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Arizona Audit Hand Recount Set To End At Veterans Memorial Coliseum

By Lauren Gilger, Steve Goldstein, Ben Giles
Published: Thursday, June 17, 2021 - 11:07am
Updated: Thursday, June 17, 2021 - 5:25pm

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Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas
Jeremy Stahl/Pool
Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 13, 2021, in Phoenix.

A hand recount of ballots cast in Maricopa County last fall is all but complete, but a review of the election ordered by Arizona Senate Republicans is far from over.

Officials with the Senate’s controversial election audit said workers are “essentially finished” counting the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast during the November election. Spokesman Randy Pullen, the former chair of the Arizona Republican Party, told reporters on Tuesday that braille ballots are all that are left to count by hand. 

As of Wednesday, Pullen said private contractors hired by Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) are still searching for an attorney and workers who can read braille to properly count those ballots.

Ken Bennett, a liaison between Fann and the contractors, estimated Monday that there were roughly 60 braille ballots to count, but Maricopa County election officials confirmed only 26 braille ballots cast in 2020.

Activity inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which contractors have occupied since late April, has shifted from the recount of the ballots to a “paper examination” — a process that Bennett struggled to describe earlier this week.

“They’re looking for anything related to the authenticity of the ballot,” Bennett said on Monday.

When pressed for details about what specifically workers examining the ballots were looking for, Bennett deferred to Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based cybersecurity company leading a team of firms conducting the Senate’s audit. 

“Everything that Cyber Ninjas is doing, they're either doing with their own expertise, or the expertise of the people that they're hiring,” Bennett said.

Those firms, particularly Cyber Ninjas, have been criticized as biased and inexperienced. Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan spread conspiracy theories of election fraud before his company began its work in Maricopa County.

The Senate has reserved the coliseum through the end of June, and Bennett said he expects the ballot evaluation process to be finished before that rental agreement expires. Even then, there may be weeks of work left to do behind the scenes, Bennett said.

“There are other aspects of the audit that could happen simultaneously throughout the rest of this month, or in the few weeks after the end of June, that don't have to happen here at this facility,” he said.

Bennett and contractors have vowed not to release findings from the election review until a final report is prepared for Senate Republicans.

To learn about the audit winding down, The Show spoke with Julia Shumway, a reporter who covers the state Senate for the Arizona Capitol Times.

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