal complaint they filed in April, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem insisted that the “voting system does not reliably provide trustworthy and verifiable election results.”

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Lake and Finchem in their respective races.

The GOP candidates claim voting on paper ballots, and hand-counting those votes, is the only practical and secure method for proceeding. Andrew Parker, an attorney representing Lake and Finchem, said Thursday that it only takes one bad actor to sway an election where machines do the counting.

“There might be errors that are made,” Parker said about a hand count. “But you would need an extremely large cabal of people … to coordinate a conspiratorial attack … [that] a single person … could do in a machine environment.”

Parker built his case by examining expert witness Benjamin Cotton, a cybersecurity professional whose claim to fame is discovering a government-related cyber intrusion by China.

Cotton testified about the possibility that Dominion Voting Systems could have meddled with the voting system’s proprietary data because it had control over the data during the 2020 presidential election audit in Arizona. While not a party to the current action, Dominion is famously seeking billions over the reputational harm it suffered from Republicans during the 2020 election.

“The only people who had access … are the Dominion employees who were on-site at the county,” Cotton told the court Thursday. “The county indicated that they could not compel the Dominion employees to produce those [items].”

Maricopa County, represented by Joseph LaRue, later confirmed that detail but maintained the state Senate certified the county’s compliance with a subpoena for discovery.

Under examination by Parker, Cotton claimed that Maricopa County’s voting system could be breached despite an “air gap” or a lack of connection to the internet. He later maintained that the lack of connectivity was only a minor issue, claiming hackers could find vulnerabilities or remote access to exploit the systems.

Andy Gaona of Coppersmith Brockelman, representing Arizona’s secretary of state, called the lack of security pure speculation and said Republicans have zero proof for their claims.

"You found no evidence of malware or viruses that had infected those systems, correct,” Gaona asked Cotton. To which Cotton replied, “correct.”

The county, in turn, built its defense by examining Scott Jarrett, the director of elections at Maricopa County. LaRue asked him how many Arizonans cast their ballots via paper ballot.

“Well, over 99.9% of all voters fill out a paper ballot using a pen,” Jarrett replied.

Jarret said most voters have some type of physical ballot, and the voting systems or machines merely tabulate these votes. He testified that this was a reliable method because the paper ballots provide a physical receipt of accuracy in an audit situation.

In 2021, Arizona Republicans contracted a now-defunct firm called the Cyber Ninjas to audit the 2020 presidential election results. After its five-month review of those paper ballots, the Cyber Ninjas found Biden lawfully won.

The Ninjas had identified at the time what they considered to be 53,304 questionable ballots. Maricopa County investigated the authenticity of those ballots and found in February that only 37 may have been illegally cast.

Lake announced the lawsuit at one of her political rallies in Morristown, Arizona, in March alongside the founder and CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell. Both were seen in or around the courthouse Thursday, talking to right-wing media groups.

U.S. District Judge John Tuchi said he would rule next week but first consider a motion that the defense filed Thursday to discredit witness testimony. He expects the defense to submit the rationale in writing by Friday.

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Categories / Government, Politics, Regional

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