The Arizona Democratic Party filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking to stop the state’s Senate from carrying out an audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County.
The complaint (pdf), filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, comes just before the audit is set to begin on Friday. In preparation, 2.1 million ballots, as well as voting equipment that includes 385 tabulators, were delivered to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, the site of the planned audit.
An emergency court hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday.
The Arizona Democratic Party and Steve Gallardo, the sole Democrat on the five-member Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, argue in the lawsuit that the planned audit is in violation of “various statutory and Election Procedures Manual provisions.” They allege that the planned audit lacks various safeguards and requirements are lacking to perform a secure and reliable audit, and as such, the planned audit “undermines the integrity and security” of the state’s elections and voter information.
Plaintiffs are seeking a restraining order and a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the audit requested by the Republican-majority Senate leadership.
The lawsuit comes as Republicans introduced a bill late January to address legal issues outlined in the Democrats’ lawsuit. The bill is currently with the House after passing the state Senate in February.
The latest auditing efforts come after the Senate leadership issued subpoenas in mid-January to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors seeking materials for a full audit of the 2020 general election. In response, county officials asked a court to declare that the subpoenas were unlawful and unenforceable. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason ruled in February that the subpoenas are valid, and that the Senate has “broad constitutional” oversight powers that allow it to carry out whatever election review it chooses.
Democrats in the latest lawsuit argued that the private auditors and their agents “are not authorized to review confidential voter registration records” and “are not authorized to gain possession or control of voted early ballots,” citing state law.
In particular, the complaint notes that “certain parts of a voter’s registration records, including date of birth, signature, and country of birth, may not be viewed, accessed, reproduced, or disclosed to a member of the public who is not an authorized government official.” It also notes that “only election officials, postal workers, and certain family members and other authorized individuals may ‘gain possession or control’ of voted early ballots.”
The Democrats also allege that the private auditors “have not been appointed in writing or taken an oath required under [Elections Procedures Manual Chapter 10 Section 1A (pdf)] and thus are not authorized to touch any ballot, computer, or counting device.” They also allege that the private auditors “are not properly trained in signature verification.”
In a brief comment, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, said that the ballots are protected by bonded and certified 24-hour security forces, kept in locked cages and a public live stream is on 24 hours a day, reported The Associated Press.
The Democrat’s lawsuit comes at the same time that Republicans are trying to pass a bill that would address similar legal issues surrounding confidentiality and disclosure to facilitate the elections auditing process.
On Feb. 18, the state Senate passed a bill that would amend a portion of the state law such that county election equipment, systems and records, and other information that is under the control of county personnel “may not be deemed privileged information, confidential information, or other information protected from disclosure.”
It also subjects such records to a subpoena and stipulates that they “must be produced” and the legislature’s authority to conduct related probes “may not be infringed by any other law.”
The bill is currently held in the state House.
Maricopa County Supervisor Gallardo wrote on Twitter late Thursday, “The sole reason for this lawsuit and injunctions is to protect the sanctity of the ballots, and more importantly, to preserve voters’ privacy from a sham audit that has been corrupted by agitators and conspiracy theorists.
“This corrupted process will not be transparent, dark money influencers have handed picked the folks to observe and witness the ‘audit’ that will be conducted by an uncertified and unqualified group,” Gallardo alleged.
The Arizona Senate Democrats released a statement in support of the suit. “It’s clear that this audit is no more than a temper tantrum from those still upset that they lost the election and it is deeply damaging to the integrity of our elections and our democracy,” their statement reads, in part.
President Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential nominee to win Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, in decades.
Kelli Ward, Chair of the Arizona Republican Party, questioned the Democrats’ move in a statement on Thursday. “The Democrats are STILL trying to stop the Maricopa County audit and defy the AZ Senate subpoena. What are they hiding? Hearing tomorrow on this ridiculous temporary restraining order,” she wrote on Twitter
The Arizona Senate has hired four out-of-state firms to carry out the audit, which are Wake Technology Services, CyFIR, Digital Discovery, and Cyber Ninjas. Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity company, was arranged to lead the audit.
This is an excerpt from The Epoch Times.
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