PHOENIX - Republicans who control the Arizona Senate fell one vote short on Monday of holding the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in contempt for failing to turn over voting machines and ballots from the November election that lawmakers want to examine as they continue to question President Joe Biden’s win in the state.
One Republican member joined all 14 Democrats in voting against a contempt resolution. If the measure passed, the five-member board could have been subject to immediate arrest.
Republican Sen. Paul Boyer broke ranks, angering his fellow Republicans. He said finding the board in contempt while there’s still a chance for a solution was not the right thing to do.
"I’ve always said, so long as there’s hope for both sides to work with one another, I want to do all I can in my limited power to have us work amicably together," Boyer said. "We still have time to work together on this."
GOP Senate President Karen Fann leaned on Boyer to change his vote, saying that not passing the measure lets the board off the hook. The contempt resolution could be revived if Boyer agrees to back it.
"Members, we still have time to work on this," said Boyer. "My no vote will give the supervisors time to resolve itself on how to legally proceed with providing public records for independent sunshine and scrutiny."
Other Republicans blasted Boyer for breaking ranks.
Sen. Warren Peterson, who heads the Judiciary Committee and issued the subpoenas that the board is refusing to honor, said it was clear the board was being obstinate.
"The bottom line is we have made a request, issued a subpoena, and they have given us the finger," Peterson said. "They refuse to comply with the subpoena. That’s why they’re in contempt. That’s why they deserve to be found in contempt."
The Senate has been trying since mid-December to get access to ballots and other materials so they can do their own audit of the election results. They are prompted in part by the many Republicans who subscribe to unfounded claims that President Joe Biden won Arizona because of problems with vote counting. GOP senators say they’re just trying to boost voter confidence in elections.
The board has already turned over a massive amount of data requested by the Senate as it seeks to perform an outside audit of the election that saw former President Donald Trump lose in the state. Some Republicans continue to raise unfounded claims of potential fraud or miscounts, which were rejected by a series of Arizona courts, including the state Supreme Court.
On Monday, the board filed for a restraining order and injunction barring the Senate from voting to hold it in contempt while a court considers a request it filed on Friday to quash the subpoena. That court filing says the effort by the Senate is a sham.
Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the board, said he’s concerned that backers of former President Donald Trump will take matters into their own hands if the Senate resolution passed.
"You know, what really concerns is not (Senate sergeant at arms) Joe Kubacki showing up to my door, or even (state police), it’s the rhetoric of these people online — these are the people with zip ties.
"And I would hope that Karen Fann knows who’s she talking to," Gallardo said. "Every time she throws something out there, this whole group that was part of this insurrection, that’s the audience that she’s talking to.
"Someone’s going to get hurt if they don’t stop this," he said.
And Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Mesa Republican, seemed to imply that was likely while talking about her vote. She and other Republicans say they’ve been inundated with calls from voters who believe Biden’s victory in Arizona was due to fraud or other voting issues.
"This shouldn’t fall into the hands of the public ... when they’re so lathered up," Townsend said. "So public, do what you gotta do."
The county board supervisors said in Friday’s court filing that while they respect the power of the Legislature to issue subpoenas and have provided much of the information lawmakers seek, it would be illegal to turn over the ballots, and allowing access to voting machines by unqualified personnel would render them useless in future elections.
Fann said despite the politicization of the fight between the board and the Senate, her position in the Legislature is helping fulfill its proper oversight role.
"This is not personal, this is business," Fann said. "And they are doing what they feel they need to do and we are doing what we feel we need to do."
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.