With One More Week At The Counting Site, AZ Audit Remains Mired In Disputes

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 01: A contractor working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate transports ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizon... PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 01: A contractor working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate transports ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud in Arizona. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 7, 2021 6:00 p.m.

A Democratic lawsuit challenging the procedures of a sketchy audit of Arizona’s 2020 election may have been settled this week. But that hasn’t resolved all the disputes engulfing the recount of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots, as the auditors head into the final week that they have reserved at the current counting site.

One prominent example: The state Senate Republicans who ordered the audit and the team of consultants they hired to coordinated it are beefing with Maricopa County over passwords to certain election infrastructure.

Ken Bennett, the former Arizona secretary of state who is acting as a Senate liaison for the audit, told The Arizona Republic this week that the Senate is considering subpoenaing the county for the passwords.

But the county, which is controlled mostly by Republicans, insists that it doesn’t even have the passwords that the auditors are seeking, and that it already turned over all the relevant passwords that it does have.

The county board of supervisors chairman Jack Sellers issued a statement Friday afternoon expressing his anger about “the allegations of corruption being thrown around — sometimes by elected officials who should know better — denigrating the good names of public servants who devoted the last two years of their lives to running quality elections in 2020.”

“I am not going to address every allegation that people cook up these days, but I do want to talk about passwords,” Sellers said. He reiterated that the county does not have the access to the passwords that the auditors want, as those passwords “provide access to proprietary firmware and source code.”

Sellers claimed that the county already provided the auditors with the information they need to run the reports that Bennett has referenced in discussing the passwords.

The supervisors announced they were convening an emergency meeting Friday afternoon because of the indication that the Senate would “take action against the County and the Supervisors if the County does not provide passwords it does not have.”

The meeting was also to discuss the auditors’ request for routers and other computer equipment that the county says will put at risk “sensitive law enforcement, as well as protected health information and personal data of county citizens.”

As the auditors head towards another showdown with the county, they’re also trading barbs with Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who was backing the Democratic lawsuit that was settled this week.

Having formalized access to observe the recount in the settlement, Hobbs released a letter Wednesday soon after the court agreement was reached laying out her continuing concerns with how the audit was being conducted.

Bennett shot back in a letter of his own Friday afternoon accusing her of engaging in “bad faith” by airing the concerns publicly rather than working them out in the settlement negotiations.

Her letter “reads like a press release calculated to undermine a process that you have been opposed to since its inception,” Bennett said in his letter, which was published by the local NBC affiliate.

Bennett accused one of her office’s observers of engaging in “subterfuge” by allegedly posing as a media reporter to gain access to an area he did not have the authority to enter.

The auditors have only through next Friday, May 14, on their lease at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

With only a fraction of the total ballots counted, the audit team has begun to acknowledge that they’ll need a new site to finish the work, which includes — among other things — an analysis of whether the ballot paper contains bamboo fiber, in a nod to an unhinged theory about counterfeit Asian ballots flooding the election.

The auditors are now also contending with the attention they’ve attracted from the U.S. Justice Department, which sent letter to Senate President Karen Fann seeking information on the recount’s compliance with certain federal law.

On Friday, Fann said that the audit’s plans to contact voters in person — plans that the DOJ suggested could amount to voter intimidation — had been “indefinitely” deferred by the Senate “several weeks ago,” according to a letter published by the Arizona Republic.

In his letter to Hobbs, Bennett stressed the auditors’ commitment to finishing the count.

“I intend to see the audit is done right, until it is all done,” Bennett wrote.

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