For a while the topic was taboo.
Raise the subject of election fraud and you were somehow complicit with the Jan 6th “Capitol insurrection.”
But concerns over election integrity and possible fraud in the 2020 presidential election were too widespread to be permanently silenced.
In a sign that these concerns continue to haunt millions, Republicans from a growing number of states are traveling to Maricopa County in Arizona to witness a comprehensive election audit in progress there since April 23, and to discuss replicating it in their home states.
President Biden narrowly won Arizona by 10,000 votes out of more than 3.3 million cast across the state. His lead was due partly to his edge in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, where Biden received nearly 45,000 more votes than Donald Trump.
In the face of mounting questions over election irregularities, the GOP-led Arizona Senate used its subpoena power to obtain access to all ballots, counting machines and hard drives full of election data in Maricopa County.
The state senate handed over all of this equipment to a cyber-security forensic team led by the Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, for a hand recount of 2.1 million ballots, and meticulous analysis of all vote-counting machines and data. In a few more weeks the marathon job should be complete, with a final report delivered to the Arizona senate.
The goal of the audit, Arizona State Senator Karen Fann has repeatedly stated, is not to challenge Biden’s presidency, but to restore people’s trust and confidence in the electoral process.
“When you’ve got half of the people who do not trust the electoral system anymore, rightly or wrongly, and they have questions, who is responsible for answering these questions?” Fann said on KTAR News in Arizona. “This has been the sole purpose, to get answers, so that if we have any problems, we can fix them.”
Republicans Flock to Arizona Audit Site
As Republican congressmen flock to the Arizona State Fairgrounds, they are discovering how all-encompassing the Maricopa audit is, in contrast to other kinds of reviews that are limited to hand recounts or a cursory examination of the voting machines.
The latest visitors have been Pennsylvania Senators Doug Mastriano and Cris Dush, and Rep. Rob Kauffman who arrived this past week. They met with Arizona legislators at the capitol before traveling to the audit site to get a briefing from the auditors.
“The AZ Forensic Election Audit is the most comprehensive election audit in the history of the United States,” Mastriano said later in a press release. “Transparency is a must in our republic. Every citizen should be confident that their vote counts.”
“We’ll bring the information back to the Senate leadership, we’ll brief them on the way ahead, and then hopefully we can come up with an approach here to make sure every person in Pennsylvania can rest assured they have one vote and it counts,” Mastriano told a reporter at the site.
Asked if he wants to see the Arizona audit replicated in Pennsylvania, Dush said, “Without question. Absolutely.”
“All three visiting Pennsylvania lawmakers were among the 64 Republican legislators who signed a letter asking the state’s congressional delegation to object to Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes being cast for Biden,” in the face of outcries over allegations of voter fraud, wrote NPR.
Prior to their visit to Arizona, U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz of Florida endorsed the audit at a rally outside Phoenix. “It’s my belief that Arizona will be the launch pad for elections audits and election integrity efforts all over this great country,” Gaetz said in a statement.
Earlier this month, officials with the Nevada Republican Party toured the auditing site and met with Cyber Ninjas experts. A day later, two Republican state senators from Georgia took a similar tour alongside a state representative from Alaska. So did David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia GOP, the NPR article said.
A week ago, former Georgia State Rep. Vernon Jones, who is challenging Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in a primary, met with Arizona legislators before taking his own tour of the fairgrounds.
According to Randy Pullen, who’s serving as a spokesman for the audit, additional congressmen from Wisconsin and Virginia are planning their own tours later this week.
The visiting legislators have told reporters that they would support similar probes in their home states, a fact that highlights a stubborn grass roots belief in many states that Biden’s victory in the 2020 election was not legitimate.
“The ramifications [of distrust in] the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country,” wrote the Washington Examiner. “In emails, phone calls and public meetings, [voters] are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count.”
At a public meeting last week in Cheboygan County, Mich., reported Anchorage Daily News, a lawyer from Detroit told county commissioners that the voting machines they used in 2020 could “flip” votes and throw an election. She offered to send in a “forensic team,” at no charge to the county, to inspect ballots and scanners, the article said.
And at a board of supervisors meeting May 4 in San Luis Obispo County, on California’s Central Coast, scores of residents questioned whether election machines had properly counted their votes, with many demanding a “forensic audit” similar to that being performed in Maricopa County.
How ‘Election Integrity’ Returned to the Headlines
The Maricopa County audit grew out of deep concern over bizarre voting discrepancies in the 2020 election. Those concerns led to a ten-hour public hearing organized by Trump’s legal team on Nov. 7, before a panel of nine state legislators. Similar hearings took place in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.
Arizona lawmakers listened to hours of eye-opening testimony from multiple witnesses about troubling Election Day incidents that appeared to violate election laws.
Some of the most disturbing revelations came from retired Army Col. Phil Waldron, a cyber-security expert with a background in electronic warfare and automated voting machines. He explained that Dominion voting machines used across Arizona and in 27 other states were hooked up to the internet on Election Day where they were open to hackers.
Waldron said the Dominion manual itself explains how to disable the machine’s security safeguards and connect it to the internet. In a Fox News appearance on the Lou Dobbs show in November, Waldron alleged that the claim that Dominion machines were not connected to the internet on Election Day is part of a false “narrative” promoted by entities bent on “information warfare.”
Spokesmen for Dominion have disputed these claims and have launched billion dollar defamation lawsuits against news corporations, news anchors and Trump attorneys who have made allegations against the company. Some of the defendants have apologized and recanted. The lawsuits have not yet been adjudicated.
Threats, legal action and the combined censorship power of mainstream and social media exerted a massive chilling effect on election fraud discourse for several months.
But the dynamics shifted when an unexpected surge of political will in Arizona led a superior court to empower the Arizona Senate to conduct a forensic audit of millions of election ballots.
That ruling pitched the subject of election integrity back into the headlines, as well as stimulating debate about what changes in election practices may be necessary to restore public trust.
The Arizona case galvanized renewed calls for election audits in other states such as Georgia, where a judge last month awarded a group the right to review mail ballots in Fulton, one of the state’s largest counties that includes Atlanta.
The judge ruled that plaintiffs could inspect 147,000 mail ballots as part of their lawsuit alleging fraud in Fulton. The lawsuit was spearheaded by Garland Favorito, a longtime critic of Georgia’s voting systems.
“Our ultimate objective is the truth. What is the truth of this election?” Favorito said in an interview. “Don’t tell us what the results are and then hide it from us and pretend we have to accept whatever you tell us.”
“We have sworn affidavits from several poll managers who say they handled counterfeit ballots during the hand count audit,” he remarked. They recognized something amiss “because those were mail-in ballots that were not marked with a writing instrument like a mail-in ballot should be.”
Heated Debate in Michigan
Similar wrangling continues in Michigan, as officials debate whether to forensically examine their state’s voting equipment. Two Michigan Republican Party officials are helping lobby the state’s GOP-led Legislature to order a full “forensic” audit of the 2020 state election, reports Bridge Michigan.
The goal, the activists said, was to spur the kind of independent audit currently being conducted in Maricopa County, Arizona.
“I know this takes a bit of time and a bit of money – but this is what worked in AZ!” GOP activist Tami Carlone wrote in an email to Michigan Republican Party delegates. “Letting Dems run our state and nation will cost us way more time and money!”
Calls for an audit in Michigan come amid heated debate in the Michigan Senate over a 39-bill election reform package. The bill “would tighten the state’s voter ID laws, limit absentee ballot drop box hours and prohibit election officials from providing free return postage,” Bridge Michigan wrote.
Republicans say the bills are designed to enhance confidence in elections. Many take issue with pandemic-focused changes to the voting process last year, including widespread mail-in voting, which they say was ripe for fraud, and, in some cases, was not constitutional without approval from state legislatures and Congress.
Opponents call voter reform laws a form of “voter suppression” that end up targeting minorities.
Voting Systems Under Fire
Windham, New Hampshire, a town of about 14,000 that lies north of Boston, has also been torn by sharp divisions over whether an election audit should be launched, reports Anchorage Daily News.
“I think there is clearly a justification to do that type of audit that they’re doing in Maricopa County. That’s what I wanted to see done here,” Ken Eyring, a local activist in Windham, told the paper. Eyring said his only goal is to make sure Windham’s machines are accurate.
“I want to know if our machines work properly or not. That’s it. That’s my whole drive with this thing,” he said, adding “people in other towns and cities are in an uproar, clamoring to have their elections audited as well.”
“This will continue on for years,” predicted Gerrid Uzarski, the elections director in Kent County, Mich., whose office has been inundated with angry phone calls from residents accusing his office of allowing fraud to taint the 2020 results.
“Most detractors take aim at equipment sold or serviced by Dominion Voting Systems, a Toronto- and Denver-based company that has been the subject of some of fierce controversy,” noted the Anchorage Daily News article.
In San Luis Obispo County, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, more than 100 local residents lodged concerns about the county’s Dominion machines at a May 4 meeting.
In another case, a lawsuit filed against California state officials by a group called Election Integrity Project California, “alleged without evidence that Dominion’s machines produce inaccurate tallies,” the article detailed.
The county’s GOP chairman, Randall Jordan, told The Washington Post in an interview that he is working with Election Integrity Project California to press for an audit of the 2020 results. He said he does not believe the 2020 vote was rigged, but thinks it is essential to restore faith among those who believe voting is a “waste of their time” because of reports of fraud.
“The public has the right to ask for fair and honest elections and not take the word of our officials who have lied to us in the past,” he said.
Dominion has vehemently pushed back against the allegations. “Recount after recount and audit after audit, Dominion machines have proven to be accurate,” the company said in a statement.
The voting machine company has also been at the center of a long-running fight in Antrim County, Mich., where a local resident filed suit last year claiming that the election was marred by “material fraud or error.”
The allegations began when the county initially reported on election night that Biden held an unlikely 3,000-vote lead in the conservative jurisdiction; local election officials attributed that figure to human error which was quickly corrected.
Last week, state judge Kevin Elsenheimer dismissed a lawsuit seeking a new audit of the vote. “But the dismissal is unlikely to tamp down fervor in Antrim,” wrote Anchorage DN, and the ruling is expected to be appealed, legal pundits say.
Election Assessment in Pennsylvania Turns Up Same Microsoft “Implant” Found in Antrim County Machines
An election assessment conducted in a Pennsylvania county months ago and quietly released to the public in recent weeks uncovered five “issues of note,” including three linked to Dominion Voting Systems, the assessing firm said, according to the Epoch Times.
Wake Technology Services Inc. (Wake TSI), a Pennsylvania-based firm, conducted the assessment in Fulton County late last year and in early February. The goal was to review the mail-in ballots in the county and explore whether absentee ballot distribution and counting complied with federal and commonwealth guidelines, Wake TSI said in its 93-page report.
Although the assessors found that the election “was well run, was conducted in a diligent and effective manner and followed the directions of Pennsylvania,” they singled out three pitfalls regarding Dominion machines.
Dominion Voting Machine failed to meet certification standards, the report said. Another issue the report highlighted was the election management system (EMS) had Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools installed, despite the software not being certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In addition, changes were made to the management system just three weeks prior to the election.
Assessors said there is “no valid reason” for Microsoft SQL software to be installed on the system and that its presence is problematic, as it “allows any user to change and manipulate the EMS databases without logging the changes on the Database, EMS, or log files.”
Experts note that the Microsoft SQL software in question can be a great asset; it can help recover material from a corrupted database in the event of a crash caused by a power surge. But it can also be used for nefarious purposes, they say; to recreate and rewrite the source code of a database, all without detection.
The same Microsoft software was discovered implanted in Antrim County machines, according to the above-cited Cyber Ninjas report, as quoted in the Antrim County lawsuit.
Dominion Voting Systems disputed the report’s findings related to it, saying the Microsoft software “is a federally-certified component of Dominion’s system, which meets U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Voluntary Voting System Guidelines,” a spokesperson said in an email, according to the Epoch Times article.
The company’s statement seems to imply that the Microsoft “implant” is in fact federally certified for elections, which conflicts with assertions of leading cyber security experts Wake TSI and Cyber Ninjas.
The type of assessment Wake TSI conducted would not be able to uncover whether the Microsoft implant in Pennsylvania’s voting machines was used for something sinister, the article attested.
For that, a Maricopa County-type audit would be needed.
Democrats Involve DOJ in Battle to Halt Maricopa Audit
Arizona Democrats, backed by the liberal media, have relentlessly opposed the Maricopa audit, ridiculing it as “sham,” “a clown show,” “an embarrassment” and accusing those in charge in court motions of “breaches of security and voter privacy.”
But a judge in late April ruled against the Arizona Democratic Party, saying they had not provided “substantive evidence of any breaches or security and voter privacy,” and the audit was allowed to proceed.
When efforts to use the courts failed, Democrats upped the ante and reached out to the DOJ. The Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland complied, sending a letter to the Arizona Senate warning that the audit and recount might run afoul of federal law regarding ballot security and voter privacy.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann responded with assurances that the process will remain compliant with federal and state civil rights laws.
“Since the inception of the audit, I have emphasized the crucial importance of transparency and collaboration… I am happy to provide any additional information and to continue a constructive dialogue with your office to advance our common objective of protecting the rights of voters and the integrity of our elections,” Fann said.
While probably too late to stop the Maricopa audit, the DOJ’s involvement may succeed in hampering efforts of other states to carry out post-election reviews.
During a policy speech on voting rights in Washington, D.C. last week, Garland signaled that the Biden administration is gearing up to crack down on “controversial audits” looking for evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, the Washington Examiner wrote.
He announced that within 30 days, the Justice Department will double its “enforcement staff for protecting the right to vote,” adding a note of warning that his focus will be a raft of new voting laws passed by Republican-controlled states in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.
The Justice Department “will apply the same scrutiny to post-election audits to ensure they abide by federal requirements,” Garland added. “In that regard, we will publish guidance explaining the civil and criminal statutes that apply to post-election audits.”
Antrim County Lawsuit Revelations
The debate in Antrim County over whether to conduct a forensic inspection of its voting equipment has been fueled by troubling revelations in an election lawsuit that quoted two cyber-security firms hired to examine several Dominion machines used in Antrim County.
The first company, Texas-based ASOG, determined in its report that “the Dominion Voting System is designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results. The system intentionally generates an enormously high number of ballot errors. The electronic ballots are then transferred for adjudication…with no oversight, transparency or audit trail.”
The ASOG report also highlighted that “the adjudication logs and server security logs for the 2020 election, including Election Day and the day after, were missing,” although the security logs for time frames prior to Nov 4, 2020 were all present.
“There is no reasonable explanation” for the logs, which are crucial for an audit trail, forensics and detecting hacking, to be missing, the report noted.
A second report quoted in the lawsuit was prepared by Cyber Ninjas, the same firm heading the Maricopa County audit. The company detailed its discovery of a Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio implant on the Dominion machines in Antrim County, “which allows a user to circumvent security protocol, and make direct entries within the database which could possibly be used to change vote values.
“This piece of software is not approved by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC),” the report stated.
Despite dismissing the lawsuit on procedural grounds, Judge Elsenheimer noted his decision did not ignore the issues involved in the way Antrim County conducted the election, and the disturbing questions surrounding the voting machines.
“Nor am I saying that the processing of election data here wasn’t corrupted or corruptible,” Elsenheimer said, as quoted in Up North Live ABC. “I don’t have the facts to make that determination.”