An Arizona judge ruled Friday the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors must turn over the ballots and other materials related to the disputed Nov. 3 election to the Arizona state Senate.
The decision comes after a months-long legal battle between the two sides that began after the Arizona Senate issued subpoenas in mid-December.
“There is technology that can look at those ballots to see if there are any anomalies, to see if there’s any dual voting and whether or not these were pre-printed,” then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Eddie Farnsworth explained in an interview at the time.
The Maricopa Board of Supervisors responded by taking the Senate to court to try to quash the subpoenas.
A judge then affirmed in December that the Senate had the authority to enforce its subpoena, but it was out of session.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen reissued subpoenas in January after the new legislative session began.
The Board of Supervisors went back to court, arguing state law precluded them from giving access to the ballots and other materials requested.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason ruled Friday the Senate has the authority to review the materials requested.
“The Court finds that the Subpoenas are legal and enforceable,” Thomason wrote in his opinion. “There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas.”
“The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections,” he added.
The judge recounted in his ruling the dispute between the board and the Senate.
“The Senators believe that the County has snubbed the clear authority of the Senators to issue the Subpoenas,” Thomason wrote.
“The County believes, on the other hand, that the Subpoenas are the result of continuing claims by supporters of former President Trump that the election was ‘stolen’ and that this entire matter is a waste of time,” he continued.
“The County firmly maintains that the Senators are abusing their powers and refusing to show proper deference to another branch of government.”
Thomason noted that the “Arizona Constitution entrusts the legislature with the power to enact ‘laws to secure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the elective franchise.'”
The judge found that the subpoenas are for the valid legislative purposes of evaluating the accuracy of the voting systems and the competency of the county officials, and issued with an eye toward considering possible election reform proposals.
Thomason rejected the county’s argument that compliance with the Senate’s subpoenas would violate state law.
The legal requirement to keep ballots “unopened and unaltered” for 24 months for federal elections is directed toward certain officials but “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,” he wrote.
Petersen tweeted in response to Friday’s decision, “Judge ruled our Subpoena is valid. We will conduct a forensic audit of the Maricopa County Election.”
Judge ruled our Subpoena is valid. We will conduct a forensic audit of the Maricopa County Election.
— Warren Petersen (@votewarren) February 26, 2021
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers responded to the ruling, saying in a statement provided to The Western Journal, “Judge Thomason’s ruling brings much-needed clarity to whether Senate subpoenas apply to ballots that, per state law, must be kept private following an election.”
“We respect his ruling and will review it with our attorneys as we determine how best to move forward,” he said.
Vice Chairman Bill Gates also issued a statement, saying, “The judge has spoken. From the beginning, I believed the law required the County Board of Supervisors and the Treasurer to prevent disclosure of your ballots.
“Contrary to what some have said, Maricopa County has nothing to hide. We want people to have faith and trust in the accuracy and security of our elections. For our part we have done everything within our power to provide that,” he continued.
“I look forward to working with the Senate to provide them the information they are requesting,” Gates said.
On Tuesday, Maricopa County officials released the findings of their examination of the Dominion Voting Systems machines used in the election, but the review did not include an audit of the ballots.
In 2016, former President Donald Trump carried Maricopa County (which includes the Phoenix metropolitan area) by 2.9 percentage points (45,500 votes), but Democratic President Joe Biden won the county by 2.2 percentage points (45,100 votes) in November — a 5.1 percent swing.
Despite Biden’s win, Republicans carried every countywide office election save sheriff (which the incumbent Democrat held), including flipping the country recorder and winning the open treasurer seat.
The Arizona secretary of state’s official tally has Biden defeating Trump statewide by 10,457 votes, the closest margin of any of the swing states that went for the Democrat.
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