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Court: Arizona Senate Can't Keep 'Audit' Records Under Wraps

It's a defeat for state Republicans, who plan to appeal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 20, 2021 12:50 PM CDT
Court: Arizona Senate Can't Keep 'Audit' Records Under Wraps
In this May 6, 2021, file photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)

(Newser) – An appeals court on Thursday rejected an effort by the Arizona 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 Arizona Court of Appeals 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, per the AP. Republicans who control the Senate argued that because the records are maintained by its contractors, they weren't subject to public-records law and that legislative immunity applies. But the court said that wasn't the case, noting that 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.

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"Allowing the legislature to disregard the clear mandate of the [public records law] would undermine the integrity of the legislative process and discourage transparency," Maria Elena Cruz, the acting presiding judge, 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." The ruling upholds a decision by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, who ordered the Senate to turn over the records by Aug. 31.

The unprecedented partisan recount and review of election results in the state's most populous county was prompted by former President Trump's loss in the state and his contention, without evidence, that he lost in Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud. Senate GOPers 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, meanwhile, 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 next week. A date for public release hasn't been announced. Kory Langhofer, the Senate's lawyer, says they plan to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

(Read more Arizona stories.)

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