An Arizona Republic reporter had his press access for the state Senate audit revoked Friday after he tweeted a photo of former Republican lawmaker and Jan. 6 protester Anthony Kern reviewing Maricopa County 2020 ballots at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The reporter, Ryan Randazzo, was working as the press pool reporter and posted that he was removed from the Coliseum on Twitter.
“Well, a man in a cowboy hat and a badge that said Wake TSI just came over, asked if I tweeted the picture of Anthony Kern, and when I said yes he escorted me out of the building and said my press privileges were ‘revoked,’” Randazzo tweeted.
Randazzo added in a subsequent tweet that he was told he could stay in the venue’s parking lot.
Senate liaison and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Randazzo was removed because there was a ballot in the image he tweeted.
“I think he was trying to get Anthony Kern’s face, but he ended up getting the ballot,” Bennett said. “We were very clear that reporters would not be releasing close up images of ballots.”
@ArizonaAudit, the Twitter account for the audit, responded to a user who said the ballot in the photo “looked quite blurry to me” by telling them to “Go get an eye exam.”
To participate in the press pool, journalists agreed to ensure photos of ballots did not have contents that were distinguishable by the naked eye or via a zoom lens. They did not agree to avoid photographing or posting images that contain ballots entirely.
There is no agreement to avoid photographing faces.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann said on Twitter that Randazzo’s tweet violated a judge’s order to not release the contents of ballots publicly and accused him of “doxing” workers at the Coliseum. In fact, the judge’s orders do not apply to the press, only the Senate. And doxing, which lawmakers just voted to make a crime, is defined as making someone’s private or identifying information public with malicious intent.
Kern’s pinned tweet on his Twitter profile is an April 22 announcement saying it was “Very exciting to be involved in Arizona’s massive and historic election audit which begins today.”
Details of the ballot were not visible in the photo, and Randazzo said that when security personnel approached him, they asked if he had tweeted a photo of the former lawmaker, not the ballot.
Kern on twitter accused Randazzo of committing a felony by photographing a ballot, and asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich to look into it.
The audit’s own cameras show images of ballots, though they’re no clearer than the image Randazzo posted, which he shot from the press section an estimated 125 feet away from where the actual counting is happening, and which was too pixilated to make out the actual words on the ballot.
Kern lost his 2020 re-election bid, the only Republican member of the state House to do so, and was present Jan. 6 when insurrectionists stormed Congress to try to stop lawmakers from certifying the results of the 2020 election, which President Biden won.
As a 2020 candidate, Kern’s name is on some of the ballots the auditors are reviewing — he lost his state House of Representatives re-election to represent District 20.
Bennett was unaware that Kern ran in 2020.
“What, he lost? Was he in the 2020 election?” Bennett asked.
Bennett said he was not involved in hiring Kern, saying that responsibility fell to the temp agency that hired counters for Wake TSI, the firm overseeing the hand recount under Cyber Ninjas, whose CEO has spread unproven claims about the election in Arizona online.
In the Statement of Work for Cyber Ninjas, the firm leading the audit, the firm says it will use “non-partisan counters,” drawn from “a pool of primarily former law enforcement, veterans, and retired individuals” for the recount.
“These individuals will undergo background checks and will be validated to not have worked for any political campaigns nor having worked for any vendor involved in the voting process,” the section stated.
Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, told reporters that the only vetting ballot-counters would undergo was a review of their social media accounts. It’s unclear why that review didn’t throw up red flags for Kern.
Bennett said no counters were asked their political party affiliation and Kern did not receive special treatment.
“When you’re hiring somebody, you can’t ask what their political party is,” Bennett said. “So, I think in that sense, he was nonpartisan because they didn’t ask him whether he was Republican or Democrat or Independent or whatever.”
Kern is also on the Brady List, a database of police who have engaged in a pattern of dishonesty. It is unclear whether that came up in a background check.
“I don’t know anything about that – I was not involved in his hiring,” Bennett said.
Also on hand for the recount today was U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, a Gilbert Republican who voted against certifying the results of Arizona’s presidential election.