General Assembly Back in Session, in Person, to Allocate ARPA Funds

RICHMOND, Virginia – The budget bill to allocate $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds passed out of the House of Delegates Committee on Appropriations on Monday, the first step to passing Governor Ralph Northam’s proposals for the money.

But the first day of the second 2022 special session saw legislative gridlock between the Senate and the House of Delegates. The House passed HJ 7003, which establishes the rules and schedule for how the session will operate. When the legislation was sent to the Senate, Senate Democratic leaders introduced three amendments which received broad bipartisan support.

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Senate Liaison for Arizona Audit Reverses Course on Stepping Down, Will Remain Under Certain Conditions

Ken Bennett

The former Secretary of State serving as the liaison for the Arizona State Senate Audit, Ken Bennett, will remain in his capacity as liaison after all. This is the second time that Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) has apparently walked Bennett back from the brink of walking away from the audit. Their latest agreement to keep Bennett on was less publicized than the first; no official statements have been put forth concerning the new terms of Bennett’s role. Per their agreement, Bennett will regain access to the building and may obtain information from the auditing company, Cyber Ninjas, upon request.

As The Arizona Sun Times reported on Thursday, Bennett has gone back and forth over his decision to bow out of the audit. Bennett relayed those sentiments twice this week: once on Monday, then again on Wednesday. Both times, Bennett discussed stepping down from his role with the radio host James Harris on morning episodes of The Conservative Circus. Both times, Bennett said he was liaison “in name only” because he was repeatedly excluded from overseeing critical aspects of the audit.

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Senate Liaison for Arizona Audit Announces He May Step Down

Ken Bennett

On Wednesday, the Arizona Senate’s audit liaison Ken Bennett announced he will step down from the audit. Bennett issued the announcement on Wednesday morning in a radio interview.

Bennett said it was “impossible” to function as liaison, and revealed that volunteer consultant Randy Pullen would be assuming his duties. He said he would be a liaison in name only. Bennett refused to approve any final report on the audit, since he wasn’t allowed inside any longer.

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Twitter Suspends Accounts Documenting Arizona Audit

Twitter permanently suspended several accounts dedicated to documenting the Arizona audit. The social media giant also permanently suspended other similar or affiliated accounts covering the audit or calls for an audit in Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

The suspended accounts were: @arizonaaudit, @AuditWarRoom, @AuditMichigan, @AuditWisconsin, @AuditNevada, @AuditGeorgia, @Audit_Arizona and @Audit_PA. The latter 7 accounts are associated with an Instagram account, @auditwarroom, that hasn’t been suspended from the Facebook-owned platform. That account notified the public that it joined GETTR, a social media platform created by former President Donald Trump’s aide Jason Miller.

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State Senator Paul Boyer Withholds Vote to Enforce Subpoena Against Maricopa County, Arizona Election Officials, Says Auditors Are ‘Inexperienced, Partisan’

State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) won’t hold Maricopa County election officials in contempt for noncompliance with the Senate’s subpoena for election equipment and materials needed to complete the audit. This was revealed by Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) after Senate Liaison Ken Bennett shared that one of sixteen Republican senators wouldn’t hold the county accountable. 

The auditing company, Cyber Ninjas, explained in a hearing last week that they still lack the splunk logs, chain of custody documents, portable media and external drives, router configuration files or data, network diagram, backups of election management data, digital copies of all election policies and procedures utilized, files transmitted for duplicating or spoiling ballots, records of all paper distributed to vote centers, information and guidelines on adjudication of ballots, total count of all ballots sent to eligible voters on the state’s voter information portal (UOCAVA), and a full backup copy of database of voter rolls. 

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Poll Shows That Large Number of Arizonans Believe Election Audit is Important

"I Voted" Stickers

A recent poll conducted on the Arizona election audit demonstrated high levels of support from Republican voters and that almost half of the state’s residents believe the ballot examination is important.

The Arizona Public Opinion Pulse poll showed that the majority of Republican voters view the audit favorably, and 62% believe that the results of the audit will show that former president Donald Trump received more votes in Arizona than President Joe Biden.

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Election Auditors Report Surplus of over 74K Mail-In Ballots, 4K Voters Registered After Deadline, 18K Voters Removed from Rolls Following Election

During the Arizona Senate hearing on the election audit in Maricopa County Thursday morning, audit officials reported discovery of issues such as ballot duplicates and surpluses, voter roll data, and machine security. The audit officials testifying were Senate Liaison Ken Bennett, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, and digital security firm CyFIR founder Ben Cotton. Cyber Ninjas is conducting the audit.

The Arizona Sun Times checked the Arizona legislature website at 8 am MST. The website was down. All that was displayed was an error message that said service was unavailable. The website remained that way until sometime after the Senate hearing began. 

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Arizona Election Audit Wraps Up Operations, Moves Out of Coliseum

The Arizona audit is wrapping up its operations and has moved out of its three-month home: the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. For about another week, audit workers will finish up in another building on the fairgrounds, the Wesley Bolin Building. Auditors will be able to use the building until July 14.

Although officials told The Arizona Sun Times that they would be finished by last Saturday, more work popped up after the county submitted additional resources that required review. Randy Pullen, a volunteer consultant to the Arizona Senate for the audit, estimated that they would be done sometime next week. He explained to The Sun Times that the slight delay occurred because the county submitted log reports on duplicate ballots last minute. Those logs showed how many from every batch were taken out by the county for duplication.

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The Arizona Republic Sues State Senate, Cyber Ninjas for Election Audit Records

One of Arizona’s largest newspapers is suing the state Senate and the contracted company running the audit, Cyber Ninjas, for access to their election audit records and financial records. The Arizona Republic, part of the Gannett mass media company, filed a special action on Wednesday in the Maricopa County Superior Court – case number LC2021-000180. Reportedly, the Senate denied the paper’s request for access to the audit and financial records, saying they weren’t public record. The specific information they hope to obtain includes the process for the audit, businesses involved, funding sources, and all communications of those involved.

The plaintiffs in the case are Phoenix Newspapers and Kathy Tulumello, news director for The Arizona Republic. Including the state Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the other defendants named are Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott), Senate Majority Leader Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), and the secretary for the Senate, Susan Aceves. 

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A Recap in the Last Days of the Arizona Audit: Mainstream Media Meddling and ‘Blue Pen Jen’

PHOENIX, Arizona – The most eventful aspect of the Arizona audit appears to have had nothing to do with the audit itself – rather, it was antics from the mainstream media who came to cover it. Officials recounted to The Arizona Sun Times one incident in which several reporters left their designated seating, returned to the entryway, propped open the doors, and took pictures. Later, those reporters published stories claiming that the doors were left wide open during the audit.

After that, The Times was told, officials had to direct some of the Arizona Rangers serving as security to escort media and ensure they didn’t roam freely.

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Republicans Launch Election Investigations in Multiple States as Arizona Audit Forges Ahead

Governor Tony Evers gives his first State of the State address in Madison, Wisconsin, at the State Capitol building on Jan. 22, 2019. He addressed a joint meeting of the Assembly and the Senate. Seen here, from left, are Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester and President of the Senate Roger Roth, R-Appleton.

Republicans in multiple U.S. states are mounting investigations into the circumstances surrounding the 2020 election, moves that come amid the contentious ongoing audit of election results in Maricopa County, Ariz.

The Arizona audit — which includes a hand recount of over two million ballots — has reflected bitter partisan divisions in the state, with Republicans and Democrats squaring off in a series of volleys over the conduct of the audit and the political fallout surrounding it. Establishment media outlets have joined in Democratic attacks against the audit, with CNN claiming that the process is “bogus” and FiveThirtyEight calling it a “partisan inquisition.”

Nevertheless, efforts are underway in several states to undertake investigations similar to Arizona’s, though none are anywhere near as large in scope as is that in Maricopa, the state’s largest county.

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Commentary: The Real Significance of the Arizona Audit

A lot of people on both sides of the political aisle seem to be missing the whole point of the ongoing election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona.  

This process isn’t about “proving” fraud or overturning an election. Rather, it’s about determining what, if anything, went wrong with the election process in 2020 and providing a road map for further investigation. In other words, it’s about determining the right questions to ask as we work to restore confidence in our electoral process. 

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