The Arizona Supreme Court said Tuesday that contractors hired by the Republican-led state Senate to conduct the Maricopa County 2020 election audit would not need to release records from their review by next week.
This is only a temporary delay, as Kathryn King, a justice on the state’s high court, put a hold on a lower court ruling that ordered the documents released by Aug. 31 while the case is under consideration.
Left-leaning watchdog group American Oversight took its records request to court and emerged victorious on Aug. 19 when the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm leading the audit, was subject to the state’s public records law because it was performing a core government function and had to produce the documents by the end of the month.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann argued the records should not be publicly released because they are maintained by private contractors so legislative immunity applies to the documents, declaring her intention to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
“It is ordered extending the stay to enable the Court to fully consider the issues raised in the petition for review. However, this order does not relieve the Petitioners from continuing to review and produce documents Petitioners have already agreed to produce,” King wrote on Tuesday.
A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14.
American Oversight’s suit is not the only one leveled against the Arizona Senate. The Phoenix-based Arizona Republic newspaper sued the chamber and Cyber Ninjas on June 30 for access to a host of audit records under the same public records law.
Following a legal battle against the county, the audit launched in late April . Arizona Senate Republicans have issued several subpoenas to Maricopa County for access to the ballots cast in the 2020 election, related documents, and other equipment, such as the voting machines used in the county.
Auditors are now preparing the draft report for the state Senate to evaluate before a final product is released to the public.
However, the process hit a snag as Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and at least two other members of the audit team got “quite sick” after testing positive for COVID-19, and the entire draft report was not ready as expected at the start of the week, Fann said on Monday.
“In addition to the illnesses, it wasn’t until Thursday that the Senate received the images of the ballot envelopes from Maricopa County and are hoping to have those analyzed as soon as possible to incorporate those results in the final report,” Fann said.
The Senate legal team is poised to meet on Wednesday to review the draft report, Fann added.
The audit has been subject to intense criticism by mostly Republican county officials and others, including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs , who has cast the audit as a “political stunt ” to cast doubt on election integrity.