Although voters now know which companies will be involved in the Arizona Senate’s audit of the processes used by Maricopa County during the 2020 General Election, one thing not yet decided is where the nearly 2.1 million original ballots will be audited.
But an equally important question has come up – who exactly has legal control of those ballots right now?
Maricopa County Treasurer John Allen informed Sen. Kelly Townsend late last month that his office was “willing to accept the ballots at any time” in compliance with Arizona Revised Statute 16-626(A) which requires a county’s ballots to be deposited in a secure facility managed by the county treasurer for 24 months.
But Allen, who took office in January, has yet to be receive from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors what is estimated as nearly 70 pallets of ballots, even after a judge pointed out in February that the supervisors admitted ignoring the statute requiring the ballots to be kept safe under Allen’s management.
Jack Sellers, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, informed Senate President Karen Fann weeks ago that the pallets of ballots had been put into delivery trucks and the drivers simply needed to know where the Senate wanted the delivery made. Senate officials, however, are holding out hope that the audit can be conducted at the county’s own facility.
Just last week, an attorney for the county said the ballots and equipment will be delivered to a “non-County owned location of the Senators’ choosing,” but until a resolution is reached, the ballots appear to remain in the county board’s control.
But why those ballots were not transferred to Allen’s secured vault once any statutory election challenges and the election canvass were completed last year was addressed by a Maricopa County judge who ordered the county to comply with the Senate subpoenas.
According to Judge Timothy Thomason’s Feb. 25 ruling, county officials admitted in mid-February that the supervisors were opting to keep the ballots under the board’s “custody and control” at that time due to the pending litigation over whether the Senate subpoenas were enforceable.
“The County states that it will deposit the ballots in the Treasurer’s vault, ‘as the law requires,’ only after litigation concludes,” Thomason noted. “It is unclear why the County feels justified in violating the law simply because litigation is pending, but claims that it cannot violate the law by complying with the Subpoenas.”
A more reasonable action, Thomason suggested, was for the ballots to be stored by the County Treasurer and then retrieved later if the subpoenas were declared enforceable.
The Senate and Maricopa County had sued each other in January over compliance with legislative subpoenas issued by Fann and Sen. Warren Petersen, the Judiciary Committee chairman. The subpoenas demanded that county official turn over a number of records from the county’s elections department, as well as computer software and equipment utilized during the general election.
Among the records demanded were all of the original ballots as well as the digital ballot images which were actually run through the tabulation machines. The county board’s position was that they could not allow the ballots out of their control.
In the end, Thomason ruled state law “simply does not create a privilege, justifying non-disclosure [of the ballots]. There is simply no suggestion from (the statute) itself, or from common sense, that the statute means that no one is entitled to see the ballots, let alone Senators who are considering ways to improve the electoral process.”
Fann recently opined whether the county was motivated to delay the start of the Senate audit and refusing to allow the Senate’s contracted auditors on county property due to concerns with what the audit will find.
“I’m beginning to wonder if they’re not as confident in their system as they say they are,” she told the media April 2.