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County seeks election security DHS grant


PHOENIX — If it gets the green light Wednesday, the Maricopa County Elections Department will seek a grant that could help with election security.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer wants the board to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to approve and authorize the department’s application for the Homeland Security Grant Program Award, administered by the Arizona Department of Homeland Security.

That authorization is on the agenda for the supervisors 9:30 a.m. Wednesday meeting held at 205 W. Jefferson Ave. in Phoenix.
The department also wants the board to appropriate $44,500 just for costs associated with applying for the nonrecurring grant.

The county won’t be applying for a specific dollar amount or a grant with a specified budget amount attached to it, but will be seeking hardware, software and services associated with election security.

A letter from Arizona Homeland Security Director Tim Roemer to Richer shows there is about $25.3 million in federal funds for which agencies around the nation will compete.

“The program will support the continued hardening of Maricopa County’s critical election equipment and data infrastructure,” a staff report states. “The acquisition of hardware, software, and critical services will harden security for both hard and cyber targets. The request represents the (Recorder’s) Office’s efforts to continue to strengthen elections infrastructure and the mitigation and/or elimination of any security gaps identified during the 2020 election cycle and subsequent audits.”

The report doesn’t go into detail about what types of gaps need to be filled. But the county was embroiled in questions about its handling of the 2020 election subject to an audit of the results at the request of Arizona Senate Republican leaders.

The Senate’s forensic audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa — easily the biggest county in Arizona, by population — cost county taxpayers at least $150,000. Released in a special session Sept. 24, the results formally confirmed Joe Biden outpolled Donald Trump for president and found no specific evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.

But the individuals and companies hired by the Senate told lawmakers the ballot tally does not address other issues about how the election was conducted.

Every Arizona judge who heard claims regarding potential election fraud has dismissed them as lacking evidence. And a state-mandated hand count of a random sample of ballots found no irregularities.
Senate President Karen Fann said last year after the report was presented that it would be used to craft legislation to update election laws, with recommendations ranging from regular audit procedures to having ballots on “official paper” that are specially watermarked to prove they are authentic.

The proposed DHS grant period will cover the cycle of Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022. The grant does not allow for indirect costs; Nonrecoverable indirect costs will be covered by the departmental general fund budget.

Maricopa County has not received this grant in the past.

The grant is competitive and does not require a match or on-going cash contributions after the grant period end date. The grant award is nonrecurring and has not been awarded to the department in past years.

“Elections remain the cornerstone of American democracy,” the report states. “Funding from the AZDOHS Homeland Security Grant Program will aid in the department’s mandate to provide fair, safe, and secure elections.”

Wednesday will mark the board’s first full meeting since Dec. 8, and the first full meeting with District 2 appointee Thomas Galvin in attendance. He was chosen from a field of applicants after Steve Chucri resigned in the fall.

There are also 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. special meetings scheduled, along with a special executive session, though no agendas had been released or posted as of this writing.
The board is also set to hold both informal and executive sessions on Monday, Jan. 10.