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The man who has been overseeing the bogus election audit taking place in Maricopa County in Arizona has been unable to get into the building where the recount is taking place for the last five days. But he doesn’t think that’s a big problem.
Ken Bennett, a former Republican secretary of state, was appointed as the Senate’s point-person to independently oversee the audit conducted by the Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas, which has no previous experience of running an election audit.
Last Friday, security guards stopped Bennett from entering the building at the state fairgrounds where the audit is being conducted, after he leaked initial results from the current ballot recount to outside experts—a leak that proved the ballot totals lined up with the original results from Maricopa County officials, and undermined the claims of widespread election fraud.
But when Bennett spoke to VICE News on Monday evening, he wasn’t concerned about his inability to oversee the audit process, claiming he had not resigned and was working with Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to “to work out a way for me to continue to move forward and act as liaison.”
When asked if his inability to see how the latest recount was taking place would impact his ability to verify the audit results, Bennett said: “No, no, no, not at all.” He added that the recount was “under the direction of one of the other assistant liaisons.”
That other assistant liaison is Randy Pullen, the person who reportedly blocked Bennett’s entrance to the audit on Friday. Bennett said he “thinks it was one of the other Senate liaisons,” who prevented him accessing the audit site “but that's not completely clear yet.”
Bennett added that "it's not important to me who it was [who barred me]. It's only important to me that I work things out with President Fann and we get back on track as far as me being the liaison, because I want to see this through to the successful completion of the audit, and it'd be something that helps the citizens and the people of Arizona to know that they have complete confidence in their elections.”
Fann did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the situation.
But Bennett’s insistence to VICE News that the audit was still something he could verify doesn’t chime with comments the former secretary of state has made in recent days.
For example, during an interview with local conservative talk show host James T. Harris on Monday, Bennett said he had previously been kept in the dark about Cyber Ninjas procedures during the audit and that he had been talked out of resigning by Fann.
More worryingly, Bennett also spoke about his concern that without the necessary oversight on the current recount—which is looking at the overall tally of ballots in Maricopa County—that Cyber Ninjas could “force balance” the results in order to back up their earlier results.
The term is used in accounting to suggest that someone is cooking the books, by maliciously entering the wrong figures in order to cover up some sort of fraud while making it appear like the books are balanced.
“We have to make sure that we are not force balancing to their number or giving them something too early that would allow them to force balance back to our number,” Bennett told Harris. “I even asked Mr. Pullen what are the procedures for us to do this third count so that we can make sure that we are independent from the second, and he refused to tell me. And I just was shocked that I became very concerned that there would be this force balancing going on.”
From the start, the Arizona audit has been mired in controversy and conspiracy theories. Initially hyped by QAnon adherents, it has gained huge traction in MAGA world and is now at the center of former President Donald Trump’s attention right now.
During a rally in Phoenix on Saturday night, he repeated multiple baseless conspiracies about the audit in Arizona, including one hyped by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell about routers and baseless claims that shadowy forces used routers to remotely alter vote tallies on Dominion voting machines on election night.
The audit is already way over schedule and a final result from Cyber Ninjas isn’t going to be published any time soon.
“I think [the current recount] is gonna wrap up for sure this week sometime,” Bennett said, adding that “then it'll be a few weeks for [Cyber Ninjas] to put the report together... for sometime in August or early September.”
And no matter what the Cyber Ninja’s report says, there will be intense focus on it from all sides.
“The audit is going to be under more scrutiny than the audit is scrutinizing the election,” Bennett said.