Judge will settle Senate subpoena fight with Maricopa County

Public domain image via Pxfuel.com

A judge will determine whether the Arizona Senate has the authority to subpoena ballots, tabulation machines and other equipment and data from Maricopa County for a purported audit of the 2020 election.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason asked the two sides to submit their final motions by Monday and will hear arguments in the case on Feb. 24.

“I’ll do what I can and I’ll get a ruling out as quickly as I can,” Thomason said during a hearing on Wednesday.

The dispute revolves around Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen’s plans to audit the 2020 general election in Maricopa County in response to baseless conspiracy theories and debunked fraud allegations that former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters have spread, falsely claiming that the election in Arizona and other swing states that voted for President Joe Biden was rigged.

Thomason had urged the two sides to resolve their differences outside of court, which they have been unable to do. The case had languished for weeks, but the county asked Thomason earlier this month to quash the subpoenas after Senate Republicans moved to hold the Board of Supervisors in contempt for refusing to comply with them.

All 16 Senate Republicans co-sponsored a resolution holding the Board of Supervisors in contempt, which empowered Fann to have the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms arrest them. However, one GOP senator, Paul Boyer, broke ranks with his fellow Republicans and the contempt resolution fell short by one vote.

Since then, Petersen has sponsored legislation that would expressly permit the legislature to request the disputed election materials and conduct an audit of the election.

Maricopa County has turned over thousands of pages of documents, including voter registration data and logs showing who accessed the county’s ballot tabulation machines. But the county has long argued that state law bars it from turning over the 2.1 million ballots cast in the election, and says it cannot let unauthorized examiners have access to the tabulation machines. The county’s attorneys have argued that the Senate is acting outside its authority by demanding the materials and attempting to conduct an audit.

The county has also criticized Fann for seeking to hire Allied Security Operations Group, a firm that has already declared, without evidence, that fraud occurred in Arizona and other states, and has repeatedly spread falsehoods about the election, to conduct the audit. 

Fann had a proposed scope of work prepared for ASOG that would allow it to examine ballots, tabulation machines and other materials from the election. According to records provided by the Senate, she has not drafted similar proposals for other firms, though she says she is also considering other auditors. Fann subsequently said she’s leaning against hiring the firm due to bad press it’s received.