The Arizona Senate is close to signing a deal for its second review of Maricopa County’s 2020 general election ballots.

The present audit, which includes a review of 2.1 million ballots cast in the state’s November election in the county, has been underway since April 23 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, led by the hired firm Cyber Ninjas. Audit liaison, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, told a reporter with CBS5 News on Thursday that hand counters had gone through more than 800,000 ballots so far. Organizers have said they hope to finish by the end of June.

This second recount of all ballots would be done electronically, running the original digital images of ballots through a program that would count all votes cast for every race on the ballot. This is a different approach from the ongoing recount, which is being done by hand.

Senate Republican leaders are negotiating with Citizens Oversight, a California-based election transparency nonprofit, according to Senate liaison Ken Bennett.

Adding a second count is important for comparison purposes, Bennett said. The cost of such a deal is unknown at this point.

The organization’s founder told The Arizona Republic this week that his company has never been hired to audit an election, and the technology has never been used in an official election audit.

“I would say absolutely this is a grand test,” Ray Lutz said. “I think it is certainly a big test for me, because I have put a lot of work on it for the last year and a half or so. We have enhanced it to the point now where I believe we can do a lot to provide information about how well (this election) went.”

Lutz, a San Diego area businessman and longtime activist, said he has conducted unofficial audits on election results in Florida and Georgia using a system he created called AuditEngine.

Lutz said Citizens Oversight would be hired by the Senate directly and would not be a subcontractor under Cyber Ninjas, the lead contractor the Senate Republicans hired to conduct the original audit.

Cyber Ninjas’ CEO, Doug Logan, has promoted claims of election fraud on social media and has indicated the election was rigged against former President Donald Trump.

The second audit would not disrupt the current hand count because it would not use the actual ballots. Instead, Lutz’s team would use the digital image of each ballot.

Each time a ballot is fed into a vote-counting machine during the election, the machine creates a digital image of the ballot. The county was required to provide the Senate with those images along with the actual ballots, under the Senate’s subpoenas.

Bennett compared the separate audits to a bookkeeper’s role in managing deposits. He said if you got two different tallies, you’d want to do a third one to check which was the most accurate.

The GOP Senate is spending $150,000 with the current audit, and donors are funding the rest. OANN anchor Christina Bobb is helping to raise funds for the current audit through a nonprofit group, Voices and Votes, but the total cost of the recount has not been made public.

State Senate President Karen Fann has said the audit is not meant to overturn the results of the 2020 contest. Instead, the Senate president insisted the audit is meant to restore trust in the system and influence potential changes to the law.

(Source: AZ Central)

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