Senate GOP all back arresting Maricopa County supervisors for contempt

By: - February 3, 2021 3:50 pm

All 16 Republicans in the Arizona Senate co-sponsored a resolution calling for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to be held in contempt and arrested for refusing to comply with wide-ranging subpoenas for election equipment and materials.

Senate Resolution 1005 directs Senate President Karen Fann to “take all legal action pursuant to section 41-1153” of state law, which says that any “witness neglecting or refusing to attend in obedience to a subpoena may be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms and brought before the senate or house.” 

Senate rules, which can only be waived with a two-thirds vote of the chamber, require a resolution to be read three times on separate days before a final vote. The chamber is adjourned on Friday, meaning the earliest a vote could take place would be Monday. Given the likelihood that all 14 Senate Democrats will vote against it, the resolution would require the unanimous vote of the Republican caucus to pass.

The supervisors have challenged the subpoenas in court, arguing that the Senate lacks the legal authority to seek some of the requested materials. But though a judge has not yet ruled on whether the Senate can legally demand the materials, Fann moved forward with a contempt resolution after the supervisors on Tuesday refused a request to set a date for when the county will comply with the subpoenas.

The subpoenas issued by Fann and Sen. Warren Petersen, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, demand that Maricopa County turn over ballot tabulation machines, 2.1 million ballots and other materials and data from the 2020 general election. Despite a lack of any evidence that the outcome of any races were affected by fraud or misconduct, they want to conduct a forensic audit of those materials.

Maricopa County has expressed concerns about who would be examining its voting machines if it complied with the subpoena, and it appears those concerns aren’t without foundation. An email obtained by the Arizona Mirror shows that the Senate wants Allied Security Operations Group, a firm allied with former President Donald Trump’s campaign that has repeatedly spread misinformation and false election fraud claims, to count hundreds of thousands of ballots and examine tabulation machines.

The Senate announced on Friday that it has selected and hired a firm to conduct the audit. Fann later told the Arizona Mirror that nothing is final and that other firms are under consideration as well.

Maricopa County has provided the Senate with tens of thousands of pages of publicly available voter registration information, logs showing which election workers accessed equipment and detailed election results. But the county argues that state law prohibits it from turning over actual ballots. And the county said state law and its contract with vendor Dominion Voting Systems may prohibit it from turning over tabulation machines.

Supervisor Jack Sellers, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said it was “frustrating that the Senate would even consider” finding the board in contempt. He said state law bars the release of the ballots, and if the Senate wants them, it should convince a judge to allow access. 

“If they truly believe in the legality of their position, they will join us in seeking a solution through the courts,” Sellers, a Republican, said in a press statement on Tuesday, after Petersen raised the possibility of finding the supervisors in contempt, including arresting them and charging them with misdemeanor offenses.

Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the board’s lone Democrat, said it was shameful that the Senate issued its subpoenas in response to “unfounded conspiracies,” and said it’s worse that it is now “doubling down in pursuit of these falsehoods by considering contempt charges.”

“Some consider our decision to stand firm ‘contempt’ of the Senate. The only contempt I see is what state senators have shown to Maricopa County voters since early November. Contempt for their privacy. Contempt for the way the majority voted. Contempt for the democratic process,” Gallardo said in a press statement on Wednesday.

Republicans hold a 4-1 majority on the Board of Supervisors. All five members have repeatedly defended the integrity of the general election from the false and baseless fraud allegations that have proliferated since the election.

The county began its own audit of its tabulation machines on Tuesday, and expects to finish on Thursday or Friday. A second audit will be conducted next week.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.