Ken Bennett will continue to serve as Arizona Senate liaison to the Maricopa County 2020 election audit after coming to an agreement that will allow him full access while a report is put together.
Senate President Karen Fann issued a joint statement with Bennett on Friday about the deal, which also stresses that the audit’s findings will remain confidential until the document is finalized and released. Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state and past Senate president, has worked as a bridge between Fann and the audit team since April but told the media earlier this week he would resign as liaison after he was barred from entering a ballot-counting facility last week following a report that he shared sample data with external analysts.
“With his expertise in Arizona elections and his firsthand knowledge of the ongoing audit, Ken and the Senate team will have full access to all audit work spaces, procedures and data as we verify the draft findings when completed,” Fann and Bennett said in the statement.
The statement also noted the Senate team will work on other “Senate-approved audit tasks” outside of the range of work contracted with primary audit firm Cyber Ninjas.
Cyber Ninjas, lad by CEO Doug Logan, is now expected to put together a report of its findings of the audit, which included a recount of the roughly 2.1 million ballots cast in Arizona’s most populous county. The report is expected to be released sometime around mid-August, assistant audit liaison Randy Pullen told the Arizona Capitol Times. But that timeline could get stretched out as the Arizona Senate recently issued subpoenas for more information and materials from Maricopa County and Dominion Voting Systems, and both signaled they will fight the requests.
Election materials belonging to Maricopa County were transferred back to county officials on Thursday, concluding the hands-on portion of the audit.
Bennett said on Wednesday that he reached an agreement with Fann to continue as liaison but did not release further details at the time. His reversal came just hours after he said, “I’m going to step down as the liaison today,” attributing his decision to being barred from “critical aspects” of the audit that would make the situation untenable for him.
A spokesperson from Cyber Ninjas previously told the Arizona Republic on July 23 the order to block Bennett from the recount facility came from the Senate.
During a Monday interview, Bennett explained his blockage from the audit facility happened after he shared sample data from the ballot box counts with election technology analysts Larry Moore and Benny White.
The audit has been heavily criticized by Maricopa County officials, Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and even some Arizona Senate Republicans over concerns such as Cyber Ninjas lacking audit experience and accreditation. Also, it has been politicized by former President Donald Trump and his allies, who insist it will uncover widespread fraud in a county and state he lost, even as Fann stresses the audit is not about overturning the 2020 election but rather making legislation as needed to improve the operations and security of voting contests.