An Arizona Republic reporter was ejected Friday during an audit of the state’s presidential ballots after he snapped a photo of U.S. Capitol rally agitator and former Arizona Rep. Anthony Kern (R) reviewing ballots.
Kern’s own name is also on the ballots he was auditing. He ran for reelection last year and placed last in the three-way race, losing his seat. He was also listed as a presidential elector for Donald Trump, according to the Republic.
The review of 2.1 million votes cast in Maricopa County is only auditing the tally for the presidency and the U.S. Senate, the races won by Democrats.
Kern has insisted that Trump’s defeat was fraudulent. While he was still a representative, he signed a “joint resolution” with fellow Republican lawmakers in a bid to invalidate the state’s election results.
Kern was photographed in the crowd during the Jan. 6 siege in Washington, the Arizona Republic reported.
More than 40 Democrats in the Arizona state Legislature called on the Justice Department to investigate Kern after the Capitol siege. His “own social media posts strongly suggest” that Kern was “present at the riot in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, and actively encouraged the mob, both before and during the attack on the Capitol,” the letter said.
He later “blamed antifa,” the letter noted.
Kern refused to turn over his cellphone so investigators could examine his emails and text messages related to his travel to the Capitol that day, Newsweek reported.
Kern has denied any wrongdoing.
The CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm that Arizona’s Republican Senate has hired to manage the audit process, told reporters last week that workers were screened to ensure “there was nothing on their social media or other details that showed strong opinions one way or another.”
But Cyber Ninjas itself is headed by founder Doug Logan, a promoter of the “Big Lie” conspiracy theory that the presidential election was stolen. Months before the process started, Logan retweeted messages claiming that an audit would find hundreds of thousands of new votes for Trump.
Voter and civil rights organizations are so alarmed that they’ve written to the Justice Department for federal monitors out of fear that ballots will be damaged, stolen, altered or lost.
Ejected reporter Ryan Randazzo tweeted that he was initially allowed at the recount location at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum an hour late. He witnessed a confusing shuffling of boxes stuffed with ballots that were examined with no obvious organization.
But then Randazzo tweeted that he was kicked out after posting the photo of Kern.
A spokesman for the recount operation said Randazzo was ejected because he took a photo of a ballot.
“He tweeted out a tweet that included a picture of a ballot. We are being extremely cautious based on the judge’s decision. He doesn’t want ballot images made public,” Ken Bennett, a former GOP secretary of state who has been serving as the Republican state Senate’s liaison for the controversial process, told the Arizona Republic.
But political reporter Jermey Duda tweeted that journalists agreed not to photograph ballots with discernible markings. He said there was no agreement not to photograph faces.
The audit findings will have no effect on President Joe Biden’s victory in the state by a 0.3-point margin, which has long been officially certified. But claims of new votes for Trump could undermine faith in a legitimate election and lead to further unrest.