Maricopa Judge Rules Against AZ GOP Over Phony ‘Audit’

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In Arizona, Maricopa County Judge Michael Kemp has now ordered the Arizona state Senate “to immediately produce the records it has related to the audit” of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County, the Arizona Daily Star reports. The state Senate itself launched this audit, subpoenaing and successfully obtaining materials from last year’s election from local authorities, with those local authorities since coming out in strong opposition to the so-called audit effort. There is no legitimate evidence indicating that there’s any kind of systematic integrity problem with the Maricopa County results, which — like the presidential election results in every other U.S. jurisdiction — already underwent scrutiny.

The records that Judge Kemp has ordered Arizona state Senators to hand over include materials in the possession of a company called Cyber Ninjas, which the state Senators tasked with leading the Maricopa County audit despite their previous complete lack of experience in election auditing. Kemp delivered his ruling as part of a case brought by a government watchdog group known as American Oversight, which filed a public records request earlier this year for records related to the audit and then sued when the state Senate refused to deliver all of the group’s requests. The state Senate’s side had argued that records in the possession of Cyber Ninjas were exempt from public records laws, but Kemp rejected this claim.

As Kemp put it, referring to Republican state Senators: “Defendants’ claim that they have not even seen the documents of Cyber Ninjas Inc. and its subvendors does nothing to advance their position. Willful blindness does not relieve Senate defendants from their duties and obligations under the public records law.” Kemp also noted that the “courts, rather than government officials, are the final arbiter of what qualifies as a public record.”

In terms of further specifics, Kemp also responded to an argument that the state Senate is “immune from claims under the public records law,” as the Daily Star put it. “Legislators are protected from liability for their ‘words spoken in debate,’” Kemp noted, but he also observed that what’s at issue is “in no way a tort claim against any member of the Senate for personal liability in their individual capacities.” Accepting the state Senate’s argument of an exemption from claims for the documents in question “would render the public records law meaningless as to any legislator at any time under any circumstances,” the judge added.

American Oversight’s executive director, Austin Evers, celebrated the new development. As he put it:

‘The state Senate’s insistence on shrouding their audit in secrecy is wrong and, as the court has now held twice, illegal. The law does not allow them to outsource democracy to partisan operatives with impunity. We look forward to the Senate’s prompt compliance with the court order but stand ready to fight on if they continue to flout the law.’

Releasing the documents could allow members of the public to see more of the scope of ineptitude underlying the so-called audit.