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Arizona Democrats file last-minute lawsuit to block GOP's state election 'audit'

The Arizona Democratic Party and the lone Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors brought a last-minute lawsuit attempting to halt the state Senate’s election 'audit', which is scheduled to begin Friday.

The lawsuit argues that the Senate is violating a host of state laws and election regulations regarding the confidentiality and handling of election materials, and questioned whether Senate President Karen Fann can delegate 'audit'-related activities that must be conducted by government officials to the third-party 'auditors' she hired.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury will hear arguments at 11 a.m. on Friday. The Democrats are asking Coury to issue an injunction that would bar the 'audit' from moving forward.

The question at the heart of the case is whether the Senate and the private companies it hired to conduct the 'audit' must abide by the same laws and guidelines as election officials.

For example, the lawsuit notes that state law restricts access to private information in voter registration records to authorized government officials, which the private companies conducting the 'audit' aren’t. And the state’s election procedures manual, which has the force of law, requires people involved in the official processing and counting of ballots to take oaths administered by the county board of supervisors, and requires counties to ensure that staff who verify signatures on early ballot envelopes receive proper training.

Attorney Roopali Desai, who is representing the plaintiffs, said those rules should apply to the 'auditors' as well, and disputed the notion that they’re intended to apply only to people engaging in official election activities.

“There are only one set of rules that discuss the safeguarding of the ballots, the tabulation equipment, the integrity of the election. And just because they have sort of ventured into this area that has never been ventured into does not mean that it comes with free range to do whatever you want,” Desai told the Arizona Mirror.

In one respect, the lawsuit makes a claim that a judge has already rejected. The lawsuit argues that a 2016 law prohibiting most third parties from collecting other people’s voted ballots applies to the 'auditors' because aside from the voters themselves, only election officials, postal workers and some family members can possess those ballots.

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Maricopa County Judge Timothy Thomason addressed that statute when he ruled in the Senate’s favor, rejecting the county’s lawsuit to block Fann’s subpoenas for ballots, tabulation machines and other election materials. Thomason wrote in his ruling that the prohibition on ballot harvesting, as critics call the practice, “was not intended to prevent the legislature or other governmental bodies and officials from examining ballots and related materials.”

Desai said there’s some nuance in that ruling, noting that the 'auditors' and the senators are not the same people.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/Arizona Mirror

A protester holds a sign outside the Executive Tower in Phoenix on Dec. 14, 2020. The protesters believe Donald Trump won re-election in 2020 and objected to the state casting its electoral votes for Joe Biden.

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