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The hand count of all 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots cast in November’s presidential election continues Monday, but the ability to sign up to watch as an observer is closed — at least for now.

Contractors hired by the Arizona Senate to perform the audit have posted an update on the website arizonaaudit.com, which previously housed the sign-up sheet for observers, indicating that all volunteer observer slots were full.

“Thank you for your interest in election integrity and our audit efforts,” the update says. “We have currently filled all volunteer slots. Please, check back later for new opportunities!”

Eliminating volunteer slots may lead to less transparency, as organizers had told journalists the only access they would have to the audit would be as official observers. As of Friday, observers did not have to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to volunteer.

Whether that’s still the case is unclear, as organizers are no longer answering  questions from reporters about the process. An Arizona Republic reporter who earlier had applied to serve as an observer was turned away from the Coliseum on Monday and told she was still being vetted following an hourlong wait. 

Lack of transparency: Cyber Ninjas, hired by Arizona Senate to recount Maricopa County’s ballots, asks court to keep its procedures secret

Concerns about the audit, happening in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, are growing by the day and attracting interest from across the globe. The Senate has relinquished control over the audit to private contractors, who have refused to provide details about who is involved and who is paying.

The lack of clear procedures and safeguards, at least in the beginning, was apparent, as seen by another Republic reporter who had access to the site as an observer on Friday.

The audit is the subject of a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, where the Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo have claimed the lack of clear procedures would do damage to voters whose ballots are in the hands of the private contractors with no oversight.

Winging it: Arizona Senate audit gets off to shaky start, with rules finalized on the fly

Observers are there to oversee the process to ensure it is happening fairly, according to Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the contractor hired to run the audit for the Senate. But the criteria used to approve observers is unclear and how many are from each political party is unknown.

No Maricopa County officials are present and Senate President Karen Fann said Monday morning she had not visited the coliseum since prior to the start of the hand count. The Senate appointed Ken Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state, to monitor the audit on its behalf.

Take a look: What you’re seeing on the video feeds as counting continues

On the first day of the hand count on Friday, many observers who had signed up and were confirmed were turned away at the gate because the contractors said they had lost their names due to problems with their sign-up sheet.

For now, those who want to watch the audit from afar can do so at azaudit.org.

Republic reporter Maria Polletta contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at jen.fifield@azcentral.com or at 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield

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