County cuts deal to end fight over Arizona Senate subpoena

·5 min read

PHOENIX (AP) — Board members overseeing Arizona’s most populous county have reached an agreement with the Republican-controlled state Senate that will end a standoff over a Senate demand that they hand over computer routers for use in an unprecedented partisan election review.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors announced Friday night that a special master will take questions from the Senate's election review contractors and provide them with information contained on the routers they say they need to finish the election review.

Supervisor Bill Gates said the deal will protect sensitive information contained on the routers while avoiding a massive penalty the county faced if they had not complied.

Gates called the deal “a win for transparency, and it's also a win for protecting sensitive data in Maricopa County.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a decision last month that the county must comply with the subpoena issued by Republican Senate President Karen Fann or lose about $700 million in yearly state funding.

County officials balked at handing over the routers that connect data systems countywide, contending that there is a grave risk to the security of law enforcement and other sensitive information.

The board has four Republicans and one Democrat. Gates and other Republicans were muted in any criticism of the Senate and said they hope the agreement ends the fight with the Senate. But Democratic Supervisor Steve Gallardo did not hold back.

“We're dealing with bullies,” Gallardo said. "There is nothing we can do to satisfy any of the (GOP) Senators" pursuing the audit.

The review of the 2020 election results was prompted by unsubstantiated claims made by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that he only lost because of fraud. The county say the election was property run, and President Joe Biden simply got more votes,

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

PHOENIX (AP) — Board members overseeing Arizona’s most populous county could say Friday whether they will comply with a state Senate subpoena in an unprecedented partisan review of 2020 election results.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a decision last month that Maricopa County must comply with the subpoena issued by Republican Senate President Karen Fann or lose about $700 million in yearly state funding. The Senate wants the county board to hand over computer routers for examination by contractors conducting the review.

County officials balked at handing over the routers that connect data countywide, contending that there is a grave risk to the security of law enforcement and other sensitive information. They also have said they can't comply with a Senate demand for passwords for the tabulation machines it leases from Dominion Voting Systems since they do not control them, and Dominion has refused to hand them over.

Brnovich suggested the county work out a settlement with the Senate, but it isn't known if talks have made any progress. The county could also sue, challenging either the subpoena or the law that penalizes local governments that don't follow state laws with the loss of their state-shared revenue.

The Republican-dominated Board of Supervisors has scheduled at 4:45 p.m. Friday a closed-door session and then a public meeting.

The agenda says the board may take action “regarding the election and compliance with the Senate subpoena and litigation.”

The threat by Brnovich puts massive financial pressure on the board to turn over the items the Senate says it needs as it prepares to release the election recount next Friday. The so-called forensic audit was prompted by unsupported claims by former President Donald Trump that he lost in Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud.

No evidence of fraud has been found in any states after a series of lawsuits filed by Trump backers or reviews by election officials. But Republicans who lead the Senate say a deep dive is needed to look at all aspects of the election, and its contractors did a hand-recount of all 2.1 million ballots, took possession of vote-counting machines, computer servers and huge amounts of data handed over by the county under earlier subpoenas.

County officials, including the four Republicans and one Democrat on the elected board, have stood by the accuracy of their vote count, and outside reviews done by certified election auditors back them up. They said the Senate's vote review funded by pro-Trump donors is being run by incompetent grifters hired by the Senate.

The company hired by the Senate to oversee the election review, Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, has no prior election review or auditing experience. Its CEO is Doug Logan, a Trump supporter who has promoted conspiracy theories about the election.

Fann first issued a subpoena late last year as Trump and his allies were looking for materials to support their false claims of election irregularities before President Joe Biden’s victory was formally certified in January. The county fought the subpoenas in court and lost, and ended up handing over its vote-counting machines, servers and huge amounts of data.

The new subpoena seeking the computer routers was issued in July. Cyber Ninjas and the other contractors hired to review the Phoenix-area general election said they needed the requested materials to complete their final audit report.

The Senate and Cyber Ninjas have themselves fought in court over whether they need to turn over records of the election review to a watchdog group and the Arizona Republic newspaper. The Senate was ordered to release its records and mainly complied. The state Supreme Court earlier this week upheld lower court decisions that said records held by Cyber Ninjas and other contractors conducting the audit must be made public.

The audit that began in April was originally set to take about 60 days, but there have been repeated delays. Most recently, Cyber Ninjas canceled plans to submit its report last month saying several of its team members contracted COVID-19 and had serious symptoms.

Other Republican-controlled battleground states are also considering or starting reviews of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election wins. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania GOP senators pressed ahead with conducting their own “forensic investigation” of the election.

Bob Christie, The Associated Press

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