Former GOP secretary of state to quit role in Arizona audit

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Former Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Wednesday that he plans to step down as the Arizona Senate’s liaison to the GOP-led audit of the 2020 election, dealing another blow to the credibility of the unprecedented partisan review.

Bennett has been barred from the building where audit work is wrapping up after he gave data to outside election experts without telling Senate President Karen Fann or employees of Cyber Ninjas, the firm Fann hired to lead the audit.

“It’s the audit that belongs to the people of Arizona, and if I’m going to put my credibility on the line that it’s something that they can trust and believe in, I can’t be locked out until the last moment,” Bennett told conservative radio host James Harris on KFYI-AM.

Bennett is the only audit leader with substantial experience in elections. The audit has come under fire from election experts who say Cyber Ninjas, whose CEO Doug Logan has promoted false conspiracies claiming the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, is using unreliable procedures.

Bennett said he’s willing to be involved in vetting the final report, but he won’t just rubber-stamp it.

“I’ve got to have access to the source data and everything that will be the building blocks to that final report,” Bennett said. “I can’t just come in at the last minute and be asked to endorse something that I can’t be a part of really building the way it needs to be built.”

After Cyber Ninjas submits its final report, Bennett “will have full access to all the core audit data to verify their findings,” Fann said in a statement. She and Bennett are friends who both came up in Prescott Republican politics.

“At this point, we do not need Senate liaison on site since all data gathered will now be taken to the auditors’ labs for analysis,” Fann said.

Ballots will be returned to Maricopa County on Thursday, she said.

The county Board of Supervisors met privately Wednesday to discuss a new subpoena issued by the Senate this week for materials related to the election. Afterward, Chairman Jack Sellers, a Republican, said the board “discussed various options with our legal counsel and will take the coming days to do our research.”

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.