PHOENIX - The aging Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix once played host to NBA games, roller derby and wrestling matches. Now the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election is being tested there.
Former President Donald Trump and a legion of his supporters hope that evidence will emerge during an audit of Maricopa County ballots to prove their claims of fraud. But the effort and questions about it have alarmed election administrators and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ken Bennett, Senate Liaison for the recount of Maricopa County ballots and former Arizona Secretary of State, spoke to reporters about the ongoing election audit's progress:
So where are we at today?
The audit continues. And no change, we keep moving forward. Accuracy is the best way to accomplish speed. So we're focusing on on that. Obviously, at the end of the week, Phoenix Union High School District takes over the facility on Saturday to get ready for some graduations next Monday through Thursday. So we'll stand aside and secure all the ballots and equipment here on the property and be ready to go when they're finished. I haven't heard any numbers. I was home in Prescott for Mother's Day, so I haven't checked with that. But we're still we're.. Yeah, 15,000. Or maybe it was, I think we're more than that, probably two and a quarter, maybe 250 or something. I see the number of boxes going down in the to be counted corrals, and we're a little slower in the paper evaluation process than the counting. But as far as counted ballots, I think we're approaching quarter of a million.
So the paper evaluation, continued efficiency counseling?
Yes, they've increased the paper evaluation tables from eight to 15. I think so. I think they're trying to catch up on that to the number of ballots that have been counted.
I know you guys increase the amount of tables on the floor, it looks like about half of the tables are empty this morning. What does it look like with personnel staffing? Are these volunteers? Are you hiring more people?
The subcontractors are hiring or receiving more volunteers. But everyone has to go through a background check. And so they're going through that process. And I think that's taken a little more time than maybe they are we had hoped, but they're being thorough on that. And I think when we're, you know, hopefully within a few days, or when we come back, after the graduations will be fully stocked at the tables and ready to go.
How many people do you think that's going to be?
Well, when we had 20 tables, and there was five at a table, that's 100, if there's 46, now times five, and you're talking 230. So it's all it's more than a doubling of the number of people to process the ballots when you go from 20 to 46 tables.
So you say that you'll pause the audit and then come back to finish it inside the Coliseum. But the state has not confirmed that you have a deal with them to do so. Is there a deal in place for you to return? Are you just assuming it'll be available for you?
They've told us that once the graduations are over, we can come back. And they're getting the paperwork ready to be signed. So there'll be secured here on the property.
Is there going be the same sort of setup where it's like stream like this all the time?
We're planning on live streaming the storage of the ballots during that week that we stand aside. So yes, they will, they will be secured with live streaming and 24-7 guarded security.
WATCH LIVE: https://azaudit.org
And I know that you say you will come back and finish the audit. Are there any circumstances in which you would not finish the audit?
None that I can think of. I mean, I think it's very important that we do this, to make sure that the people of Arizona can have 100% confidence that their elections are transparent, the outcomes were fair, and that they are publicly verified. So we'll do it until it's done. And that's our plan.
But the deadlines for the contractor has to report to the Senate. I think there was something in the initial scope of work about a report and 60 days or something. How does this change that?
If there have been delays, then I'm sure the Senate will accept a later report. There's no use given a report until you've done all the work. So once all the work is done, and they have a reasonable time to put the report together, then it'll be given to the Senate as soon as I can.
And I got a question about from one of my colleagues can't be here today. Was there.. is there anything about the police report that you filed?
I had a personal threat that I reported the police. Yes. It was against me.
What happened? you're worried about or anything that you're getting?
I'm not worried about it. I reported it to police, but it was an email threat to me. And unfortunately, that is happening to all kinds of people involved in the audit, and we would hope that that would stop. I know that the governor decided to give more protection to Secretary [of State Katie] Hobbs because of threats that she was receiving and that disappoints us as well. So nobody needs to be threatening anybody's lives. About this audit. We'll do the audit. We will release the results and But I'm not worried about mine. At this point, I reported it to the Phoenix PD thing. They can take it from there.
Can you give us any other details on that?
The Senate responded to the Department of Justice last week. Has there been any other correspondence from them?
Not to my knowledge, I responded to the Secretary of State's office. And I think [Senate] President [Karen] Fann responded to the DOJ. And I'm not aware of any further correspondence on either of those counts.
And what about additional subpoenas? And is that more how much you're involved in that or if that's more of a Senate?
That's the that's the if there are additional subpoenas for information that was asked for that we haven't received that'll be up to the Senate.
To what extent has that information on to what extent is?
Well, one of the items subpoena that has not been provided are the passwords to get into all aspects of the election management system and the end the machines. The subcontractor doing the machine evaluation, was able to get into the machines with a primary password but ran into a secondary password. Maricopa County now says that they don't have any more passwords. So those passwords must be held by their their contractor, Dominion. And so the Senate will have to decide whether they either subpoena those through Maricopa County to get them from their vendor Dominion, or whether they subpoena those directly from Dominion. The other thing, the other thing that hasn't been provided, or, among other things that haven't been provided is access to the routers, and the hubs and the internet connectivity. That was at the Mactac facility during the election. I think the subpoena said they were looking for information 90 days prior to and 30 days after the election, as to the routers and logs and things like that, to confirm that there was no nothing connected to the internet.
What is the work that happened? I'm sure you've heard that a million times.
Well, the the the capture of all the data from the machines, Kurd here within the Coliseum. And then we returned the machines to Maricopa county that we had been able to get into fully. The 385 ICPs are called that we ran into this. Our subcontractor ran into the secondary password issue. Those are still being stored here. The subcontractor that captured all the forensic data off of the machines, that that they could have now returned to their secure lab, where they're evaluating the information that they were able to capture. No, no, no, they're in a different. They're in a different room, but they are live streamed, and you can see them on the live stream video.
Just so I'm reporting it correctly. Did you say it was a death threat? Or was a threat?
It was a.. well.. yes.
Question 16 continued:
A death threat. Okay.
Is there any other threat?
Question 16 continued:
I mean, I just wanted to be sure that I was properly reporting it.
It was, it was a threat.
Question 16 continued:
Okay. We're glad that you're standing here.
Yes. Me too.
Is there anything about this assessment as to the kind of final aggregation?
No, I'm told that there is a double and triple check of the aggregation process, just like there's a triple check at the tables, when they're counting the votes on the ballot, the three people that are recording what they see on the ballots on their tally sheets, those have to match. And they are doing a similar double and triple check of the aggregated data that's putting into the spreadsheet.
So that will happen on there with those screens?
Continuing coverage of the Arizona election audit:
- U.S. Justice Department outlines concerns about Arizona election audit
- Democrats and Arizona State Senate reach deal amid ongoing concerns over controversial ballot audit
- Arizona State House advances bill banning 'biased' topics in schools
- Arizona elections chief criticizes policies used in Maricopa County ballot recount
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.