PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona Senate election audit officials refused to address a series of security lapses and problems exposed by Arizona's Family Investigates, the night before the controversial recount was to begin.
"I question why security wasn't already in place," said Karl de la Guerra, who is a protective services consultant with 43 years in the industry. De la Guerra was reacting to a video sent to him by Arizona's Family Investigates. The video exposed a lack of security at the Arizona Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, the audit location. State Senate Republicans are performing the audit, but doing so on a shoe-string budget. And critics argue that the company hired to lead the operation is run by a Trump supporter who had tweeted false conspiracy theories about the election.
"I think the fact of the matter is that there have been numerous legitimate audits that have shown that there were no discrepancies," said Sen. Rebecca Rios, who is the leading Democrat in the state Senate.
After watching the video shot by Arizona's Family Investigates, Rios said the audit should be called off. "I don't know how people walk away feeling comfortable about what is going on. We have asked repeatedly, 'What is the plan? What is the plan for security?'" said Rios.
Sen. Rebecca Rios, the head of Senate Democrats, called the audit a "temper tantrum" and said the audit is "damaging to the integrity of our elections and our democracy."
At issue is the security of Maricopa County's election equipment and every ballot cast in the 2020 general election. A judge ordered county elections officials to turn everything over to Senate Republicans for the audit. The equipment and ballots had been held in the county facility known as "The Vault," because security is so tight. But Senate President Karen Fann chose the coliseum for the audit, which is not considered a secure location. "It is a very, very porous, what we call, 'Soft target public venue,'" said de la Guerra.
Added to the challenges of securing the location is the cost. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office officials estimated it would have cost the county $175,000 for security alone, if the sheriff's office would have agreed to protect the site. Sheriff Paul Penzone declined, citing the cost and the effect taking those deputies off the street would have on public safety.
The total amount of money Fann has dedicated to the audit is $150,000. That is taxpayer money, but it is supposed to cover the facility expenses, four auditing companies, as well as security. Contractors are accepting private donations, although the audit officials refused to reveal how much they have taken in and from whom.
The contract between Senate Republicans and the audit companies states that the companies are responsible for security. The audit's Twitter page stated, "Please be assured that a robust security plan is in place to protect the ballots, equipment, workers and volunteer observers."
But on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Arizona's Family Investigates team gained access to the coliseum, its hallways, staircases and the main floor, where the computer equipment will be used by the auditors. The team was able to get close to the actual ballots and county computer equipment. At no time did anyone at the site ask the team to leave. At no time did the team enter through any doorway or entry that contained a "No Trespassing" or "Restricted Access" sign.