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Arizona Senate GOP's 2020 Election Audit Resumes Amid Controversy

By Ben Giles
Published: Tuesday, May 25, 2021 - 7:37am
Updated: Tuesday, May 25, 2021 - 12:48pm

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Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors
David Wallace/Arizona Republic/Pool
Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on May 24, 2021.

A controversial review of 2020 election results in Maricopa County resumed on Monday after a one-week hiatus.

Workers at color-coded tables in matching color-coded shirts began again the process of recounting, by hand, votes cast for president and U.S. Senate. Others took pictures of ballots using cameras suspended above tables inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the state fairground in Phoenix.

→ 'Cheetos Fingers': What One Elections Expert Saw At The Arizona Senate's Audit

It was more of the same for the beleaguered audit, ordered by Republican state senators who say they’re responding to doubts about the recent election, and perhaps quell those concerns. Instead, the audit has captured the attention of Donald Trump’s supporters nationwide — as well as the former president himself — who’ve seized on the audit as evidence the election was stolen nearly six months after Trump’s loss in Arizona to President Joe Biden.

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan
David Wallace/Arizona Republic/Pool
Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan (right) talks, with others on the Coliseum floor as Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on May 24, 2021.

A new spokesman for the audit, former Arizona Republican Party Chair Randy Pullen, said the process continues with a new influx of workers, trained to count ballots rolling past them on lazy Susans. About 270 people were trained last week, Pullen said, during a one-week break while the Coliseum was emptied of election equipment and ballots to make way for high school graduation ceremonies.

The Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas and other firms hired by Republican Senate President Karen Fann now have until the end of June, when their extended rental agreement expires, to finish the recount at the aging arena.

→ Arizona Senate President Defends Election Audit, Which Could Last Another Month

The involvement of Cyber Ninjas, whose CEO has spread conspiracies of election fraud, continues to draw the scrutiny of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and election experts, who warn the entire endeavor is tainted by bias and inexperience. The Arizona Mirror reported last week that other firms involved with state Senate Republicans’ audit have their own ties to the Stop the Steal movement.

Boxes of Maricopa County ballots
David Wallace/Arizona Republic/Pool
Boxes of Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election that have already been examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona Senate.

Bipartisan Maricopa County officials also stepped up their criticism of the audit in the last week, fueled by claims from Fann and her private firms that county employees deleted data from election equipment handed over to those firms under a Senate subpoena.

The county attorney's office sent a legal notice to Fann, Republican Sen. Warren Petersen and the Senate’s firms last week, threatening a lawsuit when the election review is complete.

It’s unclear when their work will be complete. As of May 13, when ballots were packed up and moved out of the coliseum, Pullen said 680,000 of the nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County cast last November have been counted. That’s a higher figure than the one provided by Senate liaison Ken Bennett, who told reporters over a week ago that roughly half a million ballots had been counted before the hiatus.

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