Partisan Republican vote ‘audits’ are making elections less safe, officials say

Copies of widely used voting software recently made its way to the public, opening potential vulnerabilities

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Saturday 28 August 2021 22:00
Mike Lindell leaves stage at 'Cyber Symposium' after losing Dominion lawsuit

Even though they’re often conducted under the nominal banner of election security, Republican efforts to scrutinize the 2020 election results have made elections less safe, according to cyber security experts.

Earlier this month, copies of the widely used Dominion Voting Systems election software were shared with attendees at an election event organised by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump supporter and booster of election conspiracy theories.

It’s unclear how the software reached participants, but cyber experts told the Associated Press that now that the Dominion software, which is used in roughly 30 states, is out in public hands, it may make it easier for hackers and others bad actors to find vulnerabilities.

“It’s a game-changer in that the environment we have talked about existing now is a reality,” Matt Masterson, a former top election security official in the Trump administration, told the AP. “We told election officials, essentially, that you should assume this information is already out there. Now we know it is, and we don’t know what they are going to do with it.”

The Independent reached out to Mr Lindell and has not received a response.

Dominion has said it won’t comment on the sharing of its software, citing an investigation into the incident.

The software appeared to be copied from counties in Colorado and Michigan where Trump allies sought access to voting technologies as part of post-election attempts to challenge the 2020 results.

Federal, state, and local officials are probing whether Colorado election officials provided unauthorised people with access to the voting systems.

Privacy concerns have also cropped in Arizona, where the GOP Senate is conducting a highly partisan audit of the 2020 election results for most of this year with no concrete results, an effort that has been roundly criticised by state officials, including prominent Republicans.

The main contractor handling the audit is a technology firm called Cyber Ninjas, which had no previous election experience before embarking on the project, and its chief executive has previously tweet out election conspiracy theories.

County commissioners in Maricopa County, the center of the audit, have balked at a subpoena request from the audit group to turn over internet routers that are used countywide, which hold passwords, law enforcement data, and other sensitive materials.

They have argued that these routers weren’t even connected to election equipment in the first place, but the Arizona state attorney general has ruled that the county must comply with the request, or else it could lose up to a quarter of its budget under state law.

The Independent has reached out to Cyber Ninjas for comment, but has not received a response.

“I’m terribly distressed about what this has done to the public’s perception of elections,” Ann S. Jacobs, chair of the state Elections Commission in Wisconsin, told The Washington Post earlier this month. GOP politicians there are pushing for their own audits. “It erodes the faith of the electorate in their elected leaders. It justifies violence and threats of violence against election workers. America has always prided itself on its orderly transition of power and these fake accusations are undermining that.”

Donald Trump’s own Homeland Security agency said that the 2020 election was the most secure in history, and none of the former president and his allies’ numerous election-related lawsuits have turned up any evidence of voter fraud that would’ve impacted the election result.

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