Former Rep. Anthony Kern, a Stop the Steal backer, now counting your ballots
Anthony Kern, a former state lawmaker who was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when rioters disrupted Congress, is among the people helping to count and inspect Maricopa County ballots.
Kern's name appeared on all of the November ballots that he was counting Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum as part of an audit ordered by the state Senate.
He was nominated by the Republican Party as a presidential elector, and his name appeared on the ballot alongside then-President Donald Trump’s name, along with the party’s 10 other electors.
Kern, a Glendale Republican, also lost his reelection bid for the Arizona House of Representatives. The audit is not reviewing his race, only the presidential and Senate races.
But Kern's role in the recount has added to questions about the unprecedented process. The Senate's contract with Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based company it hired to manage the audit, said its ballot counters would be nonpartisan, and its CEO boasted they had all been screened.
Kern is known in Arizona for being placed on the Brady List of disgraced law-enforcement officers after an incident involving his work as a code-enforcement officer. In 2014, the El Mirage Police Department fired Kern from that job for lying to a supervisor after a string of disciplinary problems.
Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, 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.”
Kern has voiced strong opinions about the election he is now inspecting.
On Dec. 20, he tweeted to then-President Trump: "Mr. President @realDonaldTrump: As an Arizona State Representative, I know this election was filled with irregularities, no-transparency adjudications, and even outright fraud. You won this election, and we stand with you every step of the way!"
Kern was active in "Stop the Steal" efforts. He also signed a letter with several other Republican lawmakers urging Congress not to accept the presidential electors selected by Arizona voters.
He was still in office when he traveled to the Capitol on Jan. 6 when a rally to overturn the presidential election became a bloody siege that left five people dead, including a Trump supporter and a Capitol Police officer.
Senate leader Fann says she wasn't involved with staffing
Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, is in charge of the audit of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County in November.
Fann would not discuss details about hiring or staffing for the audit and said she was not involved in those decisions.
An Arizona Republic reporter observing the audit from the designated media area was removed after posting a picture of Kern on Twitter on Friday.
The Senate president said she was concerned about the potential for people identifying workers involved in the process.
“It’s OK to be subject to scrutiny, but it’s not OK to zoom in on their faces and plaster it all over social media,” she said.
Kern was identified at the coliseum Saturday by another reporter.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said that Kern’s participation was concerning.
“It’s a real reflection of the lack of integrity and lack of screening this sham audit is conducting,” Quezada said Friday. “To have Mr. Kern of all people. This was a guy who was present at an attempted overthrow of the federal government on Jan. 6. And now, through their vetting process, that he was found to be a trustworthy person is pretty scary.
“There needs to be action taken by the courts to really rein this thing in because it is spiraling out of control,” Quezada said.
Also present Friday was Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, who appeared to get a tour of the coliseum floor from Ken Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state serving as the Senate's liaison in the process. Biggs also was on the November ballot, winning reelection in Arizona's fifth Congressional District.
Ali Alexander, a leader of "Stop the Steal" election protests nationally, singled out Biggs and fellow U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for helping to make January's pro-Trump gathering in Washington happen.
Biggs strenuously denied any connection with the riot that followed. Kern was photographed in the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 but has denied any wrongdoing.
Audit could be extended, organizer says
While the Senate's lease of the coliseum only extends to May 14, Bennett left open the idea Friday that the process might take longer.
The coliseum will be used for Phoenix Union High School District graduations during the week of May 17, but Bennett suggested the audit could take a break and resume when the schedule permitted.