Shut out of Arizona audit, Ken Bennett raises concerns about transparency
Jul 26, 2021, 12:53 PM | Updated: Jul 27, 2021, 11:51 am
PHOENIX – Arizona Senate liaison Ken Bennett said Monday that he’s being shut out of the Cyber Ninjas-led audit of the 2020 Maricopa County election, and he raised concerns about the contractors’ lack of transparency.
Bennett has been the audit’s most prominent public face since it started April 23, but his future as the Senate’s representative is in doubt with a final report expected in the next month.
“I can only be a part of moving forward and vouching for the final product if … there is transparency in seeing the procedures and things that are going to be used to build that final product,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.
The former Arizona secretary of state has been providing regular media updates as a spokesman for the Senate Republicans who hired Cyber Ninjas and other contractors to recount approximately 2.1 million ballots and inspect voting equipment from the November general election in metro Phoenix.
Bennett said he was denied access Friday from an ongoing third count of the ballot totals in an Arizona State Fairgrounds building after a disagreement about how that tally should be conducted.
He said co-liaison Randy Pullen had already taken the lead during the new count, which Bennett thought an independent group should conduct after the Cyber Ninjas’ tally didn’t match the total documented by Maricopa County.
Pullen confirmed to KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday that Bennett no longer has access to the Wesley Bolin Building at the fairgrounds, where the last recount is happening, but he’s still the audit liaison.
The auditors have refused to reveal their procedures for the latest count, Bennett said, leaving him “very concerned” they would “force balance” in the direction of their earlier findings.
Because of his concerns, he consulted with an outside group that has been researching the election independently of the audit and had offered assistance.
“Indirectly, I allowed some information that was supposed to be private to get out,” Bennett said. “He leaked it to the press, and I felt bad about that. Obviously Mr. Pullen and maybe the Senate and others were upset. And so that’s why I was denied access.”
Bennett said it’s not the first time the Cyber Ninjas have withheld procedural information from him, but he hopes things can be worked out so he can continue as liaison until the end of the process.
“I just cannot function as the liaison with those kinds of hide-the-ball-from-me stuff,” he said. “But I’m working with (Senate) President (Karen) Fann, and if we can get those kinds of things worked out, I want to see this audit through to success.
“And success to me is the facts. Election integrity is not about whether or not Donald Trump won an election. Election integrity is about, did we get the election right? And that’s what I’m focused on.”
Bennett said he now expects the final report to be sent to the Senate in mid- or late-August, which would be nearly five months after Fann first announced that Cyber Ninjas had been hired for the job.
In a March 31 press release, Fann said she expected the report to be “issued in about 60 days.”
Her selection of the Florida-based company’s $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 source of funds being raised in the name of covering audit costs, which are expected to run into the millions.
Maricopa County officials have denounced the proceedings, questioning the methods, competence and motives of the auditors.
The county Board of Supervisors, which consists of four Republicans and one Democrat, previously authorized two audits 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, but state Senate Republicans subpoenaed the county for access to the election materials at the urging of Trump supporters who refuse to accept President Joe Biden’s narrow victory Maricopa County and statewide.
Last week, the county launched a website — JustTheFacts.Vote — to address questions and misconceptions about the 2020 election.
Fann has said the aim of the audit she authorized 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.
However, many Trump supporters still see it as a step toward invalidating Biden’s victory and returning Trump to office.