A judge in Maricopa County, Arizona, ordered county election officials on Friday to answer a subpoena from the state Senate to turn over ballots from the November election and provide access to its voting machines for audit.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason said that the Senate subpoenas were "legal and enforceable" in a ruling resolving a dispute between the Arizona Senate and county officials over how to interpret state law.
According to the Arizona Republic, the county had claimed it was illegal for the Senate to subpoena the ballots and contended that multiple audits of the election which had already been competed were sufficient. The Senate argued that there are still lingering questions about the validity of the ballots and the integrity of the machines and wants to commission its own audit of the election.
The dispute arose over two state laws, one defining the Senate's subpoena powers and another law that orders county election officials to seal the ballots for two years after an election.
From Arizona Republic:
First, state law gives the Legislature sweeping authority to issue subpoenas and conduct investigations. The Arizona Attorney General's Office weighed in on this, saying that legislative bodies or committee chairs can issue summonses either to inform future legislation or to "investigate whether a particular governmental entity properly discharged its functions."
But state law also requires that, after results are certified, ballots be kept "in a secure facility managed by the county treasurer, who shall keep it unopened and unaltered for twenty-four months for elections for a federal office."
That portion of the law also states that a court order could unseal the ballots.
Essentially, the county said that only a court order could request the ballots and contested the Senate's ability to subpoena. In his ruling, Thomason sided with the Senate and said the law "does not immunize the ballots from being subpoenaed, let alone from being subpoenaed by the legislature, acting in its Constitutional role to ensure the 'purity' of elections."
"This statute simply does not create a privilege, justifying non-disclosure," he concluded after a hearing Thursday.
Last December, Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann issued two subpoenas to the Maricopa County election board.
The first subpoena calls for an audit of scanned ballots to collect an electronic ballot image cast for all mail-in ballots counted in the November 2020 general election. The second subpoena calls for a full forensic audit of ballot tabulation equipment, the software for that equipment, and the election management system used in the 2020 general election, the Washington Examiner reported.
The county has already conducted multiple audits of the election, including logic and accuracy tests for the machines and a hand count of a statistically significant number of ballots. The audits found that the machines counted votes accurately.
Most recently, an independent audit of the election published its findings Tuesday. The audit found that the voting machines produced accurate numbers.
"The combination of these findings, along with the pre and post Logic and Accuracy Tests performed by the Arizona Secretary of State, the post-election hand count performed by the political parties, and the many security protocols implemented by the Elections Department confirm that Maricopa County Elections Department's configuration and setup of the tabulation equipment and election management system provided an accurate counting of ballots and reporting of election results," the auditors said in a statement.