Media to spend day in court after Senate election audit – Arizona Capitol Times
A judge said on Tuesday that he was not yet convinced that the rights of voters in Maricopa County were protected during the audit conducted at the request of the state Senate.
In a sweeping ruling, Justice Daniel Martin said the Senate has the power to review the 2.1 million ballots and the mechanisms used to compile them as part of its legislative function. But he rejected claims by Senate lawyers that its members are constitutionally immune from prosecution for how the audit is handled by an outside contractor.
“The manner in which this audit is conducted must be weighed against the constitutional rights of voters in Maricopa County, including the rights to secrecy and confidentiality of information,” he said.
Martin acknowledged that not all procedures in state law and the official Election Procedures Manual to manage ballots and protect security do not apply in a post-election audit, especially one that did not. no possibility of overriding the results. What comes out of the audit will not affect whether President Biden beat President Trump in Arizona.
“Some of these procedures, however, clearly apply and require the application of at least minimum safeguards to the audit process,” the judge said. And that means neither the Senate nor the Cyber Ninjas have a free hand to do whatever they want with the ballots and equipment.
All of this, Martin said, means the outcome of the Arizona Democratic Party’s challenge will depend on the types of policies and procedures implemented.
It begins, the judge said, with what is demanded by the Senate who, in turn, communicates with Cyber Ninjas through former Secretary of State Ken Bennett as Senate Speaker Karen Fann , instructed to be its voluntary liaison with Cyber Ninjas.
At the same time, Cyber Ninjas claims Bennett has ultimate responsibility for physical security at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the audit is being conducted, as well as the security of the hardware there.
“To date, nothing has shown how Mr. Bennett intends to achieve these goals,” said Martin.
All of this, in turn, begs the question of whether Cyber Ninjas should share its policies with its challengers – and with the public.
On Tuesday, Martin gave the First Amendment Coalition the right to intervene in the case. This came after the objection of lawyers for the Senate and Cyber Ninjas who argued not only that the policies used to conduct the audit should be kept confidential, but that any hearing about them should be closed.
The ruling allows attorney Dan Barr to argue that the public has an interest in knowing exactly what is going on at the audit site and, more specifically, how ballots and equipment are protected – or not.
“I wonder if there are any trade secrets here to begin with,” Barr told the judge. “I find that quite dubious to begin with.”
Beyond that, he said there is a constitutional right of the public to observe and evaluate the proceedings.
“I can’t imagine a higher public interest here than the validity of the vote, the care that a private company gives to live ballots that are protected by the state constitution,” Barr said.
But the judge postponed until Wednesday any ruling on whether the policies and procedures used by Cyber Ninjas are subject to public disclosure.
The question is whether the manual counting and examination of ballots and equipment will continue, and under what conditions.
Fann said the audit will help resolve voter concerns about whether the 2020 election results – and the vote for Biden – were accurate. But the Senate’s legal position is that it needs a review to determine if there are any weaknesses in the current election laws that need to be addressed.
It was this argument that led Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason to conclude two months ago that the Senate had the right to enforce his subpoena.
But Thomason made it clear that this did not overcome his concerns about the confidentiality of the documents. And attorney Roopali Desai, who represents the challengers, said there was enough evidence of problems to stop the process until questions were answered.
For example, she told Martin that Cyber Ninjas and the people he hired have access to voter files.
“They say there are qualified people trained to handle the ballots,” Desai said. “We ask who these people are, how were they hired, were there enough background checks and are they trained?”
She also said that Cyber Ninjas has stated that he has a sincere desire to comply with the law.
“Well, what steps are they taking to make sure their desire is a reality?” Said Desai.
But Alexander Kolodin, who represents Cyber Ninjas, told Martin that an injunction against a procedure, even for a day, “could derail this audit.” He pointed out that the Senate only owned the Veterans Memorial Coliseum until May 14.
Either way, he argued, there is no basis for a court to intercede, especially over a complaint from the Arizona Democratic Party.
“This audit is the will of the Senate, the elected representative of the people,” Kolodin said. “A political party should not be vetoed by a rowdy by filing a late action to prevent the legislature from carrying out the work of the people.”
Martin, however, said the Democratic Party had standing to raise questions about the procedures used to examine ballots and equipment. And he rejected arguments that the lawsuit, filed just over a week ago, arrived too late.