Sexual harassment scandal threatens to derail Arizona election audit

Sexual harassment scandal threatens to derail Arizona election audit
Arizona audit, image via Screengrab.

Several women who've participated in Arizona's partisan election "audit" are alleging sexual harassment by male co-workers, and they say management initially ignored their complaints.

One of the alleged victims provided Phoenix's CBS 5 with statements from seven witnesses and victims corroborating her description of what happened.

"The statements described situations that involved more than one alleged offender, but the complaints centered on one man in particular," the station reported. "The letters are dated May 8. But the employee who spoke to (CBS 5) said the man was kept on staff for another month."

"We told upper management and they allowed him to stay on the floor for weeks," the woman said.

According to the alleged victims, the primary offender engaged in unwanted touching, demanded dates from women he thought were attractive, and made comments about their appearances, asking them things like, "You showing off your butt?"

When they rebuffed his advances, he would insult them. He also reportedly was prone to angry outbursts. "This issue seemed to stem from some type of anger over women having authority over him," one witness said.Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, who initiated the audit, relayed a statement to CBS 5 from the project's "lead vendor" — presumably the private firm Cyber Ninjas.

"I have never received any written complaints of any type of sexual harassment, nor has a complaint like this been brought to my attention," the statement said. "The closest thing I can think of is I am aware of a single table manager who was cussing a lot, and had apparently told an inappropriate joke. We fired him immediately."

In related news, ballots and machines being used in the audit were packed up and moved for the fourth time Thursday — to make way for a gun show at the basketball gym Cyber Ninjas had been using. The audit was initially expected to be completed in May, but a spokesman for the audit said this week they have "a little more work to do."

In an interview, an observer watching the process on behalf of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), the state's chief elections officer, said it appeared to him as though the delay has potentially been caused by audit workers who were spotting problems and struggling to reconcile their own numbers," the Washington Post reported. "Ryan Macias, former acting director of certification and testing for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said he overheard one worker express confusion over why a process she believed was sound was producing so many mistakes.

"Macias also said audit organizers had been continually introducing new procedures into their work — on Tuesday he said for the first time he saw workers using large scales to weigh boxes of ballots, presumably to get a new count of how many ballots each box contained."

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