A judge rejected the Arizona Senate's motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of records related to its 2020 election audit in Maricopa County.
American Oversight, a left-leaning watchdog group, filed the lawsuit seeking to force compliance with Arizona's Public Records Law. But attorneys for the GOP-led Arizona Senate argued that the various documents and donor information sought in the case are not subject to public disclosure rules because they are held by Cyber Ninjas, a private firm based in Florida, and its subcontractors.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp said in his ruling on Thursday, which preceded an Arizona Senate hearing on the audit's progress, that he "completely rejects" the arguments presented by the defendants' attorneys.
"Nothing in the statute absolves Senate defendants' responsibilities to keep and maintain records for authorities supported by public monies by merely retaining a third-party contractor who in turns hires subvendors," Kemp wrote.
The judge said that allowing documents related to the audit to remain undisclosed "would be an absurd result and undermine Arizona's strong public policy in favor of permitting access to records reflecting governmental activity."
So far, the Arizona Senate has disclosed that it agreed to pay Cyber Ninjas $150,000 for a portion of the audit's cost. The rest has been raised by donors. OANN anchor Christina Bobb is helping to raise funds through a nonprofit group, Voices and Votes, while covering the review as a reporter.
Kemp argued it is irrelevant if the Arizona Senate does not have audit information that is in the hands of Cyber Ninjas, saying they must demand those records from the private firm he said is "contractually obligated ... to fully cooperate with the Senate by providing the information or documents."
The judge said the audit information is covered under Arizona's public records law because Arizona Senate President Karen Fann has stated that the audit is a public function.
"Starting now, the Arizona Senate is going to have to face real, public accountability," said Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director. "For months, the public has been asked to trust the word of senators about the sham audit of the 2020 election. Arizona law does not allow the Senate to outsource democracy and shroud it in secrecy. This ruling makes clear that the Senate must immediately begin releasing records to the public."
The Arizona Senate's defense team is "considering appellate options, but no determinations have been made yet," attorney Kory Langhofer told the Washington Examiner.
Critics of the audit say that the results from two previous election machine audits conducted for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors showed no irregularities in the county's 2020 election. The mostly Republican Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs have raised repeated concerns about the audit.
President Joe Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes out of more than 3.3 million that were cast across the state. His lead of roughly 2 percentage points was due partly to his advantage in Maricopa County, where the Democrat scored nearly 45,000 more votes than former President Donald Trump.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese