PHOENIX - A judge has ruled that the Arizona Senate can get access to 2.1 million ballots from Arizona’s most populous county so it can audit results of the 2020 election that saw Democrat Joe Biden win in the state.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason’s decision on Feb. 26 comes after a protracted battle between the Republican-controlled state Senate and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County board over subpoenas issued by the Senate.
The board contended that the ballots were secret, that the Legislature had no right to access them and that the subpoenas issued by Senate President Karen Fann were for an illegitimate purpose, among other arguments.
The Senate’s lawyers contended that the constitution gives the Legislature the role of maintaining the purity of elections and make sure voter integrity is protected, that the subpoenas were legal and proper use of legislative power.
Thomason agreed with the Senate on all those arguments, saying the subpoenas "are legal and enforceable."
"There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas," Thomason wrote. "The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas. The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections.
"The Arizona legislature clearly has the power to investigate and examine election reform matters," the ruling says. "The Subpoenas also do not violate separation of powers principles. Production of the subpoenaed materials would not violate confidentiality laws."
The ruling appears to end a bitter fight that has divided two elected Republican bodies who became embroiled in a battle prompted by former President Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona.
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.
The county Board of Supervisors has pointed to repeated checks that show the election was free and fair and properly conducted. They also did two additional audits in an effort to mollify the Senate.
Early this week, they released the results of those new audits of their equipment 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 state Senate wants its own forensic audit. The Senate fell one vote short of finding the five-member board in contempt earlier this month.
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.
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