Arizona election audit moving out of Coliseum, but process will continue

Jun 30, 2021, 2:08 PM | Updated: 2:20 pm

(Audit Pool Photo)...

(Audit Pool Photo)

(Audit Pool Photo)

PHOENIX – The contentious Maricopa County election audit is wrapping up operations at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum this week, but the Republican-ordered project will carry on — more than two months after it started.

A state Senate spokesman said Wednesday the process will continue inside a different building at the fairgrounds.

“I can’t imagine it will take more than a couple of weeks to get everything resolved,” Randy Pullen, one of the Senate’s audit liaisons, told pool reporters.

The auditors, led by Cyber Ninjas, have to vacate the Coliseum because their lease agreement, which was already extended once, is running out and the arena is booked for an upcoming gun show.

Pullen said the voting equipment and nearly 2.1 million paper ballots from the 2020 general election in metro Phoenix will be trucked from the former basketball arena to the Wesley Bolin Building on Thursday morning.

Although all the ballots have been hand-counted and photographed, “There’s still a little bit more work to do,” Pullen said. The only races recounted were for president and U.S. senator, both of which Democrats narrowly won in the county and state.

Three security guards will protect the materials 24/7 and cameras will livestream from inside the 20,000-square-foot exhibition building, Pullen said.

The GOP-led state Senate, which ordered the audit after taking the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to court over access to the ballots and machines, still expects findings to be released in late July or early August, Pullen said.

“I don’t think they’ll be any numbers coming out, preliminary numbers or anything,” he said. “That would be totally up to the Senate. … That would be their call.”

The audit has been the subject of much scrutiny, ridicule and, depending on one’s perspective, cheers since it started April 23.

The operations paused May 14 because of high school graduation ceremonies previously booked at the Coliseum and resumed 10 days later. The materials were stored at the Wesley Bolin Building during the break.

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 the election materials at the urging of supporters of Donald Trump who refused to accept President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Arizona’s largest county and statewide.

Earlier this week, the county said it won’t reuse the subpoenaed equipment because of concerns about its integrity after being in the hands of uncertified contractors.

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.

The 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.

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Arizona election audit moving out of Coliseum, but process will continue