Whether he meant to or not, a deputy county attorney for Maricopa County raised eyebrows and questions when he told a judge Wednesday that the county’s much-touted “audit” of its election department’s electronic voting system and election processes isn’t really an election audit.
“We dispute the premise of [attorney] Mr. Kielsky and the Libertarian Party’s complaint that an audit of an election is occurring that would be subject to the laws that Mr. Kielsky is citing,” Deputy County Attorney Joseph La Rue said during the first hearing in a lawsuit filed by the Maricopa County Libertarian Party against several county officials.
La Rue’s comments came during Judge Joseph Mikitish’s first hearing in the case which stems from Maricopa County officials denying the Libertarians’ lawfully-recognized election observer access to the two contracted audits approved by the BOS to address voter concerns about the accuracy and security of the county’s voting process.
The judge mainly addressed scheduling matters during the hearing but cautioned La Rue that the county’s continued exclusion of party observers is done “at their own risk” in the event the county’s actions are “ultimately determined to be contrary to the statutes and law.”
The three recognized political parties in Maricopa County -the Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans- are permitted by law to participate in pre-election and post-election audits. The parties also have legal standing to observe many facets of an election, including voting center operations, tabulations, and recounts.
In addition, state law gives recognized political parties in each of Arizona’s 15 counties a significant role in post-election hand courts, which are statutorily required audits of a small portion of the ballots cast by mail and in-person.
The Libertarian Party contends county officials broke the law and continue to do so by excluding party observers from the current audit activities. The lawsuit also contends county officials reneged on several public promises that the political parties would be allowed to observe the current audits.
The attorneys will confer this week and return Feb. 23 for another hearing with Mikitish. The Arizona Republican Party has filed a motion for leave with the judge for permission to file an amicus brief in support of the Libertarians’ position.