The Republican overseeing the controversial GOP-backed election audit in Arizona has reportedly been banned from entering the building where the recount process is ongoing, after he shared some data with experts that showed the results match the officially certified numbers in Maricopa County.
The Arizona Republic reported on Friday evening that Ken Bennett, Arizona's former Secretary of State who has been described as the audit's "director," was barred from entering the building on the state fairgrounds where the audit is moving forward. The newspaper reported that Bennett had shared some of the audit data with outside experts showing that the ballot recount was tracking "very closely" with Maricopa County's certified results.
Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based company conducting the audit on behalf of the state's Senate Republicans, told the publication that state Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, made the decision to block Bennett from the building. Newsweek reached out to Fann for further comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Ryan Randazzo, a reporter for the Arizona Republic, summed up the situation in a Friday evening tweet: "The liaison for the Arizona election audit gave some data to outside experts who want to check the Cyber Ninjas' work, and then he was locked out of the audit. Also it looks like the ninjas miscounted and the roof on the budget building is leaking."
Officials in Maricopa County—the most populous in Arizona—completed a formal audit of the results last November without uncovering any discrepancies. But GOP lawmakers in the state have pushed forward with their own audit because of former President Donald Trump's baseless claims that the 2020 election was "stolen" or "rigged" for President Joe Biden.
Earlier this month, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan briefed some Arizona state senators on the progress of the audit. He argued, along with Fann, that more information was needed from Maricopa County. Jack Sellers, a Republican who chairs the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, strongly criticized the claims made by Logan and Fann. Sellers has criticized the audit process throughout, reiterating repeatedly that there is no evidence of fraud.
"At today's briefing, the Senate's uncertified contractors asked a lot of open-ended questions, portraying as suspicious what is actually normal and well known to people who work in elections," Sellers said in a July 15 statement released in response to the briefing. "In some cases, they dropped bombshell numbers that are simply not accurate."
Sellers condemned the "incompetence" of the Cyber Ninjas auditors. "What we heard today represents an alternate reality that has veered out of control since the November general election. Senate leadership should be ashamed they broadcast the half-baked theories of the 'Deep Rig' crowd to the world today," the GOP official said.
Although Trump and many of his Republican allies continue to claim that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, they have not provided evidence to substantiate this extraordinary allegation. On the contrary, dozens of election challenge lawsuits have failed in state and federal courts. Even judges appointed by Trump and other Republicans have rejected the often bizarre claims.
Former Attorney General William Barr, who was widely seen as one of Trump's most loyal Cabinet members, said in December that there was "no evidence" to support the claims of widespread voter fraud. Meanwhile, audits and recounts in key battleground states, including in areas where the election was overseen by pro-Trump Republicans, have reaffirmed Biden's victory.