By Zachary Stieber
Auditors in Arizona’s largest county on Wednesday finished a third count of ballots and will shift to compiling a draft report on the audit results.
Workers overseen by retired auditor Randy Pullen, a former Arizona Republican Party chair, completed the third count at the Wesley Bolin Building on the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, according to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann.
“The physical tabulation of the ballots are complete and are being returned to Maricopa County tomorrow,” Fann told The Epoch Times via email.
The data gathered by the auditors will now be taken to their labs for analysis.
Teams led by Florida-based Cyber Ninjas last month finished an initial hand tally of the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 election.
The third set of numbers was needed because the initial recount and the number Maricopa County reported didn’t match, Fann said earlier this month.
Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors has repeatedly attacked the auditors and Jack Sellers, the chairman of the board, saying that the methods used were “flawed” and would “produce incorrect results.”
In the third count, workers led by Pullen only tabulated the number of ballots, instead of marking down some or all of the votes like auditors and the county did.
The third count was done on the advice of the Arizona Senate Republicans’ attorney, according to Fann.
The completion of the physical audit work comes after days of tension between Cyber Ninjas and Ken Bennett, a former Republican secretary of state tapped by Fann to serve as the state Senate’s audit liaison.
Bennett said Monday that he was considering stepping down after being blocked from the audit following his sharing of some of the auditors’ findings with outside analysts, casting doubt on whether the third count was done independent of Cyber Ninjas. On Wednesday, he told radio host James Harris he would resign later in the day.
“I do remain locked out of the audit and as such, it’s impossible for me to really function as the liaison,” he said.
Bennett did not respond to a request for comment. He later told the Arizona Mirror that he had reached a deal with Fann to remain as the liaison.
While speaking to Harris, Bennett remained open to helping examine the draft report and final report, but said he would only do so if he had access to the source data and any other information used to produce the report.
“I can’t just come in at the last minute and be asked to endorse something I can’t be a part of really building the way it needs to be built,” he added.
Fann told The Epoch Times in an email that senators do not have access to the numbers the auditors have tallied.
“We should not be looking over their shoulder, telling them how to do their job or asking for premature information. When the audit is complete, then they will need to provide us with all their proof and documentation of their results,” she said.
She also said in a statement that it was irresponsible of Bennett to disclose how many ballots were in some of the boxes to a trio of analysts who have repeatedly disparaged the audit.
But she said Bennett would “be involved and a vital part of the draft and final reports to ensure their accuracy with his knowledge and contributions throughout the audit process.”
The completion also came after the Department of Justice issued a new warning against audits like the one conducted in Arizona, and after Arizona senators subpoenaed the county and Dominion Voting Systems—whose machines the county uses to run elections—for more election-related data, including administrative passwords for the machines.
Both county officials and Dominion have refused to hand over more information, despite a judge ruling in February the initial subpoenas issued last year lawful.
Without the additional data, the final report will be incomplete, state Sen. Warren Peterson, a Republican, told a hearing in mid-July.
“We sincerely hope Maricopa County will produce the missing documents and information we have requested for the audit to be complete and finalized. The voters deserve to know their votes are safe, secure, and legally counted,” Fann said.
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