Maricopa County Audit, Recount Allowed To Continue
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that Republican state senators and a private company can’t shield the policies and procedures used to conduct a Senate-led review of the county’s recent election from the public.
However, Judge Daniel Martin also denied a request to stop the election audit and recount of 2.1 million ballots, at least temporarily, made by the Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo.
For now, that means the unprecedented audit and recount of votes cast during the presidential election, won by Joe Biden in Arizona, will continue.
Martin said Cyber Ninjas, the firm hired by Senate President Karen Fann to lead the election review, failed to prove there was some greater interest in keeping those documents private that would override the public’s right to access those records. The firm's CEO, Doug Logan, has in the past spread conspiracies of fraud about the presidential election.
The judge also rejected arguments from attorneys for Senate Republicans, who claimed the records should be protected under legislative privilege and immunity.
Martin ruled the documents will be made publicly available at noon Thursday — a delay that gives attorneys for the Senate and Cyber Ninjas to appeal the order to the Arizona Supreme Court. Attorneys could ask the state’s top court to put the order on hold. It’s unclear if attorneys for either the Senate or Cyber Ninjas plan to file an appeal.
The order to publicize the records was a victory for the plaintiffs, as well as the First Amendment Coalition, a group of local media organizations that intervened to ensure the documents would be publicly available.
Attorneys for the state Democratic Party and Gallardo argued those records are essential to determining whether the audit and recount are being conducted in accordance with constitutional provisions and Arizona laws that protect ballot privacy and confidential voter information.
On Tuesday, Martin said he’s not convinced so far that is the case. On Wednesday, he also acknowledged the Democratic Party, Gallardo and others may yet prove Cyber Ninjas and Senate Republicans aren’t following the law.
But Martin said there wasn’t a strong enough likelihood of the plaintiffs winning the case to warrant a temporary pause in the audit and recount process.
The judge also ordered all the parties involved — Republican state senators, Cyber Ninjas, the state Democratic Party, Gallardo and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — to try and work out an arrangement that would allow the state’s top election official to observe the audit and recount happening inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The order comes a day after the Senate and Cyber Ninjas reached an agreement with a coalition of local media organizations that allows reports to observe the recount in shifts. Prior to that, reporters were barred from the coliseum unless they agreed to actively participate in the process by volunteering to serve as observers on behalf of Cyber Ninjas and the state Senate.
On Tuesday evening, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, acting as a liaison between the Senate and Cyber Ninjas, announced that roughly 100,000 ballots had been counted since the process began on Friday.
At that pace, the process is woefully behind schedule — the audit and recount are expected to be complete by May 14. But Bennett insisted the effort is on track to finish by then.