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Judge clears way for Arizona Senate GOP to get county elections materials for their own audit

County will 'immediately start working' to provide equipment and 2 million ballots. Ruling comes 2 days after county auditors gave election their seal of approval.
Credit: 12 News

PHOENIX — Almost four months after Election Day, the 2020 election is far from over in Maricopa County.

Arizona Senate Republicans will obtain the Maricopa County election equipment and ballots they've been seeking since December, after the county said it wouldn't appeal judge’s ruling Friday backing the Senate demand.

"(The) ruling brings clarity to whether Senate subpoenas apply to ballots that, per state law, must be kept private following an election, as well as the many other documents and equipment demanded,” Board Chairman Jack Sellers said in a prepared statement.

“We…will immediately start working to provide the Arizona Senate with the ballots and other materials. We hope senators will show the same respect and care we have for the 2.1 million private ballots and use them in service of their legislative duties."

Back in December, Senate Republicans issued the first of two subpoenas demanding the equipment, more than 2 million ballots, and other election-related materials for its own audit of the presidential election. 

The first subpoena was issued as several Republican lawmakers were looking for ways to block Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Maricopa County - the state’s largest county - in 72 years.

Senate Republicans issued this statement Friday:

“It's clear the judge understands this is about getting answers to the questions voters have, and not some effort to overturn any election results. Hopefully, with a proper, independent and detailed audit, we will start to restore voter confidence in election integrity. Today's ruling means we can begin that process."

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy J. Thomason said the Senate was within its rights to seek the election materials.

“The court finds that the subpoenas are legal and enforceable," he said. "There is no question that the senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas."

Thomason noted he was avoiding the hard political feelings that left both sides bruised.

“The courts should generally be hesitant to enter the fray of political disputes between two other branches of government," he said.

"The controversy between the senators and the county is a highly charged political dispute. Serious accusations have been made and emotions are raw… This court has no interest in the political dispute between these parties. This is a court of law, not a court of politics.

The judge’s ruling comes two days after independent auditors hired by Maricopa County put their seal of approval on the machines used to tabulate votes.

Both audit firms have been accredited to certify voting machines by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Senate Republican leaders have rejected the audits as inadequate.

The Senate has considered hiring a firm that was used to help former President Donald Trump try to overturn election results in several states. 

One of the firm’s purported experts, retired Army Col. Phil Waldron, made specious claims about Arizona’s voting machines at a Phoenix event in late November.

The event, hosted by then-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, was designed to rouse Republican lawmakers and voters to reject the results of what Trump claimed was a stolen election.