PHOENIX - Maricopa County officials and the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate on Wednesday agreed to avoid further court hearings while they work on a deal to get the Senate a raft of data from November’s election.
The move could lead to an end of a bitter dispute over subpoenas issued by the lawmakers, many of whom question how President Joe Biden won Arizona.
A deal, if it is finalized, would end a three-week fight in which the Republican-majority county board said the Senate’s requests were far out of bounds and likely to expose private voter information for political reasons.
The Senate, led by GOP President Karen Fann, had pressed ahead, saying they needed to audit the election results to ensure the county ran the election correctly and to craft new legislation addressing the concerns of Republicans.
County supervisors had sought court orders to block the subpoenas. They argued that lawmakers sought election information that was illegal to share. The Senate countered by asking a judge to issue orders requiring the county to comply. Last week, a judge urged the two sides to settle the case.
Fann claimed victory on Wednesday, saying the Senate was getting everything it wanted.
"Not only has the Board agreed to turn over all the relevant information we sought in our subpoenas so that we may perform an audit, but they also acknowledge that the Legislature is a sovereign power of the state and that the county is a political subdivision, and as such, the Legislature has the constitutional and statutory authority to issue subpoenas," Fann said in a statement.
But Tom Liddy, the deputy county attorney representing the Board of Supervisors, said no final agreement has been reached, let alone one that hands over everything the Senate originally sought.
"The only agreement between the board and the Senate is that both have agreed to work together in good faith to get the senators any information that they need to perform their proper constitutional function of writing new laws or amending existing laws," Liddy said. "What we’re committing to doing is working together .. and try to resolve these issues."
Fann thanked Board Chairman Jack Sellers for, according to her, reaching the agreement. Sellers sent Fann an unusual letter in which he acknowledged the county is a subdivision of the state and subject to its powers.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers has issued a statement that reads:
"The Board of Supervisors, through its legal team, continues to negotiate in good faith with the representatives of the Arizona State Senate President. This Board is being updated as negotiations continue on the terms of a potential agreement. The parties are working toward an agreement which delivers some of the requested documents and information, while protecting voter privacy and the integrity of election equipment. We look forward to reaching consensus on these matters.
This Board has always been consistent in supporting a forensic audit, and will continue to take steps toward that end. Members are actively working with stakeholders, including the Recorder, and hope to have an audit completed soon."
That acknowledgment was one of 10 points outlined in a tentative agreement released by the Senate. Other items on the list include security arrangements and a provision that anyone who audits election machines or software is certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Also included is a "logic and accuracy test" on election equipment, a review that was done before and after the election as required by state law.
Many Republicans have made unsubstantiated claims that the election results were fraudulent, despite multiple court rulings rejecting such allegations. The state Senate Judiciary Committee and Fann have said they are seeking election files to try to prove or disprove those claims.
In an interview, Fann said she had no evidence that anything went wrong. But she insisted it was important that questions raised about the election be answered.
"We have said from Day One, we are not alleging fraud, we are not alleging anything," Fann said. "What we are saying there are a lot of questions."
They also pushed for an audit of voting machines and the software used to count the ballots, despite numerous checks and hand-count audits done by county and state officials before and after the election.
Attorneys for the Senate previously acknowledged in court papers that they also sought the information to provide Congress with information that might prevent Biden from taking office.
That point was rendered moot when Congress confirmed his Electoral College victory on Jan. 6 after mobs supporting then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an effort to prevent the final act of certifying Biden’s victory.
The Democratic president took the oath of office at the Capitol Wednesday without Trump present.
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