Months after the election, audit wrangle pits Republicans against Republicans in Arizona
PHOENIX - While the 2020 presidential election is long over, the legal battle over election results in Arizona is just getting started, with lawsuit after lawsuit pitting Republican against Republican.
On Feb. 4, Republicans who control the Arizona Senate voted to fast-track a resolution finding Maricopa County in contempt for failing to turn over elections equipment and ballots cast in the November election as a subpoena demanded.
The rules change brought furious opposition from minority Democrats, who called the effort further evidence that GOP senators have bought into unfounded conspiracy theories that President Joe Biden won Arizona because of problems with vote counting.
The 16-13 party-line vote to waive requirements for committee hearings and full debate sets up a formal vote on the resolution as soon as Monday. If it passes, county supervisors could be arrested for failing to comply with the subpoenas.
Republicans said they were not challenging the election results, noting that Biden is now president. Instead, they said they want to do their own audit of the county's voting machines and review ballots to restore confidence in the county's elections.
"What we are trying is to prove to the voters of Maricopa County that they can trust and count on their election process," GOP Sen. Rick Gray said during the vote. "I think that is reasonable. I think that is necessary."
The Senate introduced the resolution on the afternoon of Feb. 3, and all 16 Republican senators are listed as sponsors, meaning it is virtually certain to pass. It authorizes Senate President Karen Fann to take "all legal action" needed to enforce the subpoena.
Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli said the county's refusal to allow access to its voting equipment was infuriating.
The Republican-dominated board on Feb. 2 again refused to comply with subpoenas GOP lawmakers issued as they try to show that fraud or other election misdeeds might have led to Biden's win in the state. Courts rejected eight lawsuits filed by backers of former President Donald Trump after his loss, finding there was no evidence that he did not lose.
Board of Supervisors file motion to dismiss subpoenas
The county Board of Supervisors held an emergency meeting shortly after the Senate adjourned for the day on Feb. 4, and voted unamimously to have their attorneys go to court "protect the integrity of the electoral process and the privacy of the ballots and of the voters of Maricopa county in the courts."
On Feb. 5, the Board of Supervisors filed another motion to dismiss the subpoenas.
"Everyone else has moved on, the State of Arizona or State Senate doesn’t wanna let go of the fact that their candidate lost," said Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo.
Supervisor Gallardo says for starters, handing over the ballots and machines is illegal. He also believes Republicans in the Arizona State Senate want to manipulate the election results, after the fact.
"They want us to modify the results," said Supervisor Gallardo. "They want us to turn over the ballots to them so they can do who knows what with it. It’s not gonna happen."
The supervisors have repeatedly pointed to multiple tests of the voting machines done before and after the election and hand counts of a sample of ballots that showed the count was accurate. They fought subpoenas issued in December by the Senate Judiciary Committee with the backing of Fann in court. Still, the county is conducting two new voting machine audits.
Documents released Wednesday by the county show that Fann is considering hiring a firm with strong connections to the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn election results in multiple battleground states to do its audit.
Fann said Thursday that no firm has been hired, and that arresting the supervisors isn't the only option if the resolution passes.
"First and foremost, the supervisors could pick up the phone and say you’re right, let’s get a third independent (auditor) and do that," Fann said.
She listed other options, such as going again to court or asking the attorney general to intervene.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report