Arizona GOP audit leader says he may quit after being barred from vote-counting site

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Former Arizona state Senate President Ken Bennett serves as liaison between the state Senate and the firm running the controversial audit of the state's 2020 election results.

The scandal-plagued audit of Arizona's 2020 presidential election results hit yet another embarrassing snag on Monday after the liaison between the GOP state Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the firm Republican lawmakers tapped to run the effort, said he is considering quitting the role.

Former Arizona state Senate President Ken Bennett, who says he supports the audit despite all of the criticisms against it, made the announcement on a local radio show on Monday.

Bennett said that he attempted to resign Sunday night because he had been physically barred from entering the site where Cyber Ninjas is running the recount, but he has since reconsidered after a conversation with current Arizona Senate President Karen Fann.

"I did come on the show today to step aside or step down, whatever you want to call it, as liaison," Bennett said. "But that may not be what needs to happen."

According to multiple reports, Benett was denied entry after he shared analysis that showed initial results from Maricopa County were correct, confirming that President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the state's largest county, Maricopa, helping propel him to victory in Arizona.

However, Fann had said earlier in July at a news conference that the Cyber Ninja's count differed from Maricopa County's tally, and ordered yet another recount of the vote.

Bennett said if he is denied access to this recount, he can no longer be part of the endeavor.

"I cannot be a part of a process that I am kept out of critical aspects along the way that make the audit legitimate, and have integrity when we produce the final report," Bennett said. "And unfortunately there have been too many of those situations, and the tip of the iceberg came last Friday when I was denied access to the audit itself."

Stephen Richer, the Republican Maricopa County Recorder who has come out in vocal opposition to the audit, slammed Cyber Ninjas for barring Bennett from the counting room.

"The ONE person in the audit with ANY previous high-level involvement with election administration has now been kicked out. Why? Because the new ballot count matched Maricopa County's numbers, not the Ninjas'. The adult has left the room," Richer tweeted on Friday.

This is just one of many snags the audit — which election experts and Democrats alike have slammed as a sham — has faced.

Last week, Doug Logan, the Trump-supporting head of Cyber Ninjas who has pushed baseless accusations of fraud, falsely said there were "74,243 mail-in ballots where there is no clear record of them being sent."

That accusation was patently untrue, as those votes were actually cast early but in-person, according to a CNN fact check.

But Trump has since taken that lie and broadcast it to his followers, continuing in his effort to sow doubt in the electoral process and attempt to convince his followers that the 2020 election was stolen.

Observers have also witnessed numerous issues with the audit itself, including auditors using prohibited pens that could damage ballots, and machines and ballots not being properly secured.

The audit itself may cost taxpayers nearly $3 million, as the audit compromised hundreds of vote-counting machines and other voting hardware that Maricopa County must now repurchase.

And, not to say the least, it's being run by a Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist with no real background in elections — leading to questions about whether any report this endeavor leads to would be legitimate or simply an effort to provide back-up to Trump's false claims of a stolen election.

The growing list of problems has led the House Oversight Committee in Congress to announce it's probing whether the audit is merely an "effort to promote baseless conspiracy theories."

But Republicans in other states want to emulate the process.

Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are already pushing for a similar audit, as are Republicans in Georgia — two other states Biden carried in 2020.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.