PHOENIX — The man who was the voice of the Senate audit of the 2020 election to the public is effectively out over a dispute about to whom he has been speaking.
Randy Pullen confirmed Tuesday to Capitol Media Services that he ordered security at Veterans Memorial Coliseum not to allow Ken Bennett back on the premises. Pullen said that was at the direction of Senate President Karen Fann following Bennett’s decision to share certain information with outsiders before the audit was complete.
Bennett, who was Fann’s initial pick as her liaison with Cyber Ninjas, the firm she hired to conduct the audit, acknowledged that he did provide some data — he thought in confidence — to some election experts. He said they had a way of determining whether the count of the ballots being reported by Cyber Ninjas was in fact accurate.
“I feel bad about that,” he said. “I’ve apologized to President Fann.”
But Bennett told Capitol Media Services all this occurred because he was concerned about transparency of what was going on there.
Questions were raised about the difference between the county’s count of the number of ballots cast and the count performed while Cyber Ninjas was reviewing the ballots to check the results of the presidential and U.S. Senate races.
That led Fann to obtain separate equipment solely to count how many ballots there are.
That equipment, Pullen said, was being operated by people who had volunteered. He said they were not employees of Cyber Ninjas, though some had worked for that firm earlier in the process.
Bennett said he only sought outside help after Pullen refused to share with him the procedures that were being used to do a third count of the ballots “so I could make sure that we weren’t force-balancing numbers” to have them agree with the Cyber Ninjas count, versus the one done by Maricopa County itself.
That, said Bennett, involved a “limited number of box counts” of the ballots inside each that the experts said could be used to verify whose tallies are correct. And, as it turned out, Bennett said, many of those counts did agree with the numbers the county provided in the first place.
It was those experts, he said, that shared the information with reporters, not him. But he said too much is being made of this.
“It was not findings, it was not results, it was not vote counts, it was not anything that a lot of reports are claiming it was,” Bennett said.
Fann, however, said even that was too much.
“It is irresponsible to disclose partial information to the media since they are not ‘confirmed’ facts until the audit is final,” she said in a prepared statement. “This only leads to confusion and misinformation with the public.”
For the moment, Bennett remains a co-liaison with Pullen, if only on paper, as he has no access to the audit.
“I’m going to sit down with Karen Fann and decide whether I’m going to be able to continue to be the liaison,” Bennett told Capitol Media Services. “But I won’t continue under many of the conditions that have existed.”
That leaves the question of what role, if any, Bennett, as a former secretary of state, will have going forward in the audit.
“I think he’s going to be still involved in the final writing of the report,” Pullen said. “He might have some things to add to it from his perspective.”
“The voters deserve to know their votes are safe, secure and legally counted,” Fann said. “To that end, Ken Bennett will 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.”
But Pullen said the decision to lock Bennett out was not solely due to the information he shared about the ballot counts.
“This is not the first time he’s disclosed confidential information,” Pullen said. “He’s done it before numerous times,” saying Bennett was not supposed to talk with reporters without first checking with him to ensure that nothing confidential was being disclosed.
“And guess what?” Pullen said. “He never did that. He just went and did whatever he wanted to do.”
Bennett, for his part, said the only thing he ever spoke about with reporters were things that were a matter of public record.