US Arizona Supreme Court allows release of Senate audit records
Arizona Supreme Court delays release of election audit records
The Arizona Supreme Court said Tuesday that contractors hired by the Republican-led state Senate to conduct the Maricopa County 2020 election audit would not need to release records from their review by next week. © Provided by Washington Examiner This is only a temporary delay, as Kathryn King, a justice on the state's high court, put a hold on a lower court ruling that ordered the documents released by Aug. 31 while the case is under consideration. Left-leaning watchdog group American Oversight took its records request to court and emerged victorious on Aug.
PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an effort by the state Senate to keep secret records of its ongoing review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County that are in the possession of the contractors conducting the recount.
The high court without comment rejected the appeal filed after an appeals court and trial court both ruled the documents are public records that must be released. The court also dissolved a stay on the appeals court ruling it put in place on Aug. 24 so it could review the record and decide whether to accept the appeal.
The Arizona Court of Appeals had ruled that the documents sought by the watchdog group American Oversight detailing how the recount and audit are being conducted are public and must be turned over.
Appeals court orders Arizona Senate to produce 2020 election audit records
The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision on Thursday requiring the state's Republican-led Senate to produce records related to its audit of the 2020 election. © Provided by Washington Examiner A three-judge panel unanimously rejected a petition brought by the state Senate that argued it has immunity from the legal action and that it doesn't have many of the sought records in its possession. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp ordered the Senate on Aug.
Republicans who control the Senate have tried for months to keep secret how their contractors are conducting the recount. They argued that because the records are maintained by Senate contractors, they were not subject to public records law and that legislative immunity applies. But the appeals court in its Aug. 19 ruling rejected that argument.
The court said the main contractor, Florida company Cyber Ninjas, was subject to the records law because it was performing a core government function that the Senate farmed out.
"Allowing the legislature to disregard the clear mandate of the (public records law) would undermine the integrity of the legislative process and discourage transparency, which contradicts the purpose of both the immunity doctrine and the (law)," acting presiding Judge Maria Elena Cruz
Arizona election audit team to submit draft report to Senate next week
The team behind the 2020 presidential election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona, plans to submit its full draft report to the state Senate next week, according to a spokesperson for the project. © Provided by Washington Examiner The submission of the final review of the 2020 election, which saw auditing teams recount 2.1 million ballots and analyze voting machines this summer, has been delayed for several weeks. Audit Co-Chairman Randy Pullen told the AZ Mirror the draft report could be handed to the Senate on Wednesday or Thursday.
"The requested records are no less public records simply because they are in the possession of a third party, Cyber Ninjas,” Cruz wrote later in the ruling.
A spokesman for Cyber Ninjas, Rod Thomson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Senate spokesman Mike Philipsen.
It is unclear when the records will actually be released. There is a previously scheduled status conference hearing set for Thursday before the trial court judge who issued the original order.
Video: Court rules Arizona State Senate must release records of 2020 election audit (NBC News)
The appeals court ruling came in a case filed by American Oversight that is fighting for transparency in the election recount and upheld a Maricopa County Superior Court judge's ruling. That judge also ordered the Senate to turn over audit records it held, and theyon Aug. 31.
Cyber Ninjas 'audit': Maricopa County puts Arizona Senate on notice, seeks $2.8 million to replace 'compromised' election equipment
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors reminded Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann that she had agreed to cover the cost of the audit."We should never be in the position that we are in, having to procure new equipment for upcoming elections," Steve Gallardo, the board's lone Democrat, said at a meeting on Wednesday. "What has happened over the last 8 months or so has just been an injustice and has really has hurt the reputation and credibility of not only our elections department," he said, "but our democracy.
“Arizonans can look forward to much needed transparency, even if it may reveal gross attacks on democracy itself,” Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said in a statement.
Theand review of election results in the state's most populous county was prompted by former President Donald Trump's loss in the state and his contention without evidence that he lost in Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud.
Senate Republicans issued subpoenas to Maricopa County for all 2020 ballots, the machines that counted them and other data in the state’s most populated county.
The materials were given to contractors with little to no election experience for what Senate President Karen Fann calls a “forensic audit.” Election experts say the 2020 election was secure and well-run, and the contractors are using bizarre and unreliable procedures. Maricopa County has refused further participation.
The results of the audit and hand recount are expected to be handed over to the Senate at any time. But there have been repeated delays. The Senate then plans to review what is expected to be a three-volume report before it is released to the public.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday also rejected an appeal in another public records case involving the Senate election audit. In that case, Cyber Ninjas and the Senate were sued for failing to release records by the company that owns the Arizona Republic newspaper. Cyber Ninjas wanted the case moved to a different trial court judge, but under pandemic rules issued by Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, the automatic right to ask for a different judge was suspended.
Cyber Ninjas argued that denying it the ability to seek a new judge improperly deprived it of a “valuable substantive right.” The high court without comment declined to consider a challenge to its own order, although two of seven justices would have heard the case.
Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed to this report.
Arizona Senate previews Maricopa audit report presentation .
The contractors tasked to audit the 2020 Maricopa County general election are poised to present their findings to the Arizona Senate on Friday, which offered a preview on Wednesday. © Provided by Washington Examiner Lead Contractor and Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, CyFIR founder Ben Cotton, and others tasked for the state Senate-commissioned operation will show the results of the review to Senate President Karen Fann and Judiciary Chairman Warren Peterson at 1 p.m. local time Friday, according to a press release.