Arizona Senate subpoena for election material not enforceable, judge rules

Dec 24, 2020, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:04 am

FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, election workers sort ballots at the Maricopa County Reco...

FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, election workers sort ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

PHOENIX – An Arizona judge on Wednesday ruled that Maricopa County doesn’t have to comply with a state Senate subpoena seeking access to voting machines and other election-related materials.

Superior Court Judge Randall Warner said Senate President Karen Fann and Sen. Eddie Farnsworth did not follow the appropriate procedures to enforce a legislative subpoena, but he invited them to refile their case.

The matter will be dismissed Feb. 1 unless an update is filed, the ruling said.

The Republican lawmakers say they want the county to turn over voting machines and records so the Legislature can audit Maricopa County’s handling of the election.

The county has said it can’t do that while there is still litigation being pursued by backers of President Donald Trump active in the courts, but board members have repeatedly promised the audit once litigation ends.

Wednesday’s decision makes it unlikely Arizona GOP legislators will be able to complete an audit before Congress formally counts Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. Based on election results and state certifications, President-elect Joe Biden won the Electoral College by a 306-232 margin, with Arizona’s 11 votes going to the Democrat.

The state-county dispute is another chapter in efforts by Trump and his supporters to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election in Arizona and several other states he lost.

“The false accusations keep coming, yet the accusers have not produced any evidence to prove their accusations in eight different courtrooms,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman, one of four Republicans on the five-person board, said in a press release.

“Maricopa County has shown the 2020 General Election was transparent and the results were free from fraud.”

The board voted last week to fight the subpoena and filed a lawsuit asking for a judge to decide whether they must comply, saying lawmakers are illegally seeking access to private voting information.

The lawmakers then filed their own emergency lawsuit on Monday asking Warner to force the county to comply, hoping to speed up the process.

“They are allowed to investigate and see what the facts are and make a decision, just like a grand jury,” said Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for Fann and Farnsworth.

Stephen Tully, a former Republican lawmaker representing the Board of Supervisors, said the lawmakers aren’t entitled to the court order they seek, known as a writ of mandamus, nor are they entitled to send an unknown auditor to tinker with voting machines.

“What they’re trying to do is unconstitutional. It’s illegal,” Tully said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona Senate subpoena for election material not enforceable, judge rules