ARIZONA NEWS

Maricopa County recount almost done, but other parts of audit will continue

Jun 9, 2021, 10:40 AM | Updated: 12:34 pm
Officials from Alaska and Georgia were given a tour of the Arizona Senate-ordered audit of Maricopa...
Officials from Alaska and Georgia were given a tour of the Arizona Senate-ordered audit of Maricopa County's 2020 general election at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on June 8, 2021. (KTAR News photo/Griselda Zetino)
(KTAR News photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX – A hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 Maricopa County election is on track to wrap in a few days, but that doesn’t mean a final audit report will soon follow, an Arizona Senate spokesman said Tuesday.

“Everybody seems to focus the entire audit on what’s happening right here, which is incorrect,” Ken Bennett, state Senate audit liaison, told pool reporters at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

“This is the hand count and the paper evaluation. The hand count will be done by the end of this week, the paper evaluation by the end of the month. But there’s other aspects of things that can, and I hope will, be happening simultaneously or maybe a little bit after that, and then there will need to be a few weeks for putting the report together.”

He said that in addition to an examination of mail ballot envelopes for signatures, other aspects could potentially include a second tabulation of scanned images, but he didn’t provide details about what that might entail if it happens.

Bennett said that as the hand counting winds down, available resources are being shifted to paper evaluation, which addresses questions such as: “Are there folds in the 1.9 million ballots that came in and out by mail? Are alignment marks on the fronts and the backs of the ballot aligning as authentic ballots should? Is there a depression in the oval where a human hand-held device would have filled in that oval as opposed to an inkjet printer or a Xerox machine or whatever you might think?”

He said the auditors are also looking for expected differences between preprinted ballots and those printed out on demand at voting centers.

“So, all kind of characteristics about the ballots that confirm or question their authenticity,” he said.

State Senate Republican leaders who ordered the audit hired Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state, as their representative during the process, which began at the fairgrounds arena on April 23. The only races being recounted are president and U.S. senator, seats Democrats narrowly won in the county and state.

The operations paused May 14 because of high school graduation ceremonies previously booked at the Coliseum and resumed 10 days later. Under a second lease deal, the building is available to the auditors through the end of June.

Maricopa County previously authorized two audits of its November 2020 general election by independent contractors who are certified by the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

Those audits found no problems with the count, but state Senate Republicans subpoenaed the county for access to its ballots and voting equipment at the urging of supporters of Donald Trump who refuse to accept President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Arizona.

After winning a legal fight to enforce the subpoena, Senate President Karen Fann hired several vendors, with Florida-based Cyber Ninjas as the lead contractor, to examine the ballots, machines and voting systems.

Fann’s selection of Cyber Ninjas’ $150,000 bid quickly drew scrutiny over founder Doug Logan’s deleted Twitter account, which had activity supporting unfounded election conspiracy theories.

Questions have since arisen about the sources of funds being raised in the name of the audit as well as unorthodox methods of inspecting ballots.

Maricopa County officials, most of whom are Republicans, have defended the integrity of their election operations and questioned the auditors’ competence, methods and intentions.

Fann has said the aim of the audit is to restore faith in the election system and find ways to improve Arizona’s voting laws, not to reverse the result of the election.

Bennett wouldn’t speculate about what changes might be made in response to the audit.

“Until a complete, comprehensive report is issued, we would not be able to entertain recommendations of what can Arizona do better,” he said Tuesday.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (Getty Images/Courtney Pedroza) An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (Getty Images/Courtney Pedroza) An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (Getty Images/Courtney Pedroza) An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (Getty Images/Courtney Pedroza) An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, April 28, 2021. (Pool Photo/Mark Henle) Dozens of volunteers at Phoenix's Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 28, 2021, count some of the 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County's 2020 general election.  (KTAR News Photo/Peter Samore) Ordered by Arizona Senate Republicans, ballot scanning equipment is set up by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based consultancy, overseeing an audit at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 27, 2021. (Pool Photo/Mark Henle) An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, April 27, 2021. (Pool Photo/Mark Henle) Ken Bennett, the former Republican Arizona Secretary of State, walks the floor of the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum during setup of a 2020 election audit called for by the Arizona Republican lead Senate on Thursday in Phoenix on April 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) An audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County requested by Arizona Senate Republicans is underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (Pool Photo/Mark Henle) Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, right, talk about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Some of the 2.1 million ballots cast during the 2020 election, are brought in for recounting at a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Some of the 2.1 million ballots cast during the 2020 election, are brought in for recounting at a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) (Screenshot/AZAudit.org) (Maricopa County Elections Department Screenshot) Some of the 2.1 million ballots cast during the 2020 election, ready for recounting at a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a Cyber Ninjas IT technician demonstrates a ballot scan during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) FILE - In this Wednesday, April 21, 2021 file photo, officials unload election equipment into the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the state fairgrounds in Phoenix. Maricopa County officials began delivering equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden on Wednesday and will move 2.1 million ballots to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Matt York) Officials wait to unload election equipment into the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the state fairgrounds, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Phoenix. Maricopa County officials began delivering equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden on Wednesday and will move 2.1 million ballots to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Matt York) Officials unlock a truck prior to unloading election equipment into the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the state fairgrounds, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Phoenix. Maricopa County officials began delivering equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden on Wednesday and will move 2.1 million ballots to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Matt York) (Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Elections Department) (Getty Images/Courtney Pedroza)

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Maricopa County recount almost done, but other parts of audit will continue