Judge to rule on fight between Arizona Senate, Maricopa County by Friday

Feb 25, 2021, 9:00 AM | Updated: 1:50 pm

An official with the Maricopa County Recorder's Office fills out paperwork after ballots were count...

An official with the Maricopa County Recorder's Office fills out paperwork after ballots were counted for the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge is promising to rule quickly after he heard brief arguments Thursday in a fight between Arizona Senate Republicans and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors over access to ballots and voting machines used in November’s election.

The GOP-dominated county board asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason to quash the subpoena issued by the Senate. They argue that the ballots are sealed under laws the Legislature passed and the Senate does not have a right to access them.

“The question before the court is really very straightforward in that will this court uphold a subpoena in which one branch of government orders or wishes to compel another branch of government to violate the law?” said Thomas Liddy, the county’s top election attorney. “It’s clear that no such subpoena is enforceable and is unlawful and should be invalid.”

The county’s court filings also say Republican Senate President Karen Fann and other GOP lawmakers are trying to conduct an illegal recount under the guise of an election audit.

Fann’s lawyers want the judge to order 2.1 million ballots that were cast turned over and allow Senate-hired auditors to examine vote-counting machines and related computer software. They say the laws cited by the county are intended as limits on public access, not access demanded by the same Legislature that made the rules on ballot secrecy.

Thomason focused on the laws either side cited, asking whether they would or should prevent other government officials from accessing the records or whether they clearly disallowed that.

The specific law the county cites requires ballots to be sealed and locked up for two years, and says that they can only be opened in the case of an election contest or a recount.

But the Senate’s lawyer, Kory Langhofer, urged Thomason to go beyond that simple reading, saying that since elections are essentially over once a short contest period ends there would be no logical reason for retaining ballots for two years if not for circumstances like now exist. He noted that the Arizona Constitution directs the Legislature to maintain the purity of elections and make sure voter integrity is protected, and said that’s what the Senate is trying to do.

“There must be some purpose of that statute beyond the purpose as the county reads it,” Langhofer told the judge. “And our view is those are there so the Legislature can understand what happened. It is constitutionally responsible for overseeing public policy, specifically elections in the state.”

The county released the results of two independent audits of their equipment on Tuesday that showed no malicious software or incorrect counting equipment and that none of the computers or equipment were connected to the internet. Previous reviews and a hand recount of a sample of ballots also found no issues. The board says the election was fair and the county accurate.

The state Senate wants its own forensic audit. The Senate fell one vote short of finding the five-member board in contempt earlier this month.

Thomason promised a ruling by Friday.

The county Board of Supervisors previously turned over reams of data but balked at handing over the actual ballots or the tabulation machines, saying the ballots were by law secret and the machines would be compromised.

Fann says she wants the audit to prove one way or another whether the victory of President Joe Biden was legitimate. Court challenges in Arizona and other battleground states where former President Donald Trump lost found no evidence of fraud, miscounts or other problems.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Entrance to the Internal Revenue Service building....

Arizona launches legal battle against IRS to halt taxation of state-issued tax rebate

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said the state is suing the IRS in hopes of stopping it from taxing a state-issued tax rebate.

31 minutes ago

Three panel image, left to right, of Ruben Gallego, Kari Lake and Kyrsten Sinema...

Kevin Stone

New Arizona Senate poll: Ruben Gallego up big over Kari Lake in race for Kyrsten Sinema’s seat

A new poll on Arizona's U.S. Senate race is good news for Ruben Gallego, bad news for Kari Lake and worse news for Kyrsten Sinema.

1 hour ago

Brunson Lee elementary school district sign...

Manhunt yields no results after shooting suspect seen going into Phoenix elementary school

A manhunt came up empty after a shooting suspect was seen running into an elementary school before students arrived Thursday morning.

4 hours ago

Chandler innovation fair 2024 East Valley...

Serena O'Sullivan

Chandler Innovation Fair to celebrate innovation with hundreds of hands-on science exhibits

The yearly Chandler Innovation Fair, which celebrates innovators and scientists of all ages in the East Valley, will return on Saturday.

6 hours ago

One Handsome Bastard photo...

Serena O'Sullivan

Old Town Scottsdale’s 1st microdistillery opens in former Blue Clover Distillery space

The space previously occupied by Blue Clover Distillery is now known as One Handsome Bastard. The name honors the late Brad Ritchie.

7 hours ago


Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

Judge to rule on fight between Arizona Senate, Maricopa County by Friday