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Arizona Senate Panel To Hold Election Hearing As Electors Vote For Biden

An Arizona Senate panel will hold a hearing Monday morning on what happened with the just-completed general election, with an eye on answering questions of whether it was conducted fairly and legally.

But the hearing won't be the kind of meeting being demanded by some House Republicans, led by Reps. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley and Kelly Townsend of Mesa, who want to immediately issue subpoenas for officials to testify and orders to seize election equipment for examination.

Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) authorized an agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee that includes time for presentation from Maricopa County election officials and members of the Attorney General’s election integrity unit.

Representatives can’t even show up to protest: The hearing will be conducted virtually. Senate offices have been closed amid concerns of the spread COVID-19.

"A lot of our constituents have a lot of questions about how the voting, the electoral system works, the security of it, the validity of it,'' Fann told Capitol Media Services. "So we need to ask some questions and have somebody go through the process with us of what was done, how it was done, why it was done — and what else could we do to verify the votes were correct and accurate.'

The hearing will begin one hour before Arizona’s 11 electors meet to formally cast votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

Fann said there’ll be no move by the Republican-controlled legislature to overturn the election results, a move that would allow lawmakers to select their own slate of electors.

"Given current legal advice, there's nothing the legislative body can do,'' Fann said.

The Senate’s legal counsel advised that option was precluded three years ago, when lawmakers approved a measure spelling out that electors are required to cast their votes for the candidate who received the most votes according to the official statewide election canvass. The lawyers said while lawmakers are free to change the law for future elections they cannot do so retroactively.

Fann acknowledged there are others who argue that it's not too late to overturn the results, even if the electors cast their vote as scheduled on Monday. That's based on the fact that the Electoral College tally is not really final until Jan. 6,  when Congress meets to formally approve the vote. 

And there are those who argue that federal lawmakers could decide not to accept the results from states where the outcome might be clouded by allegations of fraud or misconduct.

Many of those allegations surround the equipment and software of Dominion Voting Systems used in Maricopa County.

There are multiple charges that the software was designed by a foreign firm that eventually became part of Dominion to achieve pre-desired results. Those fighting the returns say that spikes in ballots at certain hours showed that the equipment was purposely adding votes to Biden.

Fann said the committee can take a look at that if it wants to.

"We can request that there be an audit on the Dominion software and on any hardware and to make sure that the machines weren't hooked up to the internet,'' she said. "We can make sure that none of it was tampered with.''

While there will be some focus on the 2020 vote, Fann also is looking ahead at changes in state election laws that may be necessary in the future.

To that end, she named Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) to the Senate Judiciary Committee which will be conducting the hearing.

Officially speaking, the committee is still being run by Sen. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Chandler). But he did not seek reelection and his term ends when the new legislature is sworn in next month. Ugenti-Rita will chair that panel for the next two years. And Fann said she wants her involved in these hearings.

"There might be some valuable information that comes out of this that she may want to pursue further in the future if it looks like we need to make some adjustments in election laws so we don't go through all this again — we hope,'' Fann said.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.