Arizona election audit has no set deadline for completion, liaison says

May 3, 2021, 11:27 AM | Updated: 11:33 am

Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recoun...

Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

(Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The ongoing hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots from the November 2020 Maricopa County election has no hard deadline for completion but might have to pause for about a week later this month, according to the liaison between the Arizona Senate and the contracted auditors.

“There’s nothing magical about May 14,” Ken Bennett, former Arizona Secretary of State, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Monday.

“We always knew that there was a possibility that we might have to step aside for five days.”

Bennett said an estimated 150,00-175,000 out of 2,089,563 ballots had been tallied so far during the audit ordered by the Republican-led state Senate, but he expected the pace to pick up.

He said the number of counting tables on the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum floor increased to 46 on Monday, more than doubling the 20 from Thursday.

“They’re ramping up the personnel needed,” he said. “They’re hiring temporarily around Maricopa County to staff those up.”

Initial reports said the original home of the Phoenix Suns was booked for the Cyber Ninjas-led audit for a four-week period through May 14. But Bennett said the count could go longer, if necessary, after an expected hiatus.

Bennett said the Arizona Exposition & State Fair, which operates the Coliseum, made the auditors aware that the building was already booked for a series of Phoenix Union High School District graduation ceremonies over several days this month.

“So we always knew that if we weren’t completed by May 14, we could step … aside, move everything off the floor for four or five days, keep it secure under guarded 24/7 security,” he said.

Fair officials are giving the audit, which includes an inspection of tabulation equipment as well as the full hand recount, “as much time as we need” after the graduation break, Bennett said.

The recount has been contentious. Cyber Ninjas initially refused to release its policies and procedures for hand-tallying the ballots in Maricopa County, where President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump.

Counting started on April 23, after the state Democratic Party won a court order requiring the company to follow the law on ballot and voter secrecy and to file its policies with the court. Those policies were released Thursday, and by Friday criticism was piling up.

For example, the policies allow counters to accept a large enough error rate to perhaps show Trump won the state. But such an outcome would not change the outcome of the election because the results were certified months ago in the state and Congress.

If a miscount is determined, it could, however, boost the unsupported argument of Trump and his backers that election fraud and malfeasance lost him the White House.

Florida-based Cyber Ninjas did not initially allow journalists into the Coliseum. After several days, the media was allowed in but only in limited numbers under a pooling deal worked out by media attorneys.

In March, the county released the results of two new audits of their equipment that showed no malicious software or incorrect counting equipment and that none of the computers or equipment were connected to the internet.

State law normally would not allow the full recount, but the Senate won a court fight to access ballots and do its own review as part of its constitutional duty to write elections laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona election audit has no set deadline for completion, liaison says