ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona Supreme Court rejects state Senate’s efforts to keep audit records; allows release

Sep 14, 2021, 4:29 PM
Former Arizona state Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, recounts ballots from the 2020 general election...
Former Arizona state Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, recounts ballots from the 2020 general election as a contractor working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud in Arizona. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)
(Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

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.

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 wrote for the three-judge panel.

“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.

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 they were released on Aug. 31.

“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.

The unprecedented partisan recount and 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.

Arizona News

(Bell Bank Park Rendering)...
Kevin Stone

Bell Bank gets naming rights to massive Mesa sports complex

The massive sports and entertainment complex opening next year in southeast Mesa will be known as Bell Bank Park under a 10-year naming rights deal announced Tuesday.
11 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/Phoenix Fire Department)...
Ali Vetnar

Phoenix mountain rescues decrease during pilot program to close trails in extreme heat

A city of Phoenix pilot program to close popular hiking trails during some of the hottest summer days has resulted in fewer mountain rescues for first responders, according to new data.
11 hours ago
Aloys Ntirushwamaboko (Photo via Phoenix Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert canceled after body identified as missing 103-year-old Phoenix man

A Silver Alert for a 103-year-old Phoenix man who had been missing for nearly a month was canceled Tuesday after formal identification of his body, authorities said.
11 hours ago
A vial of Covishield, an Indian made vaccine for COVID-19, lies at a vaccination center set up at a...
KTAR.com

Arizona reports 1,934 new COVID-19 cases, 71 more deaths Tuesday

Arizona health officials on Tuesday reported 1,934 new COVID-19 cases and 71 additional deaths from the disease.
11 hours ago
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)...
Griselda Zetino

Carmona ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids

Arizona’s top pandemic adviser feels “cautiously optimistic” about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids and believes it could help cut down the transmission of the virus.
11 hours ago
(Cigna Medical Group photo)...
KTAR.com

Cigna Medical Group opens new health care center at SkySong in Scottsdale

Cigna Medical Group has opened the doors of a new health care center at SkySong in Scottsdale, allowing patients to access multiple services in one place.
11 hours ago
Arizona Supreme Court rejects state Senate’s efforts to keep audit records; allows release