Arizona Senate President Karen Fann said Thursday that the Legislature needs more materials and data from Maricopa County for an unprecedented and controversial review of 2020 election results that is deep into its third month.
Suggesting that the Senate’s review may not be nearing its end, Fann said during a hearing at the Capitol that she expects the demands for additional materials will end up in court, setting up yet another legal battle in the saga that has seen the county and state lawmakers spar over the scope of the Legislature’s subpoena power.
Also during the hearing, the Senate’s top contractor on the review recommended reviving plans to go door to door to inquire about some residents’ participation in last year’s general election.
The Senate had put an effort to dispatch canvassers on hold after the U.S. Department of Justice raised concerns that it could amount to voter intimidation and violate federal civil rights protections.
But Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, head of the Florida-based firm the Senate has hired to lead the audit, encouraged lawmakers to proceed with that plan.
“Based on the data we’re seeing, I highly recommend we do the canvassing because it’s the one way to know for sure whether the data we’re seeing are real problems,” Logan said.
Doing both a canvass of voters and taking the county back to court means the review effort that appeared to be wrapping up is likely to last even longer. Initially, the review was slated to end in May.
Fann previously had suggested a final report could be out by next month, but on Thursday, she indicated that probably won’t happen.
“We need to get the additional information because how do you do a final report if you don’t have all the information?” she said.
Sen. Warren Petersen, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was pessimistic.
“If we don’t get the information, it will be an incomplete report, an incomplete audit,” Petersen, R-Gilbert, said.
Sharpies, routers are back on agenda
Logan also raised several issues that Republican lawmakers have questioned for months as some argued to overturn the state’s presidential election results.
He noted concerns about ink bleeding through on ballots, a controversy that flared around Election Day after the county provided voters with felt-tipped markers at polling places. The marks that voters made bled through the opposite side of the ballots, but county officials noted that the columns on each side were not aligned to ensure that did not affect how votes were counted.
Still, more than two months after the county delivered about 2.1 million ballots to Cyber Ninjas pursuant to a Senate subpoena, Logan said more analysis is needed on that issue.
Lawmakers also used the hearing to attempt to refute the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ decision the previous day to spend about $2.8 million replacing voting equipment that officials said could not be used again after it was turned over to the state Senate as part of the audit.
But Fann, Petersen and their contractors maintained Thursday that such steps should not be necessary.
Meanwhile, Logan outlined a list of additional materials he argued the Senate should obtain from the county, including computer network routers.
The county has refused to provide its routers, saying it would create a security risk and that it does not use the internet or routers to transfer election data during elections.
Fann said the Senate would seek the materials and said she expected to end up in court again with the county, signaling more legal battles ahead over the ongoing election review.
Alternatively, Maricopa County could cooperate with the additional requests, Fann told reporters after the hearing, adding the Senate wants to check all questionable issues “six ways to Sunday.”
Logan also argued for proceeding with door-to-door canvassing. The Senate has maintained that canvassers would not ask voters who they supported in the election and instead would seek to verify if voters actually cast a ballot. But Logan has previously declined to say how they would select households. And the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a letter to Fann that similar efforts across the country in the past have raised concerns that such investigations are directed at minority communities.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers said Thursday that the county had provided everything qualified auditors would need to analyze the results of the election and argued that the Senate’s contractors were simply incompetent.
“At today’s briefing, the Senate’s uncertified contractors asked a lot of open-ended questions, portraying as suspicious what is actually normal and well known to people who work in elections,” he said. “In some cases, they dropped bombshell numbers that are simply not accurate.”
Sellers told Senate leaders to “finish your audit, release the report, and be prepared to defend it in court.”
Democrats, Republicans weigh in
While the meeting on Thursday unfolded in a packed committee hearing room at the state Senate, it was not a hearing of any committee. The only lawmakers questioning Logan and others working on the audit were Fann and Petersen.
Democrats said they were not invited to sit in and ask questions but were only offered seats in the audience, which they declined.
“Don’t be fooled. This is in no way transparent or legitimate,” said Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix. “Republicans have refused to be bipartisan and transparent during this entire process.”
Fann said whenever a final report is issued, the bipartisan Judiciary Committee will discuss it.
But while Fann said Thursday that the review is meant to help craft future legislation and is “not about overturning the election,” the vice chair of the Judiciary Committee immediately suggested otherwise.
“DECERTIFY THE ELECTION,” state Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, wrote on Twitter shortly after the Senate meeting.
Trump himself issued a statement calling the hearing “devastating news to the Radical Left Democrats and the Biden Administration.”
Some lawmakers are working on legislation based at least in part on the Senate’s audit.
Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who was one of four Republican lawmakers who attended the two-hour hearing, said it validated that she was on the right track with legislation she introduced to ensure a tighter chain of custody or to stop the use of Sharpies to mark ballots. Those bills stalled in the Senate Elections Committee.
Other Republican lawmakers who listened to the presentation were Sens. Nancy Barto of Phoenix and Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu City, as well as Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley, who is a candidate for the GOP nomination for secretary of state next year.
3rd recount continues at fairgrounds
A few miles away at the state fairgrounds, the Senate continued its efforts to count the number of ballots it received from the county. Fann has said the tallies provided by the county and by the Senate’s contractors differ and that legal counsel recommended yet another count before returning the ballots to Maricopa County officials.
Two paper-counting machines and two devices that stack paper were in use by 9 a.m. as staffers worked their way through boxes containing thousands of ballots.
Still, there appeared to be some trouble with the machines’ ability to register when a stack was put in to start counting. Staffers had to rotate the stacks, trying each corner until one of them worked.
According to audit spokesperson Randy Pullen, the machines were working, they just weren’t counting as fast as they wanted, which a technician adjusted.
Under these conditions, staffers at one machine were counting one box every 20 minutes or so Thursday afternoon. With 2.1 million total ballots to get through, Pullen said he expects the count to be complete by the end of the month.
Republic reporter Lacey Latch contributed to this article.
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