On Thursday, an Arizona judge denied the state Senate’s motion to dismiss American Oversight’s lawsuit for records from the partisan “audit” of 2020 election results in Maricopa County.
“It is difficult to conceive of a case with a more compelling public interest demanding public disclosure and public scrutiny,” wrote Judge Michael Kemp of the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County in a seven-page ruling.
Kemp also rejected the Senate’s motion to consolidate American Oversight’s lawsuit with another public records lawsuit brought by the Arizona Republic.
Among the records sought by American Oversight are communications between Senate officials and external vendors working on the “audit,” including the firm Cyber Ninjas, as well as records of contracts with those external actors or plans regarding the operation’s costs and operations. In his ruling, Kemp wrote that the court “completely rejects” the Senate’s argument that records held by Cyber Ninjas are exempt from Arizona’s public records law.
In May, American Oversight sued the Senate for failing to produce documents in response to public records requests. Other requests filed by American Oversight have resulted in the release of emails and documents that provided additional evidence of the dangerously undemocratic motivations of those leading the operation, as well as the influence of conspiracy theorists on the process. In one email from December, Senate President Karen Fann wrote that she had been in contact with Rudy Giuliani as well as former President Trump, who she said had “thank[ed] us for pushing to prove any fraud.”
“Starting now, the Arizona Senate is going to have to face real, public accountability,” said Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director. “For months, the public has been asked to trust the word of senators about the sham audit of the 2020 election. Arizona law does not allow the Senate to outsource democracy and shroud it in secrecy. This ruling makes clear that the Senate must immediately begin releasing records to the public.”
Clinging to baseless claims of widespread voter fraud to undermine the results of the 2020 election, partisan actors in other states are seeking to replicate the Arizona Senate’s actions with “investigations” and “audits” of their own. American Oversight is investigating those efforts, which represent a grave threat to our democracy and trust in our elections.
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