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Arizona Senate, fairgrounds reach agreement to extend rental for audit

Arizona Senate audit of the 2020 Maricopa County election. (KTAR News photo/Peter Samore)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate’s audit of the 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 election results in Maricopa County will continue at the state fairgrounds past Friday, with the ballots being stored on-site while high school graduations take place next week.

In an agreement between the state fair board and the Arizona Senate obtained by CNN, the lease of Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the audit will be extended from May 14 to June 30.

The audit will pause on Friday for high school graduations already scheduled to use the space and resume on May 23, according to the agreement signed by fair board Executive Director Wanell Costello and Republican Senate President Karen Fann on Wednesday.

Ballots and equipment in the meantime will be stored in the Wesley Bolin Building on the fairgrounds.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs expressed concern over the pause, with a letter by her legal counsel Tuesday saying the Senate has not disclosed any policies or procedures related to the secure moving or secure storage of the ballots.

Former Arizona Secretary of State and liaison of the audit Ken Bennett told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday that himself, others on the audit liaison team, volunteers and paid staff would be responsible for securing and moving the ballots and machines to the temporary location.

He said the ballots and machines would be heavily guarded by active law enforcement officers who are at the facility on their off-duty days, adding the Arizona Rangers have been providing some of the security as well as other private security companies.

Bennett estimated Wednesday that about 400,000 ballots have been counted since the audit began on April 23, but he’s confident the audit will be completed when the extended time is up.

“We’re going through a pallet a day right now and when we come back and twice as many tables are operating, I think we’ll go through two pallets a day and there’s 28 pallets remaining,” Bennett said. “That’s 14 days.”

Repeated reviews of the election results in Maricopa County found no issues that would overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona over former President Donald Trump, which Biden won by 45,109 votes in Maricopa County and by 10,457 in the state.

The audit can’t overturn the results of the election, but Fann and Republicans in the chamber say the audit will help restore voter confidence and help lawmakers create changes to election laws.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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