Senate liaison Ken Bennett blocked from entering Arizona election audit as tension with contractors boils over

Bennett did not directly answer a question from The Republic about whether he was not let in./Photo: Gage Sizemore / Flickr

By Mary Jo Pitzl and Jen Fifield | Arizona Republic

Questions are mounting about who is in control of the long-running partisan review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results — the Arizona Senate, which ordered it, or the outside firms that are running it.

On Friday, Ken Bennett, the Senate liaison to the audit, was not allowed into the building at the state fairgrounds where the audit is taking place, a day after he shared data with outside critics from an ongoing ballot count.

Senate President Karen Fann has billed this third ballot count as a way to check the ballots tallied both by the county and the Senate’s contractor.

And although it is intended to be an independent check, the Senate’s lead contractor, Cyber Ninjas, fronted the money to buy high-speed counting machines for the new count; its attorney is providing access to the ballots from their secured location; and the attorney and other workers from the initial count are feeding the ballots into the machines and recording the results. 

While this work is supposedly being overseen by Senate representatives, many times that oversight is not there.

John Brakey, a Tucson election-transparency activist who serves as a consultant for the audit team, said Bennett told him Friday that Bennett was not let into the building that morning.

Bennett did not directly answer a question from The Republic about whether he was not let in. He said he was tending to unrelated business in Prescott. 

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